The Writing is the Hardest Part (apologies to Tom Petty)
Long ago, when I embarked on my long-day's-journey-into-night AKA grad school (in fact, I don't remember if it was before my MA or my PhD), a family friend looked grave and said that the last year was the hardest because of the writing-up. I didn't believe him then, because it seemed to me that formulating a feasible research question and finding information were such immense hurdles, that after overcoming those, writing would be easy! I'd never had real problems with writing - I'm a pretty verbal person. I used to do speech and debate in school, I am a (sorta-) published poet, and while the mere thought of talking to strangers on the telephone gives me hives, a blank sheet of paper or a document have never been sources of anxiety for me.
You see, kids, I have entered the Twilight Zone known as writing-up. I am not unprepared: I have a ton of material, and lots of Thoughts and Opinions, but the problem is, I am so afraid of failure that I have a failure to launch. It's thesis performance anxiety - not at all sexy, and there are no heavily-marketed rhombus-shaped blue pharmaceuticals for it. Basically, the routine is this:
- I wake up and remember that I have to write my god-damned thesis.
- I open up the document and re-read the meaningless drivel I have written so far. It's not fail-worthy, exactly, but it's definitely not good. It just doesn't really go anywhere. Forget about being excellent, this writing might merit a 53 from a generous faculty member who would write "a brave attempt" in the comments.
- I get sleepy because I am bored and also because my napping is a coping strategy:
by a sleep to say we end/ The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks/ That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation /Devoutly to be wished.