Quite Frankly

Hey Frankie,

I’m essentially writing two theses: A 60+ page paper for my major and a book for my Creative Writing seminar. You probably think that you know where this is going, but the theses aren’t actually the problem. I’m super stoked to be writing both of them—I love this stuff. A lot. And therein lies the issue. I just want to write my theses, so whenever I’m assigned an essay for another class, I become miffed and sullen. I resent the hours that I put into these essays that I would love to be putting into my theses, which are not only more enjoyable to craft, but also more important. How do I transform my disgruntlement into productivity?

With gratitude, Seniowritis

Dear Seniowritis,

Quite frankly, nobody wants to write midterm essays for classes they don’t care about. Or maybe even for ones they do care a lot about. You’re not alone.

Recall your standard productivity tips here. The main point: Doing things is easier if you get a reward for doing the thing. If you derive joy from working on your theses, construct your schedule to make thesis time a reward for getting other work done—much in the same way I use watching Netflix later as a motivator to plow through 1300 words of hot garbage.

The other way to combat your resentment is reframing the exercise of writing a short paper. Instead of just filling a prompt and sending it out into the world, think about how what you’re putting in your paper now fits into a grander idea, perhaps one that could make its way into a thesis. If the prompts are totally unrelated to the topic or focus of either thesis, this can be even more fun. The educational exercise of writing a paper is supposed to test your knowledge of what you’ve read and understood from class, but most professors are happy to read pieces that engage with a broader theme or integrate sources that come from outside class. Basically, don’t be afraid to go beyond the concrete bounds of the prompt to make the assignment something you actually care to put on paper. Just make sure your professor is alright with that.

This won’t eliminate the sense that you’re wasting time on work you’d rather not be doing. But that sense is basically all of college and most of life, so I suppose you should get used to it.

Best wishes,


P.S. To tide yourself over, just think of the future, when (hypothetically) you can write whatever you want.

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