On writing a dissertation

In the discussions I’ve had with all my friends who are equally annoyed about the dissertation process, we’ve figured this bit out. To write a dissertation, you need to waste a lot of time. You need to while away your time on the most useless things, like taking leisurely walks, meeting for coffee, reading trashy fiction, trying new recipes, watching films you wouldn’t watch otherwise. The idea is to completely dedicate yourself to a few hours of decadence and uselessness.

After which, you have a brief panic attack. Right after you’ve had all that fun, you begin to recall that in about a month’s time you have to hand in a piece of supposedly original research. The panic plays with various hormones and gets you all high and charged. You realize that you have wasted some very precious hours. And for some reason, the sheer guilt and panic combination results in a few hours of stellar work.

That is the secret. To be able to dissert, you must first waste ample time. Which is what I am doing, writing this post. And now I think, I shall go have a cup of tea. Very slowly.

PS – I’ve also been told that the stuff that needs to be written comes almost automatically in the last fifteen days. I suppose it’s a bit like Vyasa dictating the Mahabharata to Ganesha. Maybe I’ll just hear a booming voice saying – Main Samay Hoon.

16 Comments

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16 Responses to On writing a dissertation

  1. lets hope a few dollops of luck help you. sending some your way…..

  2. :D
    Another one to add to your list : Read blogs. Useless included. Comment too. Considering we spend so much time online, am surpirsed you didn’t have that on top of your list :P

  3. Very true. I wrote the aforementioned diss in the last 4 days before the deadline, at one go, averaging 6-8 hours of writing a day.
    As Calvin famously said, “You have to be in the right mood…what mood is that? Last minute panic”.
    :)

  4. dipali

    So true. All the so-called time wasting is getting your sub-conscious mind to do the hard work!
    Go enjoy your tea….

  5. I learnt this long ago, in school, in fact! I used to wake up early on the morning of the exam to, er, start studying :( That’s when everything in the textbooks and my notes would seem crystal clear and it would all flow seamlessly into my head :D

  6. My windows always need cleaning, my carpet can never be vacuum-ed enough and I need to get into the mood to write for a deadline (the mood being last minute panic)
    You will enjoy the “time-lapse montage” on this:
    http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=829
    :)

  7. Neha

    The inspiration in last-15 days is something that is ingrained in most MBAs through their 2 years of torture. Some manage to make it last a lifetime. It is a time management system inspired by the Japanese inventory management system called JIT. This system is Some How In Time. Works for me but in dissertation writing, it is very distracting and can lead to avoidable mistakes, as I have learnt.

    And on those cups of tea, here is something I wrote about 10 days before submission (when I had a letter saying ‘submit by XYZ date or else get deregistered):

    http://laviequotidienne.wordpress.com/2007/10/11/how-to-procrastinate-tips-from-a-master-of-the-art/

    Keep writing. :-)

  8. Good luck to you !!

  9. My current strategy is to get really angry (irrationally so) with my boss, hike it to the point where I can’t stand the sight of him, and all I want to do is throw my thesis on his face and say “there”. It gets me going, really.

  10. Calvin : You just can’t turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.

    Hobbes: What mood is that?

    Calvin: Last minute panic!

    :)

  11. Thendral, you want solidarity type a?

  12. maxdavinci: I need all the luck I can get!

    rads: The trouble is that reading some blogs which are so well written makes me feel horrible. I feel like a complete loser. So it actually prompts me to open up the draft dissertation document and stare at it quite pointlessly. I think I am going to create a new section on my feed reader called “guilt inducing” blogs and read them only when appropriate!

    shimmeringmercury: Oh you’re one of those urban legends aren’t you?? I’ve heard of another bloke who did it in four days. How did you do it? Did it include cleaning up and adding reference list stuff? Tell!!

    Chengizkhan: Am glad to be of help.

    dipali: I also take an inordinately long time to make the said tea – to make sure I waste ample time. Like talking out cardamom, ginger and stuff and get that to soak for a while in the water.

    Lekhni: So true. I am a big believer in the last minute/ hour/ day!

    Dents: So true. My awareness to dirt in the house peaks when a deadline looms near.

    Shefaly: Was lmao. So funny. Especially the think about lunch before breakfast bit. I have suddenly taken it on myself to master making phulkas in this one month. So everyday I am at it with the dough.

    Kavi: Thanks!

    Thendral; Marvelous. Are you planning to get that thesis hardbound? :D

    Bhumika: Perfect. That should be my tagline!

  13. No, i’m one of those urban design grads who realised soon into the course that it’d little to do with actual design and that the half the faculty were only kidding us and themselves and decided to give it back to them in the diss:P It’s the writing bit that took 4 days, did background research and listing of refs in one week in May and left it on the backburner. Put it all together in the 4 day frenzy – admittedly, it wasn’t brilliant, but by the end of the year, i was too disgusted to care :)

  14. Wow. The recipe for successful dissertation writing (successful dissertation itself being an entirely different thing) sounds awfully similar to my formula for writing my column. The panic attack usually does the trick. But surely the six meandering days of “ideating” (ahem) count for something, right? Heh. :)

  15. You are going to flunk your dissertation. No, I’m joking! You’re probably not going to flunk your dissertation, but I am at the point where you are at, I think, with my dissertation right now and I am working on the assumption that if I carry on like I am now – wasting time, bags of it – I am going to flunk my dissertation. Don’t rely on those last 15 days. What if you catch a cold then!? (I know, ask for an extension?)