So I am in the midst of something like day 20 of writing my thesis. I had initially intended on somehow working developments in the work into this blog in a nice way of killing two birds or whatever, but am probably edging against it. Maybe that’ll change, but for now writing on here is one small solace from a process that has becoming exceedingly hellish.
To brief, essentially my thesis is trying to take trends in production and distribution of W.Bush-era mainstream gay & lesbian cinema and connect it to trends within conservative gay political ideologies, specially capitalist ideologies within “the new homonormativity,” a formation named by academic Lisa Duggan to umbrella the work of people like Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bawer. I’m going to do all this under the framework of Antonio Gramsci’s “hegemony.”
Sounds like fun, right? 125 pages of it, even. And, in all honesty, there are moments where I feel like its actually going somewhere um, “exciting”, and I get a bit into it. But when you spend 6, 7 hours every single fucking day trying to put this thing together, you start to go a little Jack Torrance. Its actually made posting buzzes on the main indieWIRE site feel like eating ice cream.
But I realize its necessary, and there are methods that make it doable, and instead of going into the content of the actual thesis (which honestly, would likely bore you anyway), I’ll offer some tips to anyone in or thinking about being in the process of writing a post-grad thesis.
1. Write it on your bed. I’m not a giant fan of desks. And mine has essentially become a storage unit anyway. Spreading out papers and books at the foot of your bed, comfortably lining up pillows at the back and situating yourself somewhere in between with your laptop is perfect. Mind you, you do have to train yourself against distractions (gossip blogs, seeing if I have a new email and The Wire are my poisons right now) and simply falling asleep, but this set-up makes you feel as comfortable as possible physically during a process that is extremely uncomfortable mentally.
2. Hot Yoga. Or even just cold yoga if you can’t find that. I was brought into this by some people and was extremely resistance to the new-age vibe and the yoga language but I have to say its one of the best things I’ve ever done for mind, body, etc, etc. I feel like a hypocrite even praising it, but when youre fucking up your back all day and cramming your mind with ideas you don’t really care about, going into a room with 40 half-naked people and doing bizarre formations with your body you didn’t think were even possible for 90 minutes… in 100 degree temperatures… is pretty amazing. Especially when its freezing outside and pounds of snow keep coming every other day. You find yourself able to concentrate in ways you never knew outside the class, and you actually becoming fit during the thesis process, which has a way of making people fat with that whole sitting and likely eating crap thing. Go every single day if you can afford it. You won’t have this flexible time schedule much longer.
3. Don’t Get Drunk. Even if you feel you need the release. It fucks up your next day, obviously; wastes money and sets you back mentally for at least 36 hours. Now, I mean don’t get really drunk. Tipsyness is probably a good idea for that whole release thing I mentioned before. But being hungover is a perfect excuse to do nothing all day, and excuses will not get you on that graduation stage and as far away from academia as you need and want to be.
4. Don’t Feel Guilty. If you do need that day off, take it and don’t waste it thinking about chapter 3 and how its going to be formed or how youre a fuck up for not doing any work. Utilize the day properly. Clean your living space, it will make you feel more sane. Shower, it will make you feel less disgusting. Check those gossip blogs, watching downloaded television, or write on your own blog… do whatever you need to do to bring your brain back to the level you like it at.
5. Form a Thesis Club. There’s gotta be other people out there going through what youre going through. I mean, youre in some sort of program right? So get the troops together weekly, go to a coffee shop or a bar or a strip club or anywhere… And bitch about your process. Set weekly goals (we have punishments for those who don’t fulfill them), peer-review whatever garbage you cranked out that week, and feel some sense of comradery in your increasingly isolated existence.
One of my fellow club members gave her thesis-induced rant on her own blog yesterday (and much more poignantly than I), so check it out if for some reason this interests you.. She also links to a sadly spot-on take on grad school from Stuff White People Like:
It is important to understand that a graduate degree does not make someone smart, so do not feel intimidated. They may have read more, but in no way does that make them smarter, more competent, or more likable than you. The best thing you can do is to act impressed when a white person talks about critical theorists. This helps them reaffirm that what they learned in graduate school was important and that they are smarter than you. This makes white people easier to deal with when you get promoted ahead of them.