I was talking with a friend who was frustrated at his lack of accomplishment so far this semester. "None of my classes are challenging." he lamented, "I feel that I haven't done anything in the past five weeks. I'm coasting." This is a common complaint. After three years of classes and homework, I too, am beginning to question the worth of a seemingly-endless cycle of papers, projects and reading. At the end, we get an average-sized piece of paper and a couple new lines on our resume. After a lifetime of cultural pushes toward college, I wonder exactly what I want to do.
After pondering the predicament that the two of us found ourselves in, I finally had an answer for my friend. He needed a boat. Or rather, half of a boat. His reaction was to be expected: "What am I going to do with half a boat?"
You put it in your garage, of course! And then, every Saturday, you go out and work on it. Screws go in one place, glue in another. And the you discover you've got them backwards, so it's time to go to the local home-improvement store and pick up more supplies. Eventually, it's 9PM and your wife is wondering just where you are and what was so much more important the now-cold dinner. As the weeks go by, the half-boat starts looking more like a full-boat. Eventually, the boat is finished. A shining example of nautical finery sits in your garage and you realize that you really had no interest in helmsmanship but rather the process of building a boat.
Not everyone's natural inclination is toward boat construction. My friend specialized in philosophy and thinking rather than mechanical engineering. This doesn't mean that we can just "Your boat project is to philosophize something," in fact, the incredible amount of projects that could fulfill this statement might overwhelm and result in a fast-track back to coasting. No, boat projects must be specific.
On the other hand, they can't be too specific. Part of the fun is adding nifty new things to the boat that you never would have thought of. If we limit ourselves, then the project will be too specific or easy to really exercise the creative freedom required. That's why a boat is the example - it has a definite end, but still allows for tweaks along the way.
At this point, several half-boat ideas are already ping-ponging around in your head. Excellent. Go out and do it.