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March 7, 2012 5:37 AM   Subscribe

Where (in what physical space) should I write my MA thesis?

I hope to get the bulk of my thesis writing done in the Fall 2012 semester and have budgeted sufficient time to do so. I'm sorely lacking a good place to write. I need some table/desk space to spread articles out, a place to store some books, an electrical outlet, and maybe internet. I like to write early in the morning, between 4 and 9.

My shared office is noisy, crowded, and the fluorescent lights give me a headache.
There isn't much room in my home although I do like the idea of rolling out of bed and just writing. I have a roommate with dogs (although she does keep largely an opposite schedule from me) and outside of bedrooms, there isn't any non-public space in the house.
The carrels at my university's library won't do because the library hours suck.

Is there an option I'm overlooking? Do you have a hack to modify one of those spaces to make it work?

I saw this question but I need to be in town regularly to teach.
posted by thewestinggame to Education (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a fan of using the bedroom as a writing space. I find that the quality of writing suffers a little, and the quality of sleep suffers a lot. Separate spaces are important to me.

Is your shared office really that crowded & noisy between 4-9 am (your preferred writing time)? If not, then that might be the easiest solution -- bring a desk lamp so you don't have to deal with the florescence, and you're ready to go.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:49 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're considerate, could you ask your roommate how she'd feel about you usign the "public" space in your house? If it's between 4 and 9 could you maybe just have a bit of storage there (on a bookshelf) and spread out between those hours then pack away? Given the hours you're talking about, it doesn't sound like your actual working would impinge on anyone else's use of the space.
posted by crocomancer at 5:49 AM on March 7, 2012

I dug into the desk in my flat. I got almost zero work done in the library. It might be a good thing to look at staying at a hostel in the middle of nowhere for the last week of writing which is what I did (and finished three days early!)
posted by parmanparman at 6:27 AM on March 7, 2012

I wrote my MA thesis in a small corner of the living room of my one bedroom apartment that I shared with my boyfriend. I had my books lined up at the back of the desk and all of my sources (journal articles, transciptions, etc) filed in banker's boxes at my side. I had my chapter outlines written on 8.5x11 sheets above the desk. Cheap, easy, and organized. I could have squeezed the desk into my bedroom if I had to, not sure if you can do the same.

If I needed to sprawl out a bit, I would take what I needed to the kitchen table. If I had taken on a task that day that required only the laptop (transcription, editing), I would venture out to a local coffee shop or the university library for a change of scenery. My university library had small offices available to graduate students for the semester, so I had my own room on campus with a lock and key. It was tiny and windowless, but it gave me a quiet and private place to go when I couldn't stand being in the house for another minute.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:30 AM on March 7, 2012

I'm in a similar situation to yours--I'm working on my PhD thesis, and trying to get stuff done at home just wasn't working. The siren calls of the TV and Xbox were too hard to resist, and moving into the kitchen didn't work because the wireless Internet signal died in there (so say goodbye to looking up references). The library wasn't much better, since the local one was always packed, and the three nearest academic libraries I have access to are a minimum of an hour and three changes of train across town, and that starts to add up.

Your budget might not allow this, but I wound up renting a tiny bare-bones artist's studio in a building in my neighborhood. It's a little pricy, but when I go there, in my head it's officially WORK TIME in the WORK SPACE, and I've been five times more productive in just the few months I've had it. Also, it's nice to have a place to keep books and papers and such to cut down on the clutter at home.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:35 AM on March 7, 2012

I find that the quality of writing suffers a little, and the quality of sleep suffers a lot.

Oh my, yes. Do not do this. Train your body to use the bed for only two things, sleeping and intimacy. Do not bring the stress of writing a thesis into the safe space of your bed.

That said, I had success writing outside at a coffee shop. Being outside gave me more energy, I think. Plus, I didn't have to rue the fact that I was wasting perfectly good weather days by staying cooped up inside writing my dissertation.

Coffee shops can be distracting, though, so I understand if this doesn't work for you. There's also the problem of having to take bathroom breaks and leaving your laptop and notes everywhere for someone to steal, and the thought of this can cause even more stress.

If that doesn't work, I suggest checking to see if your school's library has small rooms you can reserve (mine did). You can check them out for hours at a time, and sort of just lock yourself in there with no distractions. Are you really sure the library's hours "suck"? Does that mean they close at 5PM, or are you a night owl and need a place that's open from midnight to 6AM? During the week, my university's library is open until 3AM every day (although the hours do kind of "suck" on weekends). You may need to rearrange your schedule to get this to work.
posted by King Bee at 6:46 AM on March 7, 2012

Agreeing with King Bee about checking out your university's library system. My school's library hours are pretty lame as well, but the university has a general purpose library that's open 24 hrs during the week that I only discovered about halfway through last semester. Weekends still suck, but it's a free, quiet place to work with plenty of space. Or if your uni only has the one library, is there another college or university nearby whose library has better hours? You might be able to work out a deal with them that's cheaper than finding a room on Craigslist.
posted by smirkette at 7:23 AM on March 7, 2012

I wrote the bulk of my first MA thesis in a coffeeshop. I lived across town (1.5 hours by public transit) from my school, so I only wrote in the library or on campus when I had class. I also went to other libraries (academic) which had better hours, quieter spaces... like research libraries. I think a lot of it kind of depends on how your organise your writing/time, in terms of what spaces work best for you -- I was only using a handful of sources at a time, many electronic, and using a netbook -- so toting it around wasn't a big deal for me.
posted by sm1tten at 7:26 AM on March 7, 2012

Nthing coffee shops - I banged out the core of my PhD thesis in some random Costa Coffee in London. My parents live in a gorgeous and comparatively remote bit of Ireland, but I never got much done there because it was too easy to relax and snooze and look at the pretty. The coffee place was decent enough but not somewhere I'd hang out by choice; also, it served coffee.

Coffee places near big train stations etc may be more likely to open early. Good luck!
posted by doop at 8:23 AM on March 7, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for your responses so far!

Again, the university's library is out: "The carrels at my university's library won't do because the library hours suck."
The other college in town has worse hours and I can't store things at the public library (which has even worse hours anyway).
posted by thewestinggame at 8:46 AM on March 7, 2012

Does your town have any coworking spaces like this one?
posted by juliapangolin at 9:09 AM on March 7, 2012

If you've got a bit of extra cash lying around, could you rent out a small office space in town?

A few years ago I checked out a small, single-room office (about 10x20) in an old building in the downtown area of where I was living. It had three big windows, and it was carpeted. Shared bathroom facilities with the other offices on the floor - mostly lawyers, IIRC. It was being rented out for $150 a month.

We daydreamed about making into a meeting place for our friends (somewhere to go hang out other than the local bar) but decided against it. Perhaps if you're not the only one in this position of not having anywhere to write - you could rent a small office and split the cost?
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:03 AM on March 7, 2012

Another alternative is renting a spare bedroom from a friend / acquaintance. This could be formal & costly or neither. Also, ask your profs for suggestions... They might be willing to connect you with a space while someone is mostly on leave.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:31 PM on March 8, 2012

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