The challenges of directing yourself

Self-direction

I am in the midst of writing/designing my thesis. It’s an interesting topic that I have been passionate about for years and I am grateful to have the opportunity to spend my days just thinking and writing about design, architecture, space,  etc.

But therein lies the problem, there is so much to enjoy, to learn, to absorb about design that actually keeping myself on task is incredibly difficult. This is a problem when the main concern of the thesis is actually producing one. I have a thesis advisor and committee to report to weekly and monthly but day to day, I am left to my own devices.

To further complicate the problem, everything in design bleeds into everything else. Just like a game of wiki-wars with a friend, I can get from De Certeau to Rotterdam to skate-park design  in less than 10 seconds. It is like walking through a forest and stopping to climb every tree, sure you get a lot of great views but you most likely didn’t actually get through the forest.

So here I sit, a little more than a month away from my mid-term presentation. I have a mountain of information; data, diagrams, ideas, and I need to start to make sense of it all. Some of it is relevant to my topic and will hopefully stick around to buttress my concept. Some of it isn’t relevant and I will sadly have to bid it adieu. This process is bound to be a difficult and arduous one. When I am intrigued by most everything that I see and read, discarding anything seems almost like a crime.

But I have to. I have to start weeding through my enthusiasm and focusing in on my thesis statement. This process, this act, feels unnatural to me as I am wont to entertain any concept no matter how wild and make an effort to find a thread that relates it to another idea which is relevant to my main concern. But as the end begins to peak over the horizon, like a distant city, I need to stop carrying all this baggage that is slowing my pace and weighing me down. It’s time to trim the fat and turn this thing into a lean, mean thesis machine.

I can do this even if there isn’t somebody looking over my shoulder, making decisions for me about what I should focus on and what is the most and least important. I have been through enough of those situations to understand the intent behind prioritizing. Things need to get done and now that it’s up to me, I have to be the one to do it. So if only for a short couple of months, I’ll try to avoid the myriad rabbits holes of design theory and focus instead on the one I’ve chosen to go down. Because when I really sit back and think about it, there’s more than enough in my own little rabbit hole to keep me busy for years.

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