Out of the doldrums

As I’ve mentioned here a couple of times I’m in the midst of wrestling with the thesis for my Master’s program. I’ve been fighting with it for about a year now. It’s still not done and it’s been eating at me for some time. I’d sit down to write and just wonder “Why isn’t this getting anywhere? How did I end up at this point?”

About a week or so ago I had a pure moment of panic. I was convinced that the whole organization of the thesis was horribly wrong and that as soon as anyone on my thesis committee took a look at it they’d throw it in the trash and ask why I even bothered to go through grad school.

Now, the folks on my thesis committee are all professionals and good people so there’s no way that would have actually happened that way. Trying to tell my brain that wasn’t working, though. What can I say…that’s why it’s called panic. Logic doesn’t work in a situation like that. The only solution, as I saw it, was to make a nice little trip to the university’s library and look up some of the theses that had already been approved by the MAIS department.

I actually ended up stopping in to my old office when I first got to campus which, I think, might have done me more good than anything else. I spent two hours talking to a friend of mine who still works there. We’re both in the throes of thesis-construction and it was nice to have someone to sit down and just chat with about the whole thing. Normally I’d discuss my woes with friends or try to work out my writing blocks with my family but there’s only one person in my family who has attempted a Master’s thesis and I have no desire to try talking to them. It helped having someone to talk to who is going through a very similar problem as myself. I would hope that I helped him feel a little more at ease, as well.

Anyway, after my not-exactly-brief stop over at the diversity office I headed to the library. I quickly found the section of bound theses that had been approved by the MAIS department. Just so you know, there are 8 different programs of extremely different study under the MAIS heading…MAIS stands for Master of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies. Some of the programs that fall under that heading are Zoo and Aquarium Management, Women and Gender Studies, and Video-Based Production. And, of course, my own Folklore concentration. So…lots of different topics. It was kind of neat to look over the various names of the folks who had written the theses that had been published these past couple of years. I know a lot of them.

I pulled two copies from very different programs off the shelf and leafed through the pages. Imagine my relief when I discovered that, with a few minor exceptions, my organization of the paper was right on track. I’m not using someone else’s thesis as a model for my own but it was heartening to see that my own work wasn’t terribly far off the mark of the pieces that had already gone through the process.

After looking at the two different examples I went home and took yet another look at the work I had already done on what I might just start calling “The Behemoth.” Or maybe “The Leviathon.” I moved some things around, made a few notes, and went back to attacking the thing. I did another interview earlier today – a sort of follow-up to a bunch of earlier ones I’d already typed up. There were some questions I’d had about things my father had said. I actually had one of those huge “A-HA!” moments in the middle of it.

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of moving forward with this darn thing has been the notion of chapters. I knew that I was going to need to break the work up into sections focusing on specific aspects of repertoire and identity but, despite a pile of notes and several files of transcribed tapes, I had no idea where I was going to make those breaks and what, exactly, those chapters were going to focus on.

I am happy to say that I do now.

Of course, none of this has to do with sewing or costumes or geekdom – except to, perhaps, the random folklore geek who might happen to stumble across this entry. However, I assure you that this post has a point…

Now I seem to be out of the doldrums of my thesis construction, and back on the track to what I hope will be a speedy completion. As soon as that is finished I should be able to post all kinds of costumey goodness. My goal is to have the completed first draft of the thesis in to my advisor by St. Patrick’s Day. Until that time the posts on here will most likely be shorter and not all that frequent. If I do post, it’ll be during a short break from staring at The Leviathan.

Wish me luck!

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