I changed my thesis…no, this isn’t a writing prompt or the first line of a suspense novel—it’s my truth. For a while, I was pretty ashamed to admit that because I came to Columbia to write my novel. I worked really hard on it too, but eventually, I realized that the work I needed to do on the manuscript was beyond the program. It was just going to take more time than I wanted to admit. Truly, if I’m honest, I knew it was quite a large project, but I wanted to push myself and get it done. See, even after three years of learning to be a writer, you might still have these absurd visions of grandeur…or maybe that’s just me. I wanted to come out in a blaze of literary glory, a novel in hand like the holy grail! Not saying that won’t happen for some people, but knowing my process and how I’ve learned myself as a writer, that was just not going to happen. I’m happy I realized I wanted to make this change with enough time to finish my thesis collection of short stories.
Here’s the funny thing: I was always on the fence about what my thesis would be, and subconsciously it kind of worked out. For the past three years I’ve been writing stories that at their core revolve around the same ideas. They fit so well, and it all clicked when I put them together for the first time, like “yeah, this is definitely going to work.” Three of my stories have already been published, but that didn’t mean much. My thesis advisor had much to say about how to improve them, and of course, she was right. Currently, I have a lot of work to do and that seems daunting. There are days when I just stare at my stories wondering if I’ll get them right; when I want to go to brunch, but stay in because this is CRUNCH time. I have stepped away from all of social media to take away those avoidance triggers. Ultimately, I know that I made the right choice. Do I still wish I had a full year to work on my stories? Yes, but I know that I can do the work with all that I have learned at Columbia.
What makes this process easier is that I’ve set work days with my friend and cohort member Charli. I have other people who hold me accountable, such as my roommates. I allow myself Saturdays to get away from all things work and writing related. I try and stick a balance that manages all my stress but still keeps me moving forward. Change is not bad, although it can feel that way. It felt like failure to me for quite some time, which is why I resisted it.
But failure, whatever your definition of it, should be welcomed. It opens you up to other possibilities.