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The Woes of Writing a Thesis

Since it seems I’m doomed to be an eternal student, you’d think I’d be used to the writing assignments, the school imposed deadlines, and the constant balancing act between my creative and academic writing life.

I’m not.

The past month I’ve somewhat separated myself from creative writing (including social media writing) due to several looming issues with my academic life, notably the fact that my Master’s thesis is technically due in about four months. Given that I’ve been working on the Master’s itself for almost two years now, you’d think that I’d have more written.

I don’t.

I have a slew of excuses, of course. The course load was heavy. I didn’t speak Estonian two years ago. I still wouldn’t say that I speak it, but at least I know what my professors are talking about now, which, trust me, is much better than attending the lecture for four months only to find out the subject of the course two weeks before the final exam. And, last but not least, I actually have to write the thesis in Estonian.

The thought of doing this fills me with a mix of emotions: dread, anxiety, fear, determination, moments of hope. I have written a couple (much smaller) papers in Estonian already, and though they weren’t easy to write, at least I proved that I could do it. But a thesis. Well, that’s another story entirely.

But I figured the pertinence of this post in conjunction with a writer’s life is what exactly I’ve learned by doing it.


1.) I’m always more creative with my fiction when I am on an academic deadline. This drives me crazy, but at least it encourages me to work first so that I can play later. Not to mention that my research has given me reason to work on quite a few creative ideas.

2.) Writing academically in foreign languages is hard. Well, to be fair, writing anything in a foreign language is hard. But it has made me more aware of my own language in ways I hadn’t foreseen, and this has tied into my fiction. I’ll probably end up doing a post on this later.

3.) I’ve learned that there are other things that I want to do—things I’d never thought about. For instance, I want to translate Estonian poetry into English. Up until the past year, I’d never considered translation work as a viable career goal, but Estonian literature has opened yet another door for me.

4.) I frequently find myself appreciating the ease with which I use English. Nothing teaches you to respect your native language more than those moments when words fail you in a foreign one.

5.) Procrastination is a bad idea, even if you’re a professional. Set a word count for academic things just like you would for fiction things. Not that I’ve ever been good about that . . .

So, in the end, I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s been a long journey for me thus far, but it’s been a worthwhile one nonetheless. If you don’t see me for a while, you’ll know where I’m at and what I’m doing. Until next time, though . . .



Have you studied abroad or had similar experiences? Please let me know in the comments – I’d love to meet anyone who can sympathize with my pain.


3 thoughts on “The Woes of Writing a Thesis

  1. I can sympathise with your pain, Michelle. I never fully appreciated my mother tongue until I moved abroad and had to get to grips with another language. However, I’ve also found that my appreciation for language in general has increased; the experience has sparked mental connections and imagery that I had no access to before. It hasn’t been an easy journey by any means, but I’m very pleased I undertook it!

    Good luck with your thesis.

  2. This is very true. By learning the language, we also gain access to the culture in a ways that a tourist doesn’t, which of course leads to many different creative ideas. In that sense, Estonia itself has been an inspiration for me in a lot of ways–once I understood, on some level, the people via their language. I’m glad you undertook it! The reward always outweighs the pain. I’m sure that it influences your writing, too. Have you written any stories about where you live now or the people?

    Thanks! I’m buckling down with it this semester.

  3. I can see the effects in your fiction and can’t wait to see what you produce in the coming years. If you are struggling with the procrastination thing, we’ll start withholding Skype unti you’ve completed your word goals. 😉 Well, maybe not… and thanks for not laughing too hard at my extremely limited French. 🙂

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