The Reason for the Season

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I have been debating what I should write about today because it has been an incredibly long week, which is not over yet, so I don’t want to take the time to come up with something “profound” and try to peddle it to all of you.  Being Christmas Eve, I thought it might be appropriate to say something meaningful about Christmas and the holidays and whatnot, but I’ve become quite a cynic in recent years, so I’m not sure anything I have to say about this holiday would be the sort of uplifting read you’d like to read this holiday weekend.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.  It narrowly beats out Thanksgiving (the day of Awesome Food) and Halloween (the day on which it is socially acceptable to go out in public in a costume without coming up with a damn good excuse and getting a lot of weird looks–yes, I’ve tried it on other days and no, I’m not telling you my excuses).  My favorite things about Christmas have changed over the years, but I’ve always loved it, loved the whole season.  I love the smells of cinnamon and peppermint and pine, the sounds of Christmas music and the hush of falling snow (I’m still hoping for a white Christmas this year, the weather report promises a good snow storm later today…), the warmth of a fire and new PJs, the taste of pumpkin and wassail and cocoa and eggnog and homemade candies and cookies, and all the lights and the bright red and green and silver and gold.  It is a beautiful time of year.

When I was a kid, I was always excited for the presents I would get Christmas morning.  I admit I was spoiled.  My parents never gave us really big-deal things like video game systems or our own TVs or whatever, but they always liked to go over the top.  As I got older and started earning my own money and getting better at making things, I learned the joy of giving gifts.  It is still fun to get things, but these days, I mostly want useful stuff, like a job I don’t hate or a book contract or new dishes.  The real fun is in figuring out the perfect gift for each person–now that I’m all grown up, I get why my parents get so carried away with gift-giving.  I love figuring out that one unexpected gift that would surprise someone and make their day and show them that I notice them and see who they are and what matters to them.  We’ve always passed around lists in our family, so we know what things people need or are hoping for and I usually get at least a little something from people’s lists, but I also like to be creative and come up with something outside the box.  And, if at all possible, I like to make those gifts.  I can cook, sew, knit, crochet, and do a variety of other craft-related things.  I enjoy making things.  Personally, I would much rather get a gift that someone had put time and thought into making than something they just went out and bought.  I have had a few things that were bought that were amazing and wonderful and I always appreciate a gift with any thought at all, but there’s something extra special about gifts that someone has taken the time to make.

This year, there isn’t really anything I want.  Usually half my list is books, but I’ve bought a lot of books in the past few years for school and the books I already own are still living in boxes that are cluttering my room from when I moved into this house almost two years ago, so even though there are a lot of books I want, I’m trying not to acquire more until I get some bookshelves up and deal with the books I’ve already got.  I also need a lot of practical stuff, like a new car and my credit card bill paid off, so I can’t really think about adding more stuff to my house that I don’t need when I really need money for other stuff (and it doesn’t help that I’m addicted to Loot Crate–btw, if you want to join, shoot me a message and I’ll send you a link so we can both get $5 off!–so I’m basically filling my house up with useless crap I don’t need anyway, so not much point in asking for more).  On top of that, I’m crazy broke this year.  I’m usually a really great gift-giver, but with limited resources, I feel like people are going to be disappointed with my offerings this year.  So, I’m not particularly excited about getting anything this year.

Normally, I’d be happy at the prospect of getting stuff, but not particularly focused on it because I would be absorbed in my projects for everyone else.  This year, I am in far worse debt than I have ever been in my life.  I was dealing with my final semester of grad school, which mean finishing my Thesis (319 pages), then finishing my Process Paper (20 pages, written from scratch 3 times this semester), then finishing all my Graduation Paperwork, then submitting my Final Product (which is basically all those things, plus the other two major papers I wrote during my program–which still needed revising, btw–combined into PDFs and uploaded to the school’s digital archives for final approval and which is required to graduate).  All of which, I finished about two weeks ago (I think? I can barely remember yesterday, let alone a week ago or whatever).  And then I doubled my hours at work.  I sorely needed the hours.  I told my boss I was available for more and then started covering other people’s shifts (I was rewarded when I got my paycheck yesterday and realized I would be able to afford my basic expenses for January, even though I won’t have an income that month because I will be across the country waiting to go to a writing conference that I really hope will be worth it).  With all this craziness, my budget for Christmas gifts is basically zero and I’ve had a week or two to think about what I might do, and far less time to gather supplies and do projects.  Here I am, at 2am on Christmas Eve, and I’m only about half-done with the things I’m planning to do or get or make or whatever else.  I have one day–one day of complete insanity as everyone else in my position is running all over creation trying to find those last few things they need–to finish preparing for Christmas.  There’s also the issue of decorating the tree that showed up in my living room last night, but my mother got into town a day earlier than expected (by which I mean an hour ago), so I’m leaving it up to her–maybe I should move the ornaments out there, just in case anyone is inclined to decorate…  Even eliminating non-essentials from my to-do list, I have far more on my plate than I can handle for this holiday and I feel that even with all this effort, people are going to be disappointed in the results because of what I’ve been able to do in the past.  If we could just push this whole thing off for another three months or so, I would be past all my major deadlines so I would have time to do a proper job of things, plus I would have a higher income (not a great one, but better than what I’ve had the past six months, which doesn’t even break even).  Too bad life doesn’t work that way.

I know Christmas lore is filled with stories of struggling people who do their best to do good for other people and it magically all turns out.  I should note that I have always hated “The Gift of the Magi.”  I love O’Henry.  He was a brilliant writer and has quite a lot of great and entertaining stories, but that one I never liked.  It’s about two people who sacrificed the thing they valued most to give a gift to the person they loved.  Then it turns out that the gift they sacrificed to give is now useless because the other had sacrificed that thing they loved.  So now they are left with nothing.  As an adult, I read the story and in they end they laugh about it or something stupid.  The story always made me feel sick with disappointment.  It still makes me feel sick.  So “uplifting” stories like that are no good to me now.

I know you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make someone happy, but I haven’t had time to offer either.  I feel like I’m being selfish this year because I don’t have much to offer.  I don’t have much to offer because I was focused on finishing a degree for myself.  It has absorbed most of my time and money over the past few years.  The timing couldn’t be helped.  Finishing the degree now was my priority–and a reasonable one.  Unfortunately, I have not had time to catch up from that.  I don’t have hope for something magical to save the day, but I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got and I hope things will at least turn out well enough.  I will be glad when the holidays are over and my life can fall into a better routine.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

J

 

Deadlines

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“A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most kick-ass form. It’s a potent force that, when wielded with respect, will level any obstacle in its path. This is especially true when it comes to creative pursuits.”

— Chris Baty, No Plot? No Problem!

*   *   *

“I love deadlines.  I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

— Douglas Adams

In honor of Camp, a few quotes about deadlines.  Right now, I’m enjoying that whooshing sound, but soon, hopefully, I’ll manage to get the reins on that deadline and ride out the month.

1:07h ~ 1,116w

J

Cobwebs

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Hello all!  It’s been a while, so I figured it was about time to sweep out the cobwebs and get back on track with this blog.  Very brief update on the last four months of my life:

I left my nannying job at the end of December and moved from Virginia to Maryland.  Maryland didn’t work out, so at the beginning of March, I moved out to Utah.  I started a new job two weeks ago which is full-time, so there may be issues once school starts up again in June, but at least I have a job for now and it pays better than my last one.  I am very glad I decided to take the semester off because this is the first I’ve even opened my novel since I finished the zero draft back in December.

As for my novel, and the real reason I’m touching this blog again:  I finished my Zero Draft, full of typos and contradictions and plot holes galore.  I let it sit and mature and all that.  And now Camp NaNoWriMo has begun and it is time to work it up into a solid First Draft.

I will admit:  I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

I have never once made it through an entire novel in even an attempt to revise it.  This has been my biggest struggle as a writer for a very long time and it is the number one reason I chose to do my MFA in creative writing.  Unfortunately, my studies so far have been focused on nitpicking other people’s works and the writing of my first full draft.  I feel very much on my own now that I’m in that in-between stage: I have a draft, but I’m not to the point of nitpicky editing (which is the part I’m good at).  Fortunately, to graduate I have to present a finished novel to the Powers That Be who must judge me before they deem me a worthy Master of Fine Arts, so I won’t walk away from this without learning something about revising and editing an entire novel.  However, I expect I will learn most of that through trial and error—lots and lots of error…—and a whole lot of flat-out perseverance.  I will be quite happy to be on the other side, but right now, I’m just a fish out of water.

One of my goals for the LOA (Leave of Absence), was get as much revising done on my own before I got back to working with an advisor so that I could really make the most of what he/she has to offer and so that I didn’t have to stress about revising an entire novel in two semesters or less on top of reading another 30 or so books, writing short papers for all of those, and writing 2-3 20-page papers.  My plan has been to go through it at least once and make some solid revisions, make sure the story is in order, deal with any major plot holes, who knows what else—not me, I’ve never done this before….  In any case, as a Deadline is the best way to get something done, I decided to plan the bulk of my revisions for Camp.  And here it is, we’re already nudging into Day 3 and I haven’t actually even started, but I’m committing myself now.  As the system is set to track words in order to secure your win, in order to meet the “50,000 word” goal, I have to put in 50 hours of revising this month.  I’m not sure that’s exactly accurate because when I’m actively writing (not surfing the internet for “research” or using other popular Procrastination techniques), I can comfortably write 2000 words in an hour, and therefore can write 50K words in about 25 hours, but it seems the easiest and most straightforward way to go about it, plus, the revision process is an entirely different animal.

So far, I’ve spent about 8 minutes on my novel in which I found my Zero Draft, saved it as a new draft so I have something fresh to work with, remembered my writing partner had recommended a blog post by a mutual writing friend about revising, looked for and found that post, started reading (research and preparation legitimately counts as revising…right?), then realized I had neglected my own blog and that perhaps it would help me stay motivated during Camp, and decided to write a quick post while it was on my mind.  And here I am.  If you give a mouse a cookie…  Anyway, with those 8 minutes, I’ve got in a solid 133 words toward my 50,000 word goal for the month.  I think it’s time to do dinner and go to bed so I’ll be refreshed and ready for another productive revision session before work tomorrow.

Happy writing!

0:08h ~ 133w

J

The End is in Sight

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Today, I determined that I can finish the Zero Draft of my book in four scenes.

That’s it.  Four scenes.

Two of them I would like to write out as much as possible, the other two I can really only outline because they will depend on details earlier in the book that I haven’t ironed out yet.  So it’s not even four full scenes, it’s two scenes and two scene outlines.

One of those scenes I’ve been “working on” for about a week now and haven’t even gotten to the meat of because I’m worried about “getting it wrong” (not that you can really get anything wrong in a zero draft…) and don’t have the drive of NaNoWriMo to push me through it.  But now that I know what’s left, now that the end is in sight, I’m hoping I can push through it and finish out by the end of this week.  That was my goal after all, to finish the zero within two weeks of the end of NaNoWriMo and now it actually looks doable.

I have lots of excuses to keep me from the page: Christmas projects I’m already behind on, the early stages of moving, work, etc.—I’m creative; I can always find more.  But it’s time to stamp out those excuses and take a little time to knock this out.  So, here I go to finish the very first full draft of my MFA thesis and my favorite book so far.  Wish me luck!

J

LOA *Not the voodoo kind

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Packet 5 (the last of my G2 semester) made it into the mail on Friday just as the post office was closing.  I had it all on track, but I had some last minute issues that pushed me far closer to the deadline than was in any way comfortable with.  What matters is that it made it.  I can breathe again.

Yesterday, I submitted my End of Semester Self-Evaluation.  A troublesome document accounting for all the work I did over the semester, how it meets my goals, and what I plan to do next semester.  It’s a pain and rather stressful to throw together if you’re not expecting it (I wasn’t last semester, this time I was, but not a few days early), but it’s a perfectly reasonable expectation since this program is largely independent study.  I don’t take classes, so how else do they keep track of my progress through the program?

So, with that all out of the way, my second semester of grad school is officially over.  Woohoo!

And now for the good news/bad news.  I won’t be going back to school for another 6 months.  Yup.  I will be dealing with some major life changes (new location, new employment, new who knows what else), which will make it very difficult to continue school during that time, especially with the Teaching Practicum.  In addition, I wasn’t able to finish as much as I’d hoped this last semester, so it will be very helpful to have a little extra time to work on these things on my own before I dive into my third semester, which promises to be more difficult than the last, even without moving right in the middle of it.

I am relieved to have a break from the snowballing pace of this program and excited to have a bit of time to work on my novel without worrying about deadlines or people reading over my shoulder, so the break will be a good thing.  But at the same time, I’m really going to miss all my friends at Goddard.  The community there is fantastic.  It’s just an amazingly wonderful experience to spend a week with a bunch of other crazy writers who are just as passionate about their work as I am about mine.  Residency has been one of the best experiences of my life with the intense focus on writing, workshops, readings, visiting writers, it gets me so pumped to dive into my work and I learn so much in such an incredibly beautiful location.  I seriously can’t say enough about the community and the event itself.  So I will really miss not going up for another gorgeous Vermont winter with all the writers I’ve been celebrating and commiserating with over the last two semesters, especially the G2 Fireballs and the new G1 YA writers.

Taking this Leave of Absence was, surprisingly, one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make.  I’m really going to miss everyone and I’m going to miss the energy and excitement of Residency this semester, but taking this break is what I’ve got to do at this point in my life and in the program.

I plan to keep up with this blog so everyone can see my progress without the regular deadlines of school.  Hopefully keeping up with this will help me keep on track with my goals for the semester off so I come back for my G3 stronger than ever.  And I will see everyone again in June for the next Residency!

So, dear readers, keep in touch about your writing plans and progress, because I don’t want to slip out of the loop while I’m away.  Happy Writing!

J

On Sharing

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“Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.”

—Paulo Coelho

I haven’t been nearly as dedicated with this blog as I’d intended, but then we all know what they say about intentions…

I always have excuses: life is busy, I can’t think of anything to write about, nobody’s reading so why should I write?  It goes on, but mostly, I just forget.  I used to have get a weekly reminder from WordPress to make sure I wrote regularly, but for some reason it stopped, so now I forget to keep it up.  In the beginning, I was excited about writing a blog and excited about writing, so I had the motivation to keep it up, but the novelty has worn off now.  The semester will be over in three weeks and I won’t have regular deadlines to remind me to write—creatively or here—but I still want to keep it up.  I  just need to find a way to stay motivated to do it.  Maybe if I go back to posting quotes with some regularity.  I also think that writing prompts or maybe flash fiction (I’ve never tried it before, maybe it’s a good exercise?) might be a good idea.  Do any of you out there have any thoughts or suggestions of what you’d like to see here?

In 4 days, NaNoWriMo starts and then I’ll be writing insane amounts on a daily basis.  Maybe that sort of creative output will prompt more output here.  I guess we’ll see.

Happy writing, happy reading, until next time…

J

Halloween and other Frightening Things

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Packet 3 is in the mail!  I just barely made my extended due date, the work is not up to par, and it is the skinniest packed I’ve ever submitted (25 pages out of the 40 pages maximum allowed), but it is in the mail and I can move on.  This semester has been going very badly between unexpected and overwhelming demands at work and the usual struggle of working on a graduate degree.  My advisor has been flexible and generous with extensions, without which, I would probably have already failed this semester.

It all sucks and I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but sometimes life is hard and we just have to keep pushing through it.  So I keep going because there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I want to be a great writer, and right now this is what I have to do to get there.  I will be changing jobs before my next semester so that I have more time to dedicate to my studies, but for now, I just have to

Keep Calm

and

Write On

Good luck to all of you in your creative (and other) endeavours.  And Happy Halloween Month!

J

The Road to Hell

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As my plans tend to, this one got away from me.  I blame wordpress, because I had it set to notify me if I didn’t post every week and I haven’t gotten a notification in months.  With my busy schedule, I can’t be expected to remember AND actually go write a post…  Excuses, excuses, I know.  But here I am, just popping in with a quick update before I get back to watching Friends…I mean writing.

So, since the last post, I really don’t know, since I can’t be bothered to read my own blog.  I sent in packet 1 with 4 annotations and a fair amount of creative work.  I got that packet and response back and was fairly disappointed.  My advisor had less insight than usual and I’ve been so busy I didn’t really write any new creative work; I was planning to just edit the stuff from the first packet and send it in again, but he had very little to suggest in the way of corrections.  So, I spent a few days lost and frustrated—and complaining to all my writer friends—before I decided to just deal with it and do the work without the guidance I was hoping for.  I stuck with the same advisor as last semester because we worked well together and I could see I still had a lot to learn from him, so I think I need to be more clear about what sort of input I need during this semester because I gather that my advisor leaves things up to me because he seems to think that I’m rather insightful and have everything under control (soooo not the case…).

On top of that setback, Life Happened and I was required for some unexpected work and family responsibilities, so I ended up with really about 2-3 days total to spend on packet 2.  I usually spend a good portion of a week or two really focusing on the packet, so I basically just had a meltdown and questioned whether or not I was really cut out for this program.  Then I explained the situation and my ever-understanding advisor gave me an extra week to get this packet in.  So, I can breath a little, but I hate falling behind on the schedule and it’s odd while all my Goddard friends are chatting about sending in their packets when I have different deadlines than them.  In any case, I now have an extra week to get out this packet and my boss gave me a few days off to make up for all the overtime I did before, so I have a reasonable amount of free time to focus on it and can breathe again.

With that burden temporarily lifted, I got really excited about my thesis again and spent last evening/night discussing timelines and species etc with my writing partner, Amanda.  I also got a few inspirations on my nature walk yesterday afternoon (when the block hits, go for a walk in the woods.  Bring a notebook.).  I feel more capable and even if I don’t get a lot written, at least I have a lot brewing and I’m dealing with a lot of the planning and technical stuff that needs to be done.  I’m not super worried about writing a lot of my thesis this semester.  I know what I’m doing now (look at me, all sounding like I know what I’m doing) and I’ll pump out a zero draft in November.  After that, I can fill in the gaps and get down to editing.

So, I breathe again.  Sortof.

Now the issue is the critical work.  I’m still completely lost on the Long Critical Paper (LCP), but at least I have it scheduled out into 3 packets to get it done, so I should be okay about it, but I’m still freaking out at the moment.

Also, Annotations.  I really hit my stride last semester and figured out what I was doing.  I always got positive responses on the work I submitted and all was well.  This semester seemed off to a good start too, especially now that I’ve done 5 of the 12-15 required for the semester.  BUT, now I feel all annotated out.  I got so deep into seeing the world of stories in an up close and critical way, that it started to take the fun out of reading and then I burned out.  I’ve got two books to annotate in this packet and I haven’t a clue what to write about.  Not a clue.  And my brain just doesn’t want to be creative about it.  And I’m too tired (all the time, seriously, when am I not tired?) to get in there and do it, so I don’t even want to think about it.  And now that I’ve got an extra week to do the work, I have to actually turn in something decent.  It’s good to have the extra time, but at the same time, now there’s actual pressure to do a good job, whereas when I didn’t have time to do a good job, I stopped caring about the quality of it all and was ready to just BS my way through 25-30 pages and call it done.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at in this lovely Packet 2.  And we’ll see where it goes from there…

J

 

Stranger in a Strange Land

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There is no foreign land; it is the traveller only that is foreign.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

This isn’t writing related, but I came across it and loved it, especially with my history and love for traveling.

On a completely unrelated-to-this note: Today is the official start of the 2014 Fall semester at Goddard College, so while I’ve been tinkering away at readings, annotations, and creative work, now it’s time to buckle down and really get to work.

Here’s hoping, beyond all hope, for a smooth semester.

J.

Decisions

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve narrowed down my options to two possible theses for my MFA.  Both stories draw me and I’ve been reluctant to make a decision.  I can continue to work on both for a few more weeks to possibly months, but the decision will have to be made at some point and the longer I take, the less time I’ll have to focus on my thesis in the long run.  In a previous post, I mentioned that I haven’t been writing and haven’t felt much draw to do so, but I have been muddling over the stories in my mind, weighing pros and cons of each option, and exploring the worlds and stories of the characters, and this is a vital part of the process, even if it feels less productive than the physical act of writing.

I’ve let the stories germinate for some time, which is necessary, but I can see that I am reaching the point where I need to make a decision and choose one story to focus my attention on because I can no longer develop these ideas as well as they deserve while my attention is split.  At this point, I also feel that it really doesn’t matter which story I choose because both are good and worthy stories that I would potentially enjoy writing and each will continue to be blocked as long as I’m trying to work on both.  Each has very good reasons to be the Chosen One and each has its unique set of challenges that I can’t even begin solve at this stage of the game.  Each has an intriguing protagonist whose story deserves to be written.

I love William to death.  He was one of the first characters I created when I started writing more than ten years ago, but the idea of him has been with me for at least 17 years.  He started out as a minor character with a simple purpose, but I fell so deeply in love with him that I had to go back and tell his whole story.  Over the years, he’s been featured in 3 of my 8 winning NaNoWriMo novels—one of which starred only him; the other two were intended to be about Arah, but he crept in and took over.  He’s lived in my brain and in my heart for a very long time and I know him better than any other character I’ve written.  I love the character; I love his story.  I love the world he lives in (it’s my favorite universe to write in) and the magic around it.  I love writing fantasy.  The particular book in his series I’ve chosen as a possible thesis will be the hardest to write.  It involves his experiences in the war and some difficult decisions he has to face as far as his life path and his true nature.  War is such a big topic, I’m not sure how to tackle it, but there is a lot of information out there, so it’s mostly a matter of lots of research and absorbing as much as I can.  The emotional aspects of the book will be quite heartbreaking and thrilling to write, as I discussed in my post “First Blood.”  The biggest problem with this story is that it is so very BIG.  There is already story to fill 2-3 books prior to the events in this book and I know the timeline following can take at least another book or two.  This story could stand on its own—if I do it right—because it involves the most pivotal decision he will ever make, the one that will set him on his life path and so is a powerful story in and of itself, but there is so much more to William that I really do want it to be a series.  This story doesn’t mean nearly as much if you don’t know what follows, if there aren’t books to tell the rest of the story.  And his whole character relies heavily on his life experience prior to this time, the relationships he develops, the people he loses.  So I really feel like if I’m going to work on this book, I have to be ready to tell the rest of the story and the rest of that story is just so BIG.  I’ve been working on it for over a decade and I’m seeing now that I’ve still only scratched the surface.  I want to do it right and I want to do it justice and I’m just not sure I can wrap my brain around it all at this time and in the format of this program.

I have many reasons for writing Sarah, one of which is that she’s so very hard to write.  The story is a very personal one for me; it’s a story I wish I’d had when I was Sarah’s age.  I can feel that this book has a potential to be something and I want that, but I just don’t know how to tell the story.  I don’t know what to fill it with; I don’t know what happens.  It’s not like one of my fantasies where I can just throw in some magic or a few demons when things are getting slow.  The story is real and it has to be real.  I don’t read much plain fiction.  I think it’s boring.  I read to escape ordinary life, not to watch someone else doing the same things I do everyday.  I’ve never seriously considered writing straight fiction; I’ve always focused on Speculative Fiction in many of its forms, though mostly fantasy (because it’s easier to write than science fiction, takes less research).  When I came into the program, I wanted to write SF and said I would probably focus on fantasy, though I wasn’t committed to it yet.  I pride myself on writing SF and that’s how I want to establish myself as a writer.  I’m afraid that by choosing a straight fiction topic for my thesis I will miss out on that label and on the chance to really study the genres I love—If I’m writing straight fiction, I will have little reason to read science fiction etc.

Aside from the Potential, the biggest draw of writing Sarah is that it’s small.  Sarah is one book, one story.  No series, no need for prologue or epilogue, prequel or sequel.  It is what it is.  It is also likely to be a rather short novel, which is perfectly fine for YA (though there are many YA books that are quite long, most of them are reasonably short, which is one of the things I like about YA).

The biggest challenge is that I just don’t know what happens.  I don’t know how it will end.  I don’t know what events will need to take place in her life and in this story, though some are beginning to coalesce.  I don’t know the character all that well either.  I’m still struggling with her motivations and hopes and dreams and fears.  I don’t know what her day to day life is like, especially the high school part of it since I opted out of that experience (the only time I feel the slightest tinge of regret for that decision is when I’m trying to write about modern high school students and all I have to go on are cliched teen movies).

It will also be very emotionally challenging.  Sarah and Will both have very dark stories, but Will’s darkness is turned outward while Sarah’s is turned inward.  There’s a difference in processing and writing harm to others versus harm to oneself.  The stories come from different places.  William’s story is about power; Sarah’s is about vulnerability.  Sarah’s story is much more raw.

At this point, as much as I adore William and long to write his story, I’m leaning towards Sarah, both because it is shorter and because it is harder.  I want something small enough to swallow in the brief time I’m going through this program.  I want a relatively simple project that I can pump out and wrap my head around in the coming 3 semesters.  I also want to take full advantage of the support, guidance, and instruction I’ll have while I’m in the program and the best way to do that is to choose a project that I know will be challenging.  (It’s something I’ve always done when possible.  When I studied clothing design for my undergrad, I was afraid to work with knits.  I’d never had much experience with them before school and we avoided them in the basic classes because they are so challenging.  To overcome my fears, I designed a 4 credit class and worked with an advisor to learn and practice everything I could about knits.  Similarly, in my favorite English class, we were assigned to write an essay about the classic film The Day the Earth Stood Still.  Rather than taking some variation on the topic everyone else was doing—that violence is bad and that we would end up in big trouble if we kept on the way we’ve been—I chose to write about it as a commentary on women in the 1950s and how the “perfect housewife” image fit in with the Rosie Riveter of the 40s and the coming era of women’s rights.  My professor was thoroughly impressed.)  Because I’m dedicating so much time and money to this degree and to this project, it makes sense to me to choose a project I know will bring a challenge and with it, a great deal of growth.

My advisor said I don’t have to decide before the new semester starts, so I do still have some time to settle into a decision, but I can feel the pressing need within myself now, more than I felt the pressure from the program and its deadlines.  The moment is coming to decide my fate, which will determine my path through this program and my entrance into the professional world of writing.

Wish me luck.

J