Thesis During A Pandemic

None of us planned to be going into our thesis year during the worst global pandemic ever seen.

I didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions about what thesis would be but I definitely wasn’t thinking it would be anything like this.

Designing and writing a collection of short stories is what my program requires to get my MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts.

So much of this is difficult to do in an online situation, especially when it comes to the design side of things.

I just turned in my thesis manuscript for consideration and while it was an emotional moment, I am so burnt out by doing my thesis year of grad school over Zoom.

We don’t get to have an in person book fair, we don’t get to have a graduation, I’m not going to get to walk on stage and get hooded.

2020 and into 2021 has been a huge let down for so many students who are finishing up school.

I’m trying to look on the bright side.

-I wrote a collection of short pieces of fiction.

-I am going to be graduating in May and I will be (hopefully) coming to the end of my education journey.

-I have been accepted into The Great Oaks Fellowship through Americorps so next year I’ll be exploring a career in teaching through that opportunity.

-I got engaged! My amazing girlfriend proposed to me in February while we were on a mini vacation in Vegas. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her

There are some amazing things that have happened to me in the last year, and while it hasn’t been what I expected or what I wanted, I have accomplished a lot.

Stay tuned for more about my book because it is coming!!

Lock Myself In A Room

I consider myself a very realistic person.

I know that unless I become the next Rowling or Martin I won’t have a career as just a writer.

However, I can find it really difficult to come home from work and write.

Currently, I am in grad school and I have two part time jobs (one might be full-time very soon). I’m also going to therapy once a week so I can try to keep my mental health in check. So, more often than not, when I get home from work or class, or doing whatever else I need to do, writing is the last thing on my mind.

Usually I want to eat dinner, or relax and watch Netflix, not force my brain to think about the complexities involved with writing.

I feel like I need to lock myself in a room and focus on nothing but writing.

I wish I could do that.

I’ve started to look at Writing Retreats but I feel like they’re all either too far away, interfere with school or I can’t afford them.

I try to get my writing on a schedule but I’m also just not someone who works like that. My creativity can’t be forced, or put on a time table.

Will I ever be a successful writer if I’m not able to change this aspect of myself?

Is it a matter of forcing myself to write, even when I don’t want to?

Burn Out

I know I’m not the first one to experience the frustration that comes with #writerproblems.

Listening to writers talk about writers block isn’t new. In fact it is also a stereotype when it comes to writers.

I’m wondering if writers block and being burnt out are the same thing to a writer, because right now I am burnt out.

I have the desire to write.

I have ideas running around up in my head, a fanfiction that needs to be finished, I have plenty of things I my mind I could talk about.

However, making the effort to sit in front of a blank word document at my laptop or stare at a blank page of one of my note books seems like too much.

The only reason that I’m writing this now is because I’m forcing myself to do it.

School will be over for the semester soon and I keep telling myself that my fire to write will come back.

I have faced this problem in the past. I get burned out during the semester being forced to write certain things, by certain perimeters, or given specific prompts and it puts a slight damper on my creativity. Usually when the stress of that semester ends, things get better.

This time I’m more worried.

The novel that I have been pouring the last few years of my life into doesn’t seem to hold my attention anymore.

I’ve had thoughts about diving into the revamp of my first novel because at least the bones of the story are worked out. Yet I haven’t made a move to do this either.

My last blog post exposed some of my frustrations with my program and who I am as a writer and I can’t help but wonder if this is a big part of what is wrong.

I feel beat down by a program that I was so excited to be a part of, that I thought I wanted.

Now I’m starting to worry that I was wrong about so many things, including things that I want.

Having depression and anxiety as a creative person is fun!

The Negative View of “Genre Writing” in Creative Writing Programs

“Genre isn’t what we do in this program” said the professor for my fiction workshop class who also happens to be the director of my program.

I can’t even begin to describe the emotions that smacked me in the face when I heard that.

I started crying in the middle of my class, in front of everyone. Usually I don’t have a problem crying in front of other people, but I’m sure most of my fellow MFA students thought I was crying because my short story was getting ripped apart. In reality I was crying because I felt like what I write in general was getting ripped apart and I’m sure plenty of other people have felt that.

Let me start off by saying that I think fiction should be a wide association that includes fantasy, sci-fi, historical and more realistic fiction. The MFA program I’m in only wants me to write realistic fiction, maybe historical fiction if I’m lucky.

The piece I wrote was set in Victorian England and I didn’t think it had any fantasy aspects. It wasn’t set in another world, it didn’t have magic, or vampires or anything that doesn’t exist in this world. It was just about a secret society that operated outside of the notice of most people and wanted to shape the world in their image.

With the current state of the world that didn’t seem like much of a stretch.

My classmates barely had enough time to tell me what they enjoyed about the short story before my professor was jumping in and telling me that my story was “genre writing”. I was confused for two reasons:

  1. I didn’t feel like the story was genre
  2. She was saying genre writing like it was a bad thing that her MFA students shouldn’t deign to waste their time on.

I don’t understand why “Literary fiction” just includes authors like John Green or Nicholas Sparks. Story lines that seem to be these thinly veiled wish fulfillment stories where the author can insert themselves into the life they always wanted.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written those pieces.

When I was in middle school, maybe a freshman in high school, I started to write a story called ‘Love in the Rainbow’ (points to me for worst title ever while unknowingly also foreshadowing my own gayness). It was a story about a quirky girl who was exactly my age and who had the dog I dreamed of getting and the car I wanted, and was much better off financially than my family, she even had a name I liked better than my own. She had the older sister I had always wanted, a father who was always there for her and her mother had passed away. She had amazing friends, was popular and pretty and eventually fell in love.

Meanwhile I was a young girl who had a horrible relationship with her own mother, felt betrayed by my father always taking her side, had an older brother who I couldn’t connect with and a family that was always worried about money. I barely had any friends, I was bullied and made fun of and no guy had ever showed even the slightest interest in anything having to do with me.

I hated the real world. I hated being reminded of it by books. I didn’t want to read something about an awkward young girl learning to love herself, I wanted to escape.

I wanted to travel through Moria with the Fellowship because fighting goblins felt like less of a battle than the fights I had with my mother.

I wanted to go to Hogwarts where I might be able to make friends with people who were as unique as I was.

I wanted to go through the looking glass because maybe in Wonderland I would be able to find someone who was backward enough to look at me and see someone beautiful.

When my professor told me that genre writing wasn’t welcome in the program I have been pouring my wit, words and ideas into I just felt like quitting.

I’m putting my time, effort and money into a program that doesn’t even allow me to write what I am passionate about. Why should I stay?

Of course the practical side of my brain reminded me that I want my MFA to be able to teach at the college level, so I don’t plan on quitting.

Still I wish I could make some of my professors understand what fantasy novels have done for me.

They helped a girl who felt alone and wrong find a place in the world, they helped her find something she is passionate about, something that she can live for.

How can that be unworthy of anyone’s time and attention?

Ganymede

This is a flash fiction I wrote for one of my classes last year. Usually I don’t think I’m very good at flash fiction, but I really liked how this one turned out.

I was herding sheep when he took me.

He ripped me from the life I had always known, carried me in a feathery vessel to a world where I was a stranger, a mortal among Gods.

He told me I was beautiful, the most beautiful he had ever seen. I was so different from the Gods with their pale marble colored skin and eyes of deep azure or clover. My skin was dark, the color of wet mud and my eyes matched.

Upon my arrival, I was given eternal youth and beauty. Hera looked at me with contempt from my first moments in Olympus, her eyes glinting with her wishes of my downfall. There was no way for me to tell her that I didn’t want this life, no words I could say to convince this goddess that I was not a threat. If I had been a cat I might have stood a chance of gaining her cool indifference, but she only saw me as a rival for the affection of their King.

I was given wine and told to serve, to make sure his cup was never empty. I stood at his right hand and yet no one ever seemed to notice until his voice drew their eyes to me.

“Look at my beauty,” he would say to the crowd of perpetual indulgence. “All of you gaze upon the gorgeous youth that I have rescued and claimed as mine.” Then he would go on to tell the story of how he saved me from a path that ended in Hades and gifted my life purpose.

Was herding sheep not purpose enough? Was helping my father and my family too lowly for him to understand? I suppose to a god my simple way of life certainly seemed like something to be saved from, but I had been taken from a life I loved and given an eternity of servitude.

At night, Helios takes the sun back across the sky, and Selene raises the moon to hang among the stars, and I lie with him towering above me.

His fingertips feel as if they leave scorching red marks across the darkened plains of my back. I’m sure he thinks his touch is soft, but I feel nothing but the lightning that lies in wait beneath the surface. He does what he wants to me and I do not object because no one can save me from his thunder.

While he consorts with Morpheus I often think of running away, wondering if there is some hidden path to be found that would lead me out of the sky and back to my home near Troy. Perhaps I could seek Prometheus to fuel my escape attempt, or perhaps there is a map that is locked in Pandora’s box. Alas, I know that my ideas are just feeble dreams, no mortal has ever bested him, and none ever shall.

We mortals are nothing to them, simply pawns on a board.

He moves me where he wills and I must obey.