Okay, so you haven’t asked—well, actually, some of you have asked, and I don’t really write nearly enough on here, so I figured I might as well tell you.
1. Write. Write a lot. Rinse. Repeat.
Loyal readers of this blog know that I am not the world’s fastest writer. In fact, a three-toed sloth probably moves through the forest with greater alacrity than I move my pen across the page or my fingers across the keyboard. However, taking three workshops will change that… even if you have to stay up until 2 a.m. the night before finishing six pages of rough draft that you think are so rough they shouldn’t even see the light of day.
2. We know you just got here but what’s your thesis going to be? Let us know by next week.
When I got here, all I knew was that my thesis was going to be a novel. However, fellowship application deadlines for next year landed about a month after I arrived, so I had to figure it out—quick. Fortunately, I had an idea bouncing around my head (and a very bad first draft stuck in a drawer back home) and realized that if I cut out half of it and completely rewrote what was left, it might make a decent novel. Suddenly, I’m in love with the idea and have already started doing my reading in preparation for writing it. Which brings me to…
3. Read. Read some more. And oh by the way, read.
This is pretty much a no-brainer. However, in putting together the bibliography for my thesis, I wound up with not just a list of scholarly and scientific articles on climate change (it has a bearing on the story), but also a lot of science fiction and speculative fiction novels that I’ve either not gotten around to reading or never even heard of. (For the record: J.G. Ballard—dated and kind of a chauvinist, but his ecological themes could have been written yesterday.) And finally, after thinking “I should really read that” for I don’t know how long, I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale, which scared the hell out of me.
4. Critique, and be critiqued.
I’m taking three workshops—graphic novel, writing for children, and advanced fiction. I am working in the company of a lot of talented and creative young writers. Getting their feedback has been invaluable. Even more than that, having a cohort of this sort makes the writing process feel less solitary.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t still those moments at 2 in the morning when you’re working on a draft and wondering how you managed to bluff your way into the program and wondering what you’ll do when they figure out they made a mistake and the jig’s up.
5. Everyone feels just like that.
Most of the people I’ve met are familiar with that same suspicion that a mistake was made when they got in.
6. Opportunities. Take them.
The residence where I live, Green College, has hosted a writer in residence this semester, Shyam Selvadurai. He’s hosted a number of workshops and readings during his residence, and getting to know him has been a privilege.
Likewise, I’ve been able to take part in a reading series already, and have attended more readings in the past three months than I did in the prior year.
7. It’ll be over before you know it.
Wow. Three months. It seems like both more and less time has passed since I got here.