As much writing as I have done and, specifically, as many college research papers as I have written, I should know the grind by now. Not just the ramp up in semester-end pressure or the procrastination that is always with me, but rather the rigors of the research process. I should have it down by now. I should have some sort of routine – a boilerplate, if you will. It should not feel like I am reinventing the wheel every time I have a new project. Or should it? There are perhaps a couple of reasons why it does feel this way every time I set out to write a new paper, but knowing it doesn’t make the process any less stressful. Okay, let’s just be honest here. Painful. It doesn’t make it any less painful.
True, it is the “no pain, no gain” variety, but it is pain all the same. The creative process is like that for me and although I can’t say I know what it’s like to give birth, in a sense it is like that when something inside is trying to spring forth. Because it is new every time, it is different every time and even though I can say that I have acquired a great deal of skill in researching and writing over the years, the process never gets easier. And I think that is as it should be, for if it were easy, what would be the point? That isn’t the only reason why this feels brand new all over again. It feels that way partly because, in many respects, it is brand new.
I am only in my second semester of grad school. I have only written two papers of this size in my life and both were last semester. Writing on this scale is still new to me. True, I have ample experience writing 10-page research papers (which is only a little less than half the size of what I am charged with now), but the difference between what was good enough then and what is now has much less to do with the quantity of the words as it does with the quality. No, I am not speaking of how they are chosen and arranged, but what they say and how. The research involved doesn’t mean just finding some sources that support my point, but finding virtually everything written that has to do with my research. It is exhaustive.
And I am exhausted. The sheer amount of work that will never appear in my paper is staggering, but to get it right, that’s how it has to be. There is no way to prepare for this; it is trial by fire. It is not a surprise, but it still feels brand new. My guess is that from here on out it always will. Such is life in the postgraduate world.