I love the month of January. While it’s bittersweet to take down the lights, pack the stockings and holiday garland, and toss what’s left of the panettone and eggnog, there’s something about the clean slate of this month. With the onset of a new year and my birthday just two days apart, those first few weeks are like a gleaming blank whiteboard. As usual, I have some fairly lofty literary ambitions for the New Year, most of which I’ll have the opportunity to accomplish as part of my coursework at Chapman. Still, with only seven classes of my program requirements left to complete and an actual graduation date in sight, writing the book-length thesis is at the top of my 2012 priorities and resolutions.
My 2011 New Year’s post conveyed my general aversion to resolution making. “Over the years,” I explained, “I think resolutions have become associated with the incremental elimination of pleasure, such as vowing to stop eating cake or sleeping in on Saturdays rather than going to spin class.” For me, the New Year has always been a time to reflect on values and priorities and assess how my time is being spent. Rather than resolving to eradicate or quit doing something that’s ostensibly “bad” for me, I examine and juggle the time slots to try to squeeze more good stuff into each day – like reading and writing.
This year, January will be spent studying for the MA exam and writing new chapters for my pre-thesis class. The exam alone covers five works of literature, including The Mill on the Floss and Notes from Underground, and Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories in Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. (Refer to the sidebar on the right for the full list of exam texts.) While this first month of the year will pass in the blink of an eye between the pages of Eliot, Dostoevsky, et al., the rest of the year must culminate with the production of at least eighty new pages of my thesis novel.
In This Year You Write Your Novel (2007), Walter Mosley encourages writers with a propensity to become distracted from their writing (yeah, he’s talking to me) to “let the lawn get shaggy and the paint peel from the walls” and to “save the world at 8:30 rather than 7:00” (14). He even advises against journaling, another activity I believe has tremendous creative value (unlike, say, dusting the window treatments) and to which I had resolved to return this year, unless the entry is going in the book. Mosley’s tough, but let’s face it…so is my thesis defense committee.
So once again I greet the New Year without much in the way of resolutions other than to write my novel. To be honest, this assignment is more than just a hurdle to clear in order to graduate. I have a story to tell, and I want to tell it. I need to tell it. And I will. As soon as I pass this troublesome MA exam…