Those 200 Words.

I’ve never been very good with deadlines.

I go through a lot of weird rituals to remember deadlines. I religiously write in my planner. I write every little thing on my dry erase calendar that I have hanging across from my bed. (It’s important to keep calendars that watch you in the dark so they can proliferate your mind with terrifying dreams of forgetting to turn in your final papers.) I write stuff on my wrists and my hands.

And my favorite way to remember things is to make a sticky note to-do list at my carrel. When I’ve completed a task, I can rip the sticky note down and recycle it and it’s over with and done.

But I’m still really bad with deadlines. And somehow, this week really snuck up on me with one particular deadline, and that deadline was:

HONORS DAY ABSTRACT.

Honors Day, of course, is the day that Alma College celebrates students’ research with a day of presentations, cookies, and awards. I’ve attended many of my friends presentations and my brother’s presentation on male wolf spider mating behavior, which was more terrifying than anything. Last year I vowed that I would have an Honors Day presentation, and I embarked on a great journey called Emily Writes a Senior Thesis.

 

In the English major, which is what I know and what I’m comfortable with, we have two choices: we can write creatively or we can write scholarly papers. My friend Christina Rann ’14 is writing a 40-page paper about colorism in African American women playwrights’ plays.

I’ve done my share of research papers, so I decided that I was going to write a novel.

Writing a novel isn’t exactly easy, but, for me at least, it’s a lot easier than a research paper. I love writing creative fiction. I started writing my novel in July. I meet with my thesis advisor once a week and we talk about how my novel is going. He asks me weird questions that would make my scientist parents scratch their heads, like, “If the snow globe in this paragraph could talk, what would it say?” (No seriously, I’ve been asked that.)

I’ve put a lot of time and effort into my novel. I’m not done writing it, but it’s beginning to really take flight and then hopefully, wrap up in time for Honors Day, where I get to stand and read a small excerpt from it and then talk about my creative writing style and how I work as an “artist.”

I know exactly what’s going on in my novel and what it’s about and you know what, I’m proud of it.

But when I opened up the abstract form and it told me I had write about my senior thesis in less than 200 words, I couldn’t remember one single bit of my novel or what to say about it.

You spend months and months and months working on something so near and dear to your heart and then suddenly… BLANK.

I’m not the only person who’s having this issue. Every person I’ve talked about Honors Day abstracts has told me the exact same thing: “I have no idea what I’m putting in my abstract.”

As I tend to do, I’m cutting the deadline close. My 200 words that must somehow encompass my current 168-page novel were just given to my thesis advisor, who will hopefully edit it nicely for me and give me back some suggestions. I have less than twenty-four hours for this to happen, for me to write another draft, and possibly a third draft, and then to click submit.

Honors Day seems like it’s a ways away, and in a sense, it is. It’s a little less than two months from now. But the deadline to actually be a presenter for Honors Day is fast approaching.

Summing up months of work into 200 words that gets submitted to a committee is hard. It’s stressful. It’s not fun.

But Honors Day comes out of it, and that’s pretty awesome.

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