Countless Congratulations

Congratulations!

That’s not a congratulations for you; it’s a congratulations for me. And actually, I think I deserve another congratulations for the dual nature of my congrats: Congratulations!

I suppose you deserve a congratulations, as well, because you’re reading this. So, congratulations! You helped me earn it.

Ah, there I go again on my crazy tangents. Here, have a seat everyone–let me pour some champagne, and we’ll all clink our Red Solo cups or free plastic “Kent State” cups with paper clips or ball point pens or whatever random office supplies I have lying around my room because I don’t have champagne glasses and I’m not giving everyone forks because I don’t want to wash more dishes than I have to for something as frivolous as clinking glasses, and we’ll all chant, “Speech! Speech!”–even me, because I really want to give a speech and someone’s got to initiate this.

Oh! Everyone wants me to give a speech? How unexpected! I would love to give a speech, although I’m not sure if you’d consider what I’m about to do a “speech” as much as a “dramatic monologue” or a “heavy-handed ramble.”

Friends, family: thank you for gathering here with me, in this corner of the internet amongst my words. This is my 100th blog post. That’s right–one hundred incredibly sarcastic, dramatic, ridiculous blogs. One hundred consecutive weeks of nonsense. One hundred sessions of me sitting down and asking myself, “What preposterous story or sentiment can I absolutely over-do for the amusement of my family and friends?”

And I’ve never missed a week. Oh, there was a close shave, once–I woke up one Friday morning last summer and leaped out of bed, having suddenly realized that I never wrote a blog for that day, and spontaneously cranked out some crazy piece of writing out of nowhere. (Talk about operating under a deadline.) But, I figured it out along the way and now it has a permanent residence on my “Thursday to-do” list.

But that is all great and sentimental, and I wrote a reflective post about my blog last November, in celebration of the one-year marker.

So what of the second congratulations?

Ever since I was a young gal, I’ve loved to write. Before I could even write the words, I would draw scribbled pictures and narrate them to my mother, relaying the imagined events verbally to make up for my lack of alphabetical knowledge. Once I figured it out, I crafted stories on any piece of paper I encountered, butchering the spelling and tripping over the grammar, but I was doing it– I was off. And I couldn’t be stopped, except by my own self.

It was third grade that I remember my first attempt at writing a novel. I had this radical plot idea, in which these three friends attended a wizarding school, the main character’s name being “XX,” a code name. It’s totally possible that this was influenced (by which I mean it was directly influenced) by my recent discovery of the Harry Potter world, but I was in third grade and I had decided to write a novel. Each chapter was about as long as a notebook page, and I only got about eight pages into the story before, more or less, giving up–sort of that third grader’s loss of interest that allows endeavors like that to fall to the wayside.

My next attempt came in fifth grade, and this time I was determined to finish it. I had this idea, in which a brother and sister lived on this newly-discovered island that was being civilized, and once a year, on a day called “Death Day,” all these creatures and monsters emerged and terrorized the humans who colonized it, and this brother-sister duo attempted to survive it. It was to be called “Surviving Death Day.” I remember some of its events fairly vividly–there was a scene where they hijacked a bus–but again, the novel never truly came to fruition and perhaps reached ten pages before I lost my steam once again, and rather than finish the novel, I began brainstorming other novel ideas and titles. I came up with the title “The Black Hole of Love and Life;” I decided I would one day write about the bond between a girl and her orange cat; I had a list somewhere in my old notebooks of these fragmented concepts.

After that, though, I largely gave up on novel-writing. I heard about people like S.E. Hinton who had written her first novel by age seventeen and felt inspired and yet guilty and discouraged at the same time. I wanted to write a novel, but my lack of self-motivation and laziness–in combination with this possibly fictitious idea of “Writer’s Block”–prevented me. Essentially, I prevented myself. So, during this time, I instead wrote poetry, short stories, and journaled.

There were also long bouts of time where I wouldn’t write at all. During summer breaks, sometimes I would hardly write anything, just because I didn’t feel like I had anything to write about, to say, and I was too lethargic and too depressed to bother starting any project, especially if I had resolved that I wouldn’t see it through. I felt guilty. I didn’t know if I could even call myself a writer; I felt like a poser. “Writing is my passion,” I would say, and had nothing to show for it. Was I actually passionate?

When I got to college, I started taking creative writing classes. I had never taken a creative writing course before, because they didn’t offer them at my high school. It was refreshing to get back into the routine of writing, especially when I was able to make it a priority because my creative writing was now “homework” and thus moved up on my list of important daily items. My creative writing class focused mostly on poetry. At first, the writing sucked. But I had made a routine of it again, and a couple semesters later I found my Fiction Writing class, and thus delved back into short story writing. And that’s when I realized that all along, it was short stories that I was passionate about writing, and that it was the small yet significant aspects of daily life that I loved depicting.

But, I was in the Honors College, and this project of an “honors thesis” loomed overhead. I wasn’t about to conduct any research because that would be too much work, and I didn’t really want to write a great body of text critically analyzing anything, although I could probably easily write fifty pages on The Great Gatsby with how much I’ve had to read and critique and analyze it throughout my education. (I really do love that book, in any case. It’s an emotional attachment at this point.)

So I came to conclude that I would be writing a novel for this great honors thesis of mine. And thus I found myself once again struggling with this long-form fiction that was too big and too cumbersome to handle. Piece by piece though, I narrowed what I wanted to write about. I wanted to write about a female, from the female perspective. I wanted it to be young adult fiction, but insightful and complex. I wanted the protagonist to go on a physical journey, like Holden Caulfield.

Finally I found the main character, and at that point I was able to begin figuring out what would happen in the novel–but I needed to get started. I’m the type of writer who likes to think out their entire story, chew it, mull it over, live with it in my head for a while and consider everything, before actually sitting down to write it. Then I write it slowly. I write it carefully the first time through and mother it until the end, at which point it only then requires minimal editing.

But I couldn’t do that with this. It wasn’t coming to me. I couldn’t get to it. My adviser told me I just needed to start writing, turn my editor voice off and just let the words spill out, no matter if they were good or bad. This was hard for me, but I pushed myself to do it. It wasn’t good–it was actually kind of bad–but I was writing it.

In any case, I would get into a good streak of writing, and then get stopped up and blocked up and take a break from it, for as long as two or three months at one point. The whole time I didn’t write anything, I was thinking about how horrible and awful I was for not writing, yet I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I think it’s because I hadn’t figured out my character fully yet, or even the whole story.

Then the semester started, and since I’m graduating at the end of this semester, I really didn’t have a choice but to get writing. So I started writing. I started panicking, and then feeling confident. Panicking, then feeling confident. I still didn’t have my manuscript done. I sort of developed a process. Take a shower and think. All the most miraculous realizations started coming to me in the shower. Then I’d get out, and write for as long as I physically could.

Anyway, I finally started respecting my protagonist and giving her the time she deserved. She’s a very closed off character, so closed off that she didn’t reveal herself to me until right down to the wire. But I finally understood her.

So the other day I finally sat down and faced the music, and I got to work, and I finished my manuscript.

I finished my first novel manuscript.

Wow. Congratulations indeed.

I didn’t think I could do it–at the same time I knew I could do it–but I did it. I damn did it.

Of course, it’s not done or anything. I still have to do a lot of editing and get professor feedback, and so it won’t be in its final form until halfway through December, but the rough draft is done and it’s longer than eight pages and it’s everything I wanted it to be, and I feel so, so proud, and so excited. And so, so proud.

So that’s what all the hub-bub is about. Congratulations to my blog, and congratulations to my manuscript. Everyone raise their metaphorical champagne and drink up. (But only if you’re of-age. I’m going to need to check everyone’s I.D.’s–even yours, Mom.)

Thanks everyone, and congratulations. You can all do so much more than you would have ever thought you could, and the hard work will feel so, so good, and you’ll learn so much along the way, especially about yourself.

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