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14 things I learnt while working on my Master thesis

© aNadventures

I recently graduated in Creative Writing. This study programme has been a fundamental part of my life for the past three years a source of strength, inspiration and growth on so many levels. The final part of my studies consisted in writing a thesis. This project kept me busy for a whole year or even longer because I had the initial idea almost two years ago. I could (and eventually might) write a separate thesis (or an essay) about my personal experience throughout this process. But today, I feel like sharing the following list of things I learnt while working on my thesis:   


  1. It’s rather about the process than about the product. Enjoy the ride. Everything else is secondary. 
  2. If you know your love language, you can create your writing habits accordingly. Mine happens to be quality time and it’s true that my muse likes to be treated to breakfast, lunch, dinner, you name it and lots of coffee in between. Throughout the process (see #1) I took my writing project to all kinds of different places to create (culinary) experiences along the way. 
  3. It’s helpful to work on the project for a few days in a row to keep the soup warm. Once you’ve warmed up on your topic, it’s easier to maintain a working routine (even if it’s just ten minutes a day) rather than investing lots of energy to warm it up again and again.  
  4. Fake it till you make it. I know, this sounds so 2010 but it really worked for me. At some point, I went to the library for almost two weeks in a row (see #3) and pretended to be a student called “Anna” who was currently working on her Master thesis. Getting into character helped me take it all less seriously and have more fun in the process (see #1). It was like being the main character of my own life.    
  5. Changing the writing spot on a regular basis can encourage new ideas. Apart from several restaurants and coffee houses (see #2) as well as the library (see #4), my character (see #4) crafted part of her thesis in trains, in a little cottage my mum uses as an office, at my sister’s in Hamburg, at the airport at 5 am, at a beach house in Italy. This was probably my favourite place to work because I enjoyed the after-work-programme and the in-between-snacks so much (see #2).    
  6. I work best implementing the “step by step approach” and setting myself (small) daily goals.  
  7. Those steps usually take longer than expected (at least twice as long). So it’s helpful to plan some buffer time and to reschedule as you go. 
  8. Classical music helps me get into concentration mode. In fact, I’ve conditioned myself to only listen to Ludovico Einaudi’s music when I want to read or write. He’s become my muse’s best friend (see #2).   
  9. Writing shitty drafts truly helps because most thinking takes place while writing and rewriting, at least in my case. If you feel stuck, try this exercise on your pc: Set the font colour to white (provided that the background of your document is white as well). Then set your alarm to five or seven or ten minutes and just type away. Without bothering about all the mistakes you might be making while writing. You can always edit later and select which parts of the text you’d like to keep and which ones you’d like to dismiss or rearrange. But at least you’ll have some text fragments to get you started.  
  10. Taking breaks is important. Try dancing to your favourite song or going for a walk every so often. Also: Stay hydrated. I know, this sounds very 2021. But it helps. 
  11. Taking sessions with writing tutors is a very helpful way to reflect on one’s process (see #1). Whenever I felt stuck, I highly valued having this kind of safe space where I could express my thoughts and feelings about my writing project. Having worked as a writing tutor myself, it was particularly interesting for me to get to know “the other perspective” as well. 
  12. Asking for (specific) feedback from others can be useful, too, when it comes to revising your text or when you feel stuck. 
  13. At some point, it’s ok to tell yourself that you don’t have to revolutionize the world with your project and that “a good enough thesis” will do as well. 
  14. Use the resources at your disposal (time, sources, ideas, energy, motivation…) to finish that “good enough thesis”. You’ll always know better afterwards and you’ll then be able to write lists such as this one. 


How about YOU? What have you learnt from working on an extended writing project? I’d love to read about your experience, if you feel like sharing it in the comment section. 

  1. Setting type on white – I’ll so try this!
    And congratulations 🙂

    • Thank you very much! And feel free to let me know how your writing flow turns out once you set that type on white. It definitely was a game changer for me and I hope others can make use of it as well. 🙂

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