It’s easy to fall into the age-old adolescent angst spiral when every assignment you get is a bore, a drag and/or plain old bad. Especially when that’s what everyone else is saying. We start a little plague of crappy feels that only encourages our inner negative-nancy more.
We young adults can be cruel – give the thing a chance! It hasn’t even gotten to the part about including a bibliography yet!
My perspective on assignments makes all the differences in how I approach the task. If I think it’s going to be painful, it inevitably will be. If I am adamant that I will have nothing to offer on the subject, then my brain will freeze up and it’ll take me twice as long to start. If I’m convinced that this’ll be the easiest ride of my life, I’ll leave it to the last minute and be content with my minimal effort…until I get the grade back.
You get the picture. Our thoughts are powerful; our thoughts matter.
One way to spark positive thinking about a task is if you are interested in the topic. That’s all well and good but sometimes you won’t be interested in the topic. Sometimes the topic is so dry and bland that you wonder why it’s part of the syllabus.
But it is part of the syllabus for a reason so you’re right to ask: why?
Maybe it’s a stepping stone to more important and significant topics. You have to learn how to add and subtract before you can learn algebra, and you have to learn definitions before you can write the next great work of fiction.
And maybe it’s just there because no one has bothered to update the syllabus in a while…
Either way, it’s helpful to justify WHY you have to do something because that could give new value to the task or topic.
However, valuable does not equal interesting. Once you have given the task some kind of value, that might be enough for you to knuckle down and get it done but if not, you’ve got to find the magic. And here we go…
Okay, say we are all doing a critical analysis essay on how Shakespeare is still relevant today.
Pessimist: “I don’t think he is relevant at all anymore. He’s dead and his work’s boring. I can’t write a 1500 word essay on his relevance today if I think it is ZERO!”
Optimist: “Okay, this might be a bit more complicated than I thought…I don’t think Shakespeare is that relevant anymore so how can I prove that and still make references to his work and synthesise an analysis?”
The pessimist in us simply highlights and then stresses over the issue whereas the optimist is already thinking about possible solutions. Yes, I don’t really like this topic (‘his work’s boring’), but I have to do this essay. So, what argument can I use to both express my opinion (so I am somewhat engaged in my writing) and answer the questions?
This is how we need to start thinking when we are faced with the perceived boring, painful and dull.
What Happens When We Aren’t Engaged Or Interested?
- We leave it to the last minute, ending up with a rushed job and probably poorer grade
- We spend way too much time on it because we can’t penetrate the guts of the topic – because we just don’t care.
- We copy and paste other people’s words to make it sound like we were interested in the topic
How To Get Engaged And Interested
The question is: Yes, it may be shitty, but where can I wiggle in from an angle that is engaging to me?
BTW, there is nothing wrong with having to work on connecting with something. It’s actually a good thing! It means that you are going to be way more assertive and confident when it comes to executing the task (writing it, etc). Once you’ve figured out a way to connect with the topic that suits you, be proud! Because that is half the work of a great essay.
Consider the following steps until you’ve found you’re approach:
- Is my opinion just different to the status quo? If so, work on your argument to reflect that opinion. A unique voice is a great asset! Don’t shy away from being different.
- Think about possible justifications for doing this work. Like why is it in the syllabus? How is it relevant/important to what I’m studying or what I want to know? Why do I need to do well in this task? I will become more confident if I can nail this task from a unique perspective.
- Can I link this task to a broader topic that interests me? If it’s about lizard populations and you were interested in environmental change, you could have a broad thesis about the impact of the diminishing reptile populations on the environment.
- Can you manipulate the form of the task to be more interesting to you? If you hate analysing but love creative writing, do as I suggested before and employ creative writing techniques in your critical essay that are relevant. This proves that you really understand the topic as well!
- Do some extra research around the topic. You might find something interesting that you hadn’t considered relevant before. Inspiration is everywhere!
- Most importantly! If you can’t think of anything engaging about the task yet, REMAIN POSITIVE. Remain open to solutions and ideas and they will come. But close the doors and wallow in negativity and you will hate the task the whole way through.
Help each other out, comment your own unique approaches to uninteresting projects below!