Sheer idiocy

Despite my myriad mood and sleeping problems, my benchwork has been coming along just fine. So much so, that I do not have so much of it left and, while I’m waiting for a digestion or a gel or something or other, I have no other benchwork to do.

Now, you might imagine, then, that I would use this suddenly available free time to do something really productive, like, I don’t know….write my thesis, maybe?

You would be wrong.

It seems that this free time is perfect for me to read some blogs, wander around the lab talking to people and, at the height of responsible behavior, download and read an unfinished manuscript in the Twilight series. Yes, that’s right, read trashy teenage vampire romance during normal business hours.

WTF is wrong with me???

I want to graduate, I swear I do, but everytime I sit down to start writing my thesis, I start to hyperventilate and end up coming up with something way more interesting to do like reading all the comments on the latest Drugmonkey post ,or going to go buy tea, or commenting on the status of various friends on Facebook.

Or, you know, writing a blog post.

The few times I have actually started to write, I have written nothing but pure, unadulterated, grade A crap. Absolute crap. Crap that is so crappy I couldn’t possibly show it to my advisor because of its craptacularness. I completely and totally suck at academic writing.

I’m not even trying to write the intro, this is the results section for crying out loud. It really shouldn’t be that hard. But, I’ve never done this before–never written so much as a short correspondence–and now, I’m stuck writing the most important document in my life with no experience whatsoever in this kind of writing, a time limit, and a really bad case of nerves.

Excuse me while I go breathe into a paper bag for awhile.

Everyday, I haul my laptop into lab with the promise to myself that I will write. Just a little bit. Just a couple of paragraphs. Just a few damn sentences. I swear up and down to myself and on the Bible, cross my heart and hope to die, that I will write just one measly little sentence on my thesis and by the end of the day, I’ve read every blog on my blogroll three times, cleaned up my bench, checked my email a billion times, and gone shopping for yarn on the internet. And updated my wish list.

I am so screwed.




12 thoughts on “Sheer idiocy

  1. have you checked out “How to Write Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day?” This (and several other books like it) deals with issues like this….it’s not just the science that hangs up on the way to the thesis…anyway, this book is what got me over the hump to starting writing….

  2. 30 minutes a day. No matter how awful it is. 30 minutes each and every day for writing. Write before email, before surfing, before anything. Every day.

    It helped me to pay a coach:

    I only did it once, but it helped me get in the swing and I’m now Dr. Kristin (well will be if I get the damn thing into the graduate school on time). After 8 years of working on it.

    write write write. no matter how craptastic.

  3. You’re not alone! I’m home on a snow day today. I knew the snow was coming so yesterday I brought home everything I needed to work on my paper revisions. I REALLY want to finish the paper. The remaining changes aren’t even all that hard. Yet I too have spent most of the day reading blogs. I even read archives on Go Fug Yourself. Pathetic.

    Sometimes it helps me to set a timer (did I already write this here? If so, sorry). I tell myself I have to do nothing but real work until the timer rings, and usually by then I’m into it and can keep going.

    One good thing I’ve learned through blogging is that you can always edit what you write. So even if it’s total shit to start with, if you just get the ideas down you make it sound better later. Not that my blog writing sounds all that great, but it has prompted me to write much more consistently than I ever have and get over the fear of getting words on the page.

  4. Eppendork followed the following proceedure for thesis writing:

    1. Think about writing crap
    2. Write crap
    3. Blog a bit
    4. Write more crap
    5. Give crap to my partner who is an anal retentive freak about grammar etc who said this is crap I have written some comments (read red ink dripping off page)
    6. Soak up usually correct and generally helpful comments and include them in the crap
    7. Put the thesis draft down and leave it alone – go do something else for at least two weeks – go do experiments, read papers – paint an abstract
    8. Go back to thesis with fresh eyes.

    I followed this relatively staunchly – however there was a point at which I didn’t want to look at the thesis for fear of setting fire to it.


  5. I forgot step 9 which is after I’m happy with the thesis then I give it to my supervisors who make comments on it….I actually cried after one of them was unduly harsh – large, large glass of Sav cheered me up. Did I mention the curative qualities of a wine and a bitch session?


  6. I had the same problem when faced with writing my thesis. The trick is to break it down into small bits. Write a list for what you want to accomplish each day and work to finishing that list before the end of the day. If you finish, then give yourself an early mark.

    This is what my typical daily list would look like:

    – write draft of subsection X in lit review
    – finish methods section in study 3
    – run stats on study 4
    – edit intro in study 1

    As you finish each task, cross it off the list.

    This is what got me through the writing phase as I used to panic every time I thought about what my thesis needed to encompass. Just chip away at it and eventually you’ll get there.

  7. I wrote all of the results chapters first. It was mostly because I could just knock those out in my sleep. Once you finish those, you feel much better about the intro and discussion chapters.

    My labmate and I have been reading the twilight series too. I am on the last book, and just started last week.

  8. I second the recommendation for Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes A Day. It had some really basic suggestions that were so helpful and I’m not sure I would’ve thought of them on my own. For example, all summer I went to school and tried to write. I wrote very little and blew by every self-imposed deadline. Then I read the simple suggestion in that book to evaluate your writing process every once in a while for what works and what doesn’t. Duh! I quickly realized my summer approach wasn’t working, so I started writing in bed every morning. It sounds like you need to try something new to get yourself out of the rut! Good luck 🙂

  9. I totally felt the same way when trying to write up. But one of my good friends and former lab colleagues just told me to get it out, all out, and not re-read not edit not think about it too much while doing it. And for me that was good advice. It was much easier to deal with a bunch of pages full of crap, outline format, notes to self than to face that blank page…

  10. Also, stop thinking of it as the most important document of your life – you are only freaking yourself out! Because although it might seem that way now (and, true, it is a necessary document in order to continue) it will be very unimportant a few years down the road. Just tell yourself, “no one is ever going to read this anyway.” 🙂

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