My Life’s Work is Complete! (aka sometimes I can be kind of dramatic)

Today I handed in my thesis. It was a culmination of a semester-long war in which most battles ended in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Okay, I’m exaggerating (I do that) but it was a monumental moment as I removed my pristine, bound thesis from my Harry Potter tote bag and handed it over to my advisor. Months of sleepless nights, frustrating moments where my notebook took several beatings (from long journeys flying through the air and landing on the other side of the room), and a semester’s worth of thoughts focused on plot, character development, and setting was now in her hands. I’m still a few summer classes away from the actual degree that proves my credentials as a writer but this moment was one of great triumph.

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(Lovely cover art by a friend that conveys the Hansel and Gretel essence of my story. And I should say I’m not too happy with the title but I had to call it something.)

I feel like the word “thesis” always leads to thoughts of pages on pages of academic research and hours upon hours spent among tall stacks of books, sobbing quietly into a cup of coffee, hoping the librarian doesn’t come and “shhhush” you again. This is not that kind of thesis. It’s a creative thesis: the first fifty pages of a novel. It involved me at my desk, in the break room at work, or at my kitchen table sobbing quietly into a cup of coffee with notes splayed out in front of me and never-ending new and re-worked ideas filling up every ounce of space left in my mind. (I’m being dramatic again.) It wasn’t quite that scene, holed up in the library, researching and shaking from stress but my point is that this creative thesis took a lot of work.

It began with the desire to adapt a fairytale that hadn’t been told, retold, and told again as well as a yearning to explore a relationship that wasn’t two people falling hopelessly in love in a star-crossed lover kind of way. Thereupon, I decided that Hansel and Gretel fulfilled both of those requirements. It’s changed a lot since it’s inception and it is no longer a “modern day Hansel and Gretel meets Alice in Wonderland” (which is how I used to describe it). There was a moment at the halfway point in the semester when I had a revelation about the plot that completely changed the novel. The forty pages I had already written were worthless now–okay, to be fair I wouldn’t have had said revelation if it weren’t for those forty pages but at the moment I was at the oh-so-daunting beginning once again but with fewer weeks to finish this time around.

So I began my new version of it: a story about a brother and sister with a mother who killed herself and a father who abandoned them due to grief. I didn’t know much else about it at that point but I was figuring it out as I went. As I got further into the story, I likened it to putting together a puzzle and as the page count went up, I was starting to see the picture form. There were still a few glaring holes in the plot but the story was flowing a lot smoother this time around.

I managed thirty-five pages of this new story before my brain exploded and I could not write another sentence. (Do I have to say I’m being dramatic again or is it obvious that my brain isn’t splattered all over my bedroom walls?) So I added fifteen pages of the old stuff on at the end dubbed “Part Two: The World This Story Existed in Upon Its Inception”, printed out everything, took it to get bound, and well, you know the rest.

Even though my thesis has been turned in and all I have to show for my attempt at a novel is two mis-matched stories and a plot that isn’t fully constructed, I’m not done with my (vaguely) Hansel and Gretel retelling. I’d really like to see this novel come to full fruition. It will be more of the aforementioned stress, anxiety, and tears shed over cups of coffee but there’s something oddly gratifying in that.

Writers thrive on this kind of thing. We enjoy putting ourselves through this kind of torture.

“I promise I write better than I speak!”

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a writer and I like to tell stories. I’m just not so good at the whole verbally telling stories thing. Actually, I’m not good at talking in general. I tend to include a lot of unnecessary “um’s” and repeat myself. I fumble my words and forget what I am trying to say halfway through saying it. Sometimes, I can’t think of anything to say in response to conversation which leads to an uncomfortable amount of silence before I ultimately reply with the generic responses: “hmmm, that’s interesting” or “oh, really?”. Thus, my inability to form eloquent sentences coupled with the fact that I am soft-spoken and my voice has the pitch of an eight-year-old child does not lead to effective communication on my part. I tend to keep silent a lot.

When I write I am free of these communication restrictions. There’s pressure on conversation that doesn’t exist with the written word. I feel like if I have something to say, I can say it best through my writing. This doesn’t bode well for the reality where verbal communication is a fundamental life skill. I feel like after the tenth graceless conversation with someone who knows I am a writer I have to say, “I promise, I write better than I speak!” I sometimes feel like my impaired oral communication skills reflect poorly on my cognitive development. Even though I can’t get my words out right, I do know how to use language effectively. So sometimes I live on the pages of my stories where ironically enough, dialogue is one of my strengths. I thrive on the words that I write down, their meaning clear and concise even if it took me three tries to get there. I feel like I have an actual voice when I write. And as the semester is coming to a close and pages upon pages of final papers are due, I am finally saying everything my teachers won’t hear. In writing my novel, I feel like I am trying to speak to the world, speak to my readers, or just put my words out there to make up for the twenty-four years that I’ve been quiet.

Verbal communication is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately–something I feel I need to improve on–especially with graduation fast approaching and the door to the real world almost within reach. Perhaps this post is partially a declaration to anyone who has ever heard me speak that I’m not as senseless as I sound. Perhaps this is in defense of anyone who struggles with articulating speech. Regardless, my words are out there and I’m being heard.

Once Upon a Time…

There was a girl who liked to tell stories. She spent most of her days locked in a room with her fingers attached to a keyboard. By her side were giant mugs of fatigue-fighting coffee and countless pages of illegible plot notes. She dreamed of signing her books one day (even practiced in her school notebooks) and the notoriety that came with the job of being a great writer (like being recognized wandering through a bookstore).

And then she decided to make a blog.

So here we are.

My name is Kylie and I’m a writer. I have a great and terrible fear of people reading my writing. Even this very blog. As you read this (is anyone actually reading this?) I am probably sitting in a corner somewhere, hugging my knees to my chest and biting the polish off my fingernails, worrying that I typed the wrong thing or someone out there is thinking: “This isn’t even a very good blog post. She should probably reconsider her greatest passion in life.”

And if they are…well, so what? They don’t have to read this blog post and they don’t have to read anything that may or may not be published by me. I love to write and this is my way of trying to overcome my irrational fear. This is also my way of documenting the harrowing yet lovely process of writing a novel (and hopefully many more after that).

And so it begins.