Commit to Your Writing Even When You Don't Have Time: What My Thesis Experience Taught Me
Monday, April 06, 2015 Time
This month’s theme for the blog is writing and time (if you missed it, check out our latest WriteCast episode on apps and tools to help you make the most of your writing time). I know this because I’m staring at a blank Word document with a note from the blog’s editor, Anne, that the deadline for the blog post I agreed to write is approaching. She suggests I write something about writing my thesis*, which is a very practical and helpful suggestion, except that I’m not sure I have anything very useful to report about writing my thesis. It was over a year ago, and I’m allowed to keep the memory of that stressful time in a hazy fog, right?
Maybe what I’ll write about today is less about the immediate act of writing my thesis and more about reflecting on the overall experience after such a long time away from it. While I was writing my thesis, the immediate question of time—whether I had enough of it or was using it wisely—was a huge issue for me. I was working full time while writing my thesis, so what’s left of my hazy memory mostly consists of those instances I struggled to set aside time for writing. But now that those stressful moments are gone, I’m left looking back and reflecting on what the experience taught me.
What was important back then was not so much the quality of my writing each time I sat down to my computer. What I can now see at a distance is that all the little moments—the 5, 15, 30 minutes where I was able to actually write—mattered, but what mattered more was my continued perseverance at writing. While I may have worried that I wasn’t writing enough pages or writing those pages well enough, now I see that it was less the individual moments of writing and more my continued commitment to just write that was key for me. The important thing was that I continued to find those moments to write, no matter how short or productive they were.
I also now see that writing my thesis was not just about writing that thesis. Writing—any form of writing—is like training. Each time you write, you are practicing a muscle, training it in new and different ways, developing your writing skills. Writing my thesis helped me complete the requirement and graduate, sure. But writing my thesis also trained me for more writing. The lessons I learned while writing my thesis, like time management, revision techniques, the best way to revise for my (seemingly endless) wordiness, and how to use constructive criticism, are ones I continue to use when I write e-mails, articles, and even blog posts.
I’ve returned to these lessons over and over again in my current writing. I can trust that this training and these lessons will help me in the future as well. By trusting in my past writing experience, I know that as long as I simply write—persevere in the act itself rather than focusing on whether what I initially write is good enough—I can succeed in any writing project—even a blog post where I didn’t know what to write about.
*At the Writing Center, we often talk about the “thesis” in terms of the thesis statement (see our many resources on thesis statements: website materials, blog posts, a WriteCast episode, and a webinar). Here, however, “thesis” refers not to the thesis statement—a sentence that drives the argument for a paper—but to the capstone document often required for earning a master’s degree.
Beth Nastachowski is a writing instructor, the WriteCast podcast co-host, and the coordinator of webinar writing instructor for the Walden University Writing Center. She can’t write without coffee by her side, enjoys giving her cats catnip, and wishes everyone a fast and early spring!
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