Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Second Week of Semester, First Full Draft

Jenn Tatum

Note To Self

Note To Self

It’s the middle of the second week of the semester. A full, working draft of my thesis is due tomorrow. This is it, folks. This is what I came here to do. And I’m doing it. This past week, I finished the three essays that I started over winter break—one essay, the occasion for it—putting together my childhood dollhouse and the other two, shorter essays—meditations on my bed, the thinking I do in bed, because I spend so much time in it, as I live in probably the smallest apartment in Chicago and my bed is my only option for sitting.

I had drinks with a few members from my cohort—Colleen, Tatiana, and Sharon—just to catch up, to chat about thesis, because we don’t have any classes this spring. I’m finding myself reluctant to actually talk about my thesis. I mean, I’ve been talking about it for three years, and now that I’m in the thick of it, hunched over a laptop and marking up pages on the train most days—I just don’t want to talk about the actual work. Talking about the stress, impending due dates, and all of that is just so much easier. It’s venting, perhaps complaining, but we’re all in the same boat, so I bond over the deadlines and the stress and resist actually talking about the work. But why?

Well, this is why. I need all of the workshop voices to be removed from my head. At some point, I have to trust myself. I have to remove the voices from previous semesters, all of the margin notes, the notes on the last page, and just trust my own instinct. Workshops are a space where you get new ideas, new perspectives, find out what’s not working, but at some point, you are the one writing. It’s my writing, my words on the page, and I need to be able to feel around in the dark, stumble a bit on my own, and know that I have been given the tools, all of this advice, as a way to strengthen my skills as a writer and to prepare me for the day when workshop isn’t an option.

I’m a writer. I need to write everyday. And that’s what I’m doing. Which is not to say that I don’t write everyday, but right now my focus is a little bit of thesis—every. single. day.

What I'm Reading

What I'm Reading

I’m not reading anything new. When I’m inspired to dive back into a book because something I’ve just written sparks an interest, that’s what I read. Recently, I’ve been re-reading Elizabeth Bishop’s Collected Prose and Helene Cixous’ Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. Ashley Butler’s Dear Sound of Footstep has also been helpful.

I’m not talking a whole lot about the work. I’m just doing the work. That’s my rule from this point on. Do the work. Vent to friends about stress. Read when I’m inspired.

Sounds like an okay plan for now. We’ll see where I am as I near the March deadline for Thesis Submission. We’ll just see.

Second Week of Semester, First Full Draft

It’s the middle of the second week of the semester. A full, working draft of my thesis is due tomorrow. This is it, folks. This is what I came here …

Creative Writing - Nonfiction MFA Jenn Tatum, jtatumcotamagana@colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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