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Moving Past Fear in Thesis Writing (and Beyond)

I’m a grad student (only for four and a half more months, thank goodness*) and I’m bound and determined to finish my thesis. As a full time employee, wife, homeowner, blogger, podcaster, student and now researcher, the days are long and the evenings feel even longer.

My topic, the value of a collegiate level mentorship experience for women, is incredibly fulfilling–sometimes I feel like the passion is pouring out my ears, and I can’t close my eyes at night without dreaming of the future of the project. I so deeply believe in its value, and I feel uniquely honored to be embarking on this journey–in fact, maybe it’s that passion that deepens the pressure and makes the days feel even longer.

I’m so excited to join the conversation surrounding collegiate women, but I’m terrified.

I want my thesis to be valuable to the space, I want to say something that furthers the wonderful, ingenious work already being done surrounding collegiate women. I’m terrified of the tunnel vision that often comes with working on something for hundreds of hours–tunnel vision that results in my belief in the work, while onlookers aren’t so impressed. Tunnel vision that, despite my best efforts to avoid it, creates blinders that I can’t see on myself but delivers a product that isn’t worth anything. And the worst part? Everyone around me can see it, but I’m living in my own ‘my research is awesome’ lalaland.

It’s scary. And sometimes I feel like I’m walking a tightrope between obsessed with these ideas, topic and project and terrified of every word I write.

Therein lies one of the many challenges of this process. I want this to be great, worthwhile and valuable. The pressure is immense, the process is lengthy and I’m tired just thinking about it. But the bottom line? You can do it. And so can I.

Despite the fact that I’m still not done, there are a few things I’ve found along the way that have helped through this journey. Here’s to hoping some of this might help you, too.

  • Draw boundaries. My thesis is of utmost importance, but so is my mental health, my marriage and my addiction to Netflix (whoops). Homework gets a certain amount of my time most evenings, but when that time has ended, it’s up.
  • You may not know the final step, but you’ll always know the next step. Looking down the barrel of a 150+ page research project is incredibly intimidating. I don’t know how to get there and the thought of reaching the finish line on my own pushes me back under the covers. I don’t know how to get to that final step, but I do know what to do next. Make small, mini-goals that you know you can reach. Last week, that meant editing each three transcriptions on Monday night, three more on Tuesday night, completing a webinar for the new coding system on Wednesday night and uploading them all into the system on Thursday. Those are attainable steps, the next step, and when combined and finished, they all create the final step.
  • Celebrate the wins (AKA yourself). A thesis (or any similar project) is a huge undertaking that should be celebrated–and celebrations can look 50 zillion different ways. Your favorite take out, a great bottle of wine ($15 and I’m feeling fancy), a special movie, a nap…whatever looks like a celebration, do it.
  • Give yourself grace. There will be days when you can’t fulfill the homework time you originally allotted. And there will be times when the 2 hours you were confident you could do from 9 – 11 p.m. just aren’t possible. And grace is a must.
  • A good thesis is a done thesis. Get it done. Read that sentence again. Just, get it done. Sometimes I’ve looked at a paragraph for the 15th rewrite and I’m just not creating anything better that what’s staring back at me and I have to remind myself, just get it done.

To my fellow grad students, thesis-ers, researchers and all-around professional SHEs, you can do this. You can and you will. And waiting on the other side is what I just know is a beautiful thing. I’m proud of you, and I’m proud of me. Keep on keepin’ on sister, I can’t wait to read what you’ve created (seriously, I would love to read what you’ve created. Hmu at Can’t wait to celebrate with you, extend copious amount of grace and celebrations a plenty.).

SHEs everywhere, this is for you.

*Co-creator Hope Buckner graduated from Belmont University with her M.Ed. in Nonprofit Organization in May 2017!

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