Getting this thesis wrapped up is kind of kicking my ass. I *like* writing and I actually really enjoy working on figures, but the seemingly endless sets of read-revise-read-revise-send for feedback-freak out-revise-revise-revise are killer. However, I’ve come up with a few habits that are helping keep me sane:
1) Just do a dang outline.
I abhor making outlines. Something about the formal, roman-numeral outline just drives me bonkers – tedium mixed with tough brain work all in a ridiculously tidy package. I can generally get a 10 page paper out of a very loose outline, my set of figures to keep me on track, and some post-writing revision. However, a 100 page document is a drastically different story. I used a loose outline for my 1st draft and am now paying for it. I’m currently making a new (much more detailed!) outline to go over with my advisor to reduce redundancy and improve flow.
2) Write when you can…and take breaks!
I’ve realized that cramming a solid 8-10 hour block of writing in leads to getting lots of words on paper…er, screen, but also results in about ¼ of those words being “garbage words.” Too much fluff & filler, not enough sharp, concise statements. I work best from about 8-11 am, 2-4 pm, and 8pm-11 or midnight. Kind of a silly schedule but hey, if it gives better results it’s totally worth it!
3) Stay positive!!!
Every time my advisor sends feedback I take a deep breath and then dive in. I inevitably find myself muttering angrily under my breath and glaring at the solid screen of comments and track-changes. But then I take a walk, come back and find a few easy-to-address comments, and try to look at the tough comments in a new light. My advisor and I are working towards a common goal – technically accurate and compelling thesis! So after looking through the revisions I’ve been making a habit of sending him a “thank you for the feedback, specifically blahblahblah” email before diving in to actually fix/add stuff. Somehow the act of saying “thank you” actually shifts my attitude more towards the grateful and further from the “What is this guy thinking?!?!? Ack, I’m never going to finish >:[” mindset. Copious quantities of chocolate also help 😉