Every other Monday, I meet with my thesis adviser to discuss my work. Just to give you a brief idea of my thesis project, I am working on a collection of short stories, 5 long ones (~18 pages each), 2 short shorts (~4 pages each). Three of the long stories are linked. They are all stories that I have crafted during my time in grad school for workshop classes (since Fall ’10).
I love the first draft writing process. Once I get an idea and have that perfect first sentence, I just go go go. As more ideas come, I insert them, delete other useless things, and once the story has decided it’s on the last sentence, I sit back and read it a few times. Then I do edits, minor revisions, and tweaks before submitting it for class critiques.
Now, I’m on the 2-year aka 5-semester track. After the first semester, I’ve been taking 3 classes (full-time is 2 classes) and since last May, have also been working 20-30 hours/week. Last semester was rough, not gonna lie. Twelve credits, 20 hours of work, plus flying home for family stuff and trying to fit in a social life so I don’t go crazy from living alone? Not easy. To be honest, I can’t really remember much of what happened. Wrote some stories, went to some parties, the usual good life. But that’s beside the point.
What is the point is that with all the fast track work in trying to graduate earlier than the program dictates, I haven’t had much time to actually revise and rewrite any of my pieces, unless it was for workshop. Yes, I admit it. I have not revised as much as I should have. I’m not ashamed. I want to be a published writer, but I can’t just stop everything else in my life and only write.
In any case, before my adviser meeting two weeks ago, I was hardcore about doing revisions for my linked stories. I looked at all the suggestions from my classmates, fixed mistakes, added scenes, took away scenes, printed the revised copies, read it over and found more things to changed, changed them and did it all over again before sending it to my adviser. We had an excellent discussion and exchanged lots of ideas of how to improve them.
I went home all ready to work on the next round of revisions.
And hit a wall. After two weeks of nannying, internship, and thesising, my fuse died. On top of that, the extreme shifts in weather from hot to cold to warm to random didn’t help. I’ve noticed that my body is more susceptible to inexplicable exhaustion during weather changes like this. Needless to say, whenever I sat down to revise, it wasn’t with the 110% focus it required.
Plus, I was revising 4 complex stories. There was certainly lots of potential for change. But I didn’t reach the maximum because it’s like trying to cook a gourmet meal while simultaneously doing household chores as The Notebook plays on your TV. Your meal comes out missing the salt because you were too busy paying attention to Ryan Gosling on screen and your shirts have to be rewashed cause they’re soaked in tears and snot.
Too much going on, not enough focus.
My conclusion, and most importantly my adviser’s advice, is this: To really up the quality of craftsmanship in two of the strongest stories and do decent adjustments to the rest. This way, there’s at least some success instead of total failure. Usually around this time in the semester (before spring break) is when students start losing their energy. For me, I hit that downfall once and know I have to spring back up and stay up.
Here’s to the rest of the semester, and this time I’m breaking down any walls I hit.