In my class this week at SVA, the theme was terror. In response to my empathic prediction that they would all be feeling a bit stressed at this point in their thesis work, I delighted them with the gift of 2 hrs and 30 minutes back on their calendar unexpectedly. In return I asked for 7 minutes of their time to discuss what they are most scared about these days.

What I heard student after student was unsurprisingly a particular strain of terror. The terror involved in impending separation and change. The terror of wanting to be done with something while still fearing the loss of the comfort of where you are.

They are all experiencing the weeks that lead toward trading the devil they know for the devil they do not. We have all been in this moment, maybe not in graduate school but somewhere. The following is a writeup of the advice I found myself giving over and over this week.

Admit what is real

I spent many one on ones asking that they put everything up to the lens of now and see what it looks like when examined from their emerging position in the world. By admitting what is real, we are debunking myths, prioritizing our time and realizing our intent through our potential actions.

Make the time count

If you are working all the time and never accomplishing the results that you intend, there is something wrong with your process. This week I spoke to many students about the terror of actually producing the deliverables that are involved in their work. We spoke about how production is aided most by forethought and dry runs. The words style guide and master pages were scribbled down by many eagerly. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t teaching them these concepts. I was simply reminding them of their usefulness in a particular context. When we are in terror, we tend to forget the breadth of available tools. I hope to see many of them make important decisions about the scope of their production efforts in the next few days as a result.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

There is one piece of advice delivered this week that is directly tied to my thesis in teaching this class through the lens of information architecture. I intended with the assignment structure to prove that with proper planning, creative work can be humane, even when it is hugely important.

Staying up all night is something I fully expect many of them to do many times leading up to the big show. But there is one night in particular that I have asked that they all plan to sleep. The night before their talks. A few have warned me that nerves may keep them awake that night. We decided that as long as deliverables are not keeping them up, I have done my job and they have done theirs.

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