Sunday, May 31, 2009

At the corner of Anxiety and Self-Loathing

I've been thinking a lot about my honors thesis lately. The little things - voice, organization, research, citation style, and even topics covered - are going to matter a lot in this thesis because of the subject matter: how sciences and arts are really more entwined than we give them credit for, and that it is important to learn both. I really want my thesis to be a reflection of their integration. A little while ago, I conceived of making it a many-faceted project rather than merely an extended essay. Now the budding thesis in my mind is a mixed-media extravaganza: poetry and stories, surely, but also socio-psychological studies, historiography, cross-genre metaphors (the only one I have so far is entitling a short essay "String Theory" and having it be about theoretical physics and music), political arguments... everything I can work in.

I still have many anxieties about this, though. For one, it's huge. Two, I will be sooo disappointed if it does not turn out the way I envision it. That's a big one. I don't deal well with turning in work (especially important works, like, ahem, an honors thesis) that I don't feel is the very best. I'm not entirely sure how this will work. Three, I'm a procrastinator. Four, I'm not sure how it'll go down when I show my parents. When I gave my mom the basic overview a few months ago, she said, "Hmm." Keely, Colleen, and I all know that "Hmm." It means disapproval, short and simple. Also, since I came up with the idea, my dad has, two or three times, offered his thoughts on arts and sciences, a sort of "how dare anyone call that a science! Science is the purest of the pure! Do not got contaminating the name of Science with [insert social science here]!". Yeah, I haven't told him what my thesis is about yet. But I sure am glad I didn't major in psychology.

I could probably easily eliminate all these problems if I just did what every English writing major does: write a few chapters of a novel or round up all the short stories and poems I've written over my college career and turn that in. I can't bring myself to do it. Remember what I said about not being able to turn in work I don't feel great about? I have an opportunity to turn in what is probably the easiest thesis in the world, but that would feel too much like cheating. I tried to get around this by trying to come up with a theme to write my poems and short stories to. I just couldn't find any to which I could commit. I tried to come up with an interesting technique I could experiment with. When I told one of my potential thesis readers that I was going to craft my thesis entirely of writing exercises and experiments, he demanded to know more before he would sign off on being my reader (I promptly got rid of him and found someone who was willing to sign a blank check for me. God knows I don't need more doubters than myself in on this.)

So I've dug my own grave. And my project for the next few months is to find the inspiration to keep digging that grave until I reach the China of thesis success. God help me.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, this will sound cliched and all that, but:

    Follow your heart.

    It sounds like you have the seeds, or maybe even more, of a fantastic thesis.

    As for the doubts:

    1. Sure it's huge, but it's worthwhile. When real opportunity comes knocking at your door, she's always wearing work clothes.

    2. Will it turn out as well as you expect? Probably not... but the act of *doing it* is of utmost importance. Parts of our first CD make me cringe, but without it, nothing else would have happened. "Dare to suck"... seriously, the alternative just isn't that interesting. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, and I know you'll do far better than that. Parts will bug you, but parts will turn out better that you ever hoped.

    3. Goes back to issue one. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Make a map of this thing (at least what you think it looks like" and start gnawing on *parts* of it. It's too big for one gulp and being overwhelmed is the mother of procrastination. The sweet spot is where you can stay "whelmed" without hitting the "over" part.

    4. Repeat after me: Not. My. Mom's. Thesis.

    Seriously though, I understand your concerns, especially surrounding the "real science" issue... but really, isn't the problem just that? "Moderns" see the world in tidy compartments, science included. "Postmoderns" just don't... we actually have more in common with premoderns who experience art, literature, faith, and science as a big messy jumble that has some pretty blurry boundaries.

    The conundrum is this of course... we're sitting at the crossroads of a *BIG* shift in worldviews roughly akin to what happened when humanity entered the modern era and "science" as a category was born. The gulf between how you see the world and how your parents see the world is much larger than the gap between them and their parents. Because of the way emerging worldviews work, know that you can cross the gap to visit them, but they will have a much harder time visiting you. Just know that the bow cannot follow the arrow to the target... it can only send it forth. You're already flying, my friend. Boldly go.