contd. from part I- i just split this because it was so long...
If you're a chronic procrastinator like me, you then realize that this time you just can't procrastinate. There is no way out! It can get stifling, when you don't have the luxury to procrastinate, and that pressure makes it all the more harder to be productive, ending in a vicious cycle. At that point, it might do you good to find someone like this guy, with an exceptional capacity to nag, and give him your phone number, voluntarily. He will call you every hour, and bug you, and push you when you feel like quitting. He will ask silly questions like "so, where is the bottleneck?". He will ask you other idiotic questions like "so what page are you on?" and then ask that same idiotic question after two hours. You want to kill him, and you may end up hating him, but the thesis will get written.
Finally, I'd be lying if I said there weren't moments I actually enjoyed it. Researching about your favorite subject, putting things together and rediscovering that nice thread that connects it all is quite satisfying. It's a fine line between getting lost and distracted into papers you can keep reading about, endlessly, and staying focussed on your work and achieving the set target. But with a good amount of goading, both from within and from external forces, you can make it. The good bit was, that all my chapters went through just one round of corrections from my advisor, who had plenty good things to say about my writing. Clearly, I had made a lot of progress since the last time. Her affirmation meant a lot and pepped me on to whip things into shape.
The final hard part is then letting go, telling yourself that it's done and ready to be submitted. Since the thesis is your baby, you can't but want to make it that perfect piece of literature anyone has ever written. "Words on paper" was an article Abi had linked on his blog a long time back (there are a lot of gems there on his blog under Higher-Ed Advice) and I constantly visited that page in my last few days- to tear myself away from the obsession of perfecting what I had and just turn the damn thing in. It is true, the best dissertation is a done dissertation, but the fact is not easy to grasp while you're in the situation. There was a lot of drama before I finally turned my thesis in. The day before the thesis was due to my committee, I still had a good bit of work left on it, and was totally unready to call it finished. The sleepless nights, bad food, and stress all came together and I got terribly sick. When I was not throwing up or rehydrating myself, I was lying down and fixing errors in my tables and figures. I had almost decided to call it quits- but then told myself that I was really close, and if I didn't do it then, I would have to go through this hell all over again- and that I didn't want. So the next morning, as I sat at home making final corrections to each chapter and emailing them to my advisor, she and my lab-mate were making five copies of each chapter, setting them out on the table, taking color printouts of the figures and inserting them wherever necessary. I reached the lab that noon with five copies of my thesis organized in separate folders and ready to be handed in to each committee member.
That is how, ladies and gentlemen, TGFI wrote her thesis. 4 years of work, 150 pages, and a lot of outside help. I tried to clock the number of hours that went into it, but it's hard to tell- a lot of what I wrote was things I have been always thinking about, so it's not like I sat and spouted it all in one go. On the other hand, I needn't have gone through as much stress had I started earlier and been more organized. A lot of people actually enjoy the whole process of writing and it ends up being their favorite phase of grad school life. So I am sure it's possible to go through this without as much misery as I did, and I would strongly recommend starting early to anyone who wants to enjoy the process, quite confident that I never have to do this again and practice what I preach. ;)