Step 1: Admit this presentation is actually a thing.
Step 2: If you have a paper already written, congratulations, just make some slides. If you do not, keep reading further.
Step 3: Remember that topic that you managed to intelligently make up on the fly when your professor asked a couple weeks ago what your topic was? Try to remember what you said. Maybe track down that sticky note you vaguely remember writing when your BS was accepted and actually praised.
Step 4: Realize that what you really want to write about it is related to that BS topic and might be a subtopic? Or completely tangential? No one knows. You don’t know.
Step 5: Gather anything relevant from your classes or your research from the semester. Make a pile.
Step 6: Realize you don’t have a big enough desk. Roll out the yoga mat, sit on the floor, and surround yourself with a peaceful circle of OCTs, commentaries, handouts, and photocopies of topographical dictionaries. Your cat is behind you.
Step 7: It’s 2am and you crack open a Red Bull.
Step 8: You LOVE this book you borrowed from your Latin professor for this presentation for your other professor - you didn’t ask your professor for this class for help because that would be admitting you’re lost the day before it’s due. Read the book.
Step 9: Break out your sticky notes, colored highlighters, and rainbow of G-2 pens. Tag everything you have. Blue is ancient literature. Yellow is secondary literature. Purple is for building mentions.
Step 10: Open Powerpoint or Prezzi. If you know how to use Prezzi, it makes it look like you put ten times more effort into this presentation than you actually did. OOOH ZOOMY. Otherwise, use powerpoint. Mess around with the color scheme. Create a hilarious anagram of your title that actually somehow pertains to your topic. Roma = Amor HAHAHA GET IT.
Step 11: Animate that shit.
Step 12: Plunder Artstor, museum websites, and your professor’s powerpoints for pictures. Cite your sources.
Step 13: Keep 11 tabs open of PHI. Continually copy and paste text into your presentation to prove your claims.
Step 14: It’s 6am and you need a powernap.
Step 15: It’s 7am now. Save everything you’ve done so far and outline what’s left to do after your class in the morning by making general slide titles.
Step 16: Cite that ancient literature. Cite it.
Step 17: 5 minutes until class. Congratulations, you’ve made this presentation that will in fact last half an hour. But you realize you don’t have a handout of a bibliography. Make a slide and hurriedly try to remember where the periods go in citations.
Step 18: Run down the stairs clutching your laptop in your hands. Pull down your skirt and look professional.
Step 19: Go last. Blow everyone out of the water. They didn’t have a calming source circle, did they?
The weird pain below my left shoulder blade never ever goes away, not even after yoga. It’s my Hunched Over Books Chronic Pain.
Cinque asked. This is not a good answer. This is a oh my god I am so burnt out right this second and I found a place to go dancing tomorrow night thank fuck answer.
- Know what you’re going to say first, before you write it down. This is not (yet) a prescription for having an outline, or having the entire chapter In Your Head — I know someone who works like that, who has the whole thing entire before they put words on paper, but that is not me. This is a prescription for having a thematic argument. Be able to do the 20-second elevator pitch.
- Write down the 20-second elevator pitch. Turn it into your introduction. Make terrible, elaborate claims that you are not sure you can prove. (There’s three pages down.)
- Decide what would be necessary to prove your terrible and elaborate claims. This is the point at which you make your first outline. This is not an outline of what you will write. This is an outline of what you will do. My outlines look like long lists of slightly infuriated bracket notes. Like: [THE BYZANTINE SELF? IS IT A THING?] or [REALLY THERE SHOULD BE A WAY TO TALK ABOUT PRESENCE AS A PORTABLE QUALITY, MAYBE THE THING WITH THE TENTS?]
- Go back through your notes, which you have been taking for months, and plug into your first outline which sources will be useful for what. At this point you will discover you know absolutely nothing. You have no idea whether the Byzantine self is a thing. You have a vague recollection that there was an article about that, but not what it said.
- Your outline is now fractal. Each bracket note gets researched and written individually. This will result in a plethora of new bracket notes, as you break down the section headings into how the fuck do I prove this one then.
- Discover that you have a brilliant case study that reframes everything. Spend 15 pages on the case study. Discover that your new 15 pages mean that you have to rearrange everything else.
- Rearrange the bracket notes, and the sections. Realize that you have said the same thing twice, once well and once incredibly badly, and that the incredibly badly written one was the one that took up four pages. Delete four pages. Sink into vile despair.
- Find three places where it is appropriate to have theoretical digressions, which are a) useful; b) sexy; c) take up tons of wordcount.
- Abruptly think that you are a tiny god, who has said entirely useful things about constructed community, or whatever it is that you are writing about.
- This wears off. It never lasts. Existence is a tragedy.
- Add more philology. It makes you look cool, and like a Real Scholar. You totally used the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, and you totally are going to quote some 12th-century poets who also used this word in this way.
- Your prose is not deathless. (Lo, not even my prose is deathless.) But even when you think your prose is crap, because you have repeated the word ‘culture’ eighty-billion times, it is not crap. Repetition is rhetorical.
- You’re writing about rhetoric! You poor soul.
- You could have been an accountant instead of writing about rhetoric. The accountant-you would have money, and vacations, and time to write that novel you really want to write.
- Accountant-you probably believes the world is shit, though. You-you only think you are shit. This is actually better.
- No, it really is better. Your fractal outline is fairly easy to complete, because you only have to do one section at a time. Thus, you are only shit at one thing at a time.
- Give up on the first draft being glorious. The first draft is going to be done.
- Miss your deadline by three days, which are the most miserable three days you have had in six months. (They are also Thanksgiving weekend, so no one cares but you.)
- Put some of your best work in the conclusion.
- For god’s sake, just hand it in.
Like that, pretty much.
I’ve never been so happy.
What have I done.
What have I done.
What have I done.