Dear Art Doctor,
I have a dissertation to hand in next month and am yet to start writing. I have an inkling of what I want to do and the direction I want to take, but am unsure of how to focus my idea into a single coherent piece. Any advice as to how to manage the stress, the workload and ideally how to write the thing itself would be hugely appreciated.
First of all: you will definitely not be the only person in this situation. Nonetheless, I think the most important non-arty advice I can give you is to ban yourself from talking to people about your dissertation unless you absolutely need to – you just know that you’ll end up talking to the few people who are onto their second draft already and that’s not going to make anyone (except them) feel good.
Instead, think about everything that can be done in a month. Make sure you don’t waste time wishing you’d started earlier – there’s nothing you can do about that now – and just divide the time you actually have into neat chunks (reading, thinking, writing). I would suggest trying to keep something like Mondrian in mind as you do this (perhaps his Composition with double line and yellow,1932, which you can go to see in real life in the National Gallery of Modern Art): the neat lines and separated spaces are how you should aim to have your brain feeling. I’m sure your dissertation isn’t the only thing you have to do over the next month as well, so make sure you are honest with yourself about how much time you need to devote to other things, then pop them in a neat, Mondrian-esque square in your mind.
If by nature your mind is a little more jumbled, don’t try to force it into perfectly divided chunks, though – you’ll never stick to it and you’ll end up feeling bad – try instead to emulate Lyubov Popova’s Painterly Architectonic,1916. Here things overlap and there are vibrant colours and less than geometrically perfect shapes – but he still manages to keep it all separate.