Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Night Before Halloween

Tonight I completed my Halloween movie list.  I watched The Addams Family.  It's been a fun October of watching movies, and other than once again not getting any actual horror movies watched, I've had some great experiences: a fantastic Halloweentown party, a Practical Magic night with my best friend when I needed it the most, finally watching my favorite childhood film-- Sleepy Hollow-- with Zan (and feeling surprised by how much I still have memorized), pizza and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, introducing Hocus Pocus to my British friend who somehow made it into her 20s without seeing it, whilst eating buttery popcorn and lots of Halloween candy.  Then tonight, a quiet evening alone with homemade chili and The Addams Family.  In movie terms, it's been an excellent October; in friends terms, too, what with Emily's amazing wedding at the beginning of the month, a mid-month visit with Kay, and a party tomorrow evening with my grad cohort.  Also, I never wrote about it here, but I got to meet one of my heroes this month-- M. Lindsay Bierman, the former editor of Southern Living!  We talked for about seven minutes one-on-one, and he was wonderful and gracious.  I got to tell him how much his editor's welcomes meant to me each month for the past couple of years, and that even though his new job sounds awesome, I miss him at SL.  It was really cool.  We even took a selfie together!  So, I guess despite a lot of thesis-related anxiety which I'm actively working to fix, it's been a pretty good October overall.  And I have plans to build a gingerbread haunted house with Zan tomorrow after work!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tentative Thesis Revelation

I'm a little scared to say it, since I've said it so many times before and I keep getting stuck, but... 

I've had a thesis break-through.  I think, finally, I see where I want to go.  I don't know exactly what I want to argue yet, but then, I didn't know that for about a year with the last thesis I wrote.  But at least now, instead of eagerly grabbing at anything and everything that captures my attention or seems even tangentially related to something I might possible want to write on someday, I have a more focused reading plan and something that feels like an honest-to-God topic.  I have even picked out a couple of central literary pieces from the huge mess of poems, short stories, treatises, and novels I've been looking into-- a step that has done more for me than anything else to this point.  I feel more positive about everything, even if thus far my attempts at writing on the subject have been a little crap.  Writing always starts out a little crap, so I'm not too worried.  The fact that I can envision writing sixty pages, finally, warms me to the cockles of my hitherto grad-frozen heart.  Before this is over I'll probably have several more weeks of nerve-wracking stress, feelings of inadequacy, and days and nights of questioning everything I've ever thought, but I think I've finally gotten to the point that I can just make out a path through the woods.  One foot in front of the other.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Breaking Glass," A Film

The Kickstarter video for an independent film, "Breaking Glass."
It needs your help to complete post-production.

These young actors are going places.  Help these filmmakers go places, too.

Please donate.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sitting and Thinking

I've realize that a large part of my thesis woes stem from the fact that though I'm reading a lot, I'm thinking very little.  I quickly run through the material, make a few cursory/obvious notes, then set the article/poem/novel/treatise, aside.  Then I wonder why I haven't learned much. 

What I need is a good old fashioned thinking session.  The problem is, so much of my life (our collective 'America in the 21st Century' life?) doesn't encourage lingering over a single poem, or a single couplet of a poem to find out how the words work, or if I find it moving and how.  Everything I read online (where I jump from window to window, tab to tab, trying to quickly absorb as much material as possible) tells me how to speed read, how to multi-task, how to get the most done in the shortest amount of time.  Don't think (too hard), just do.  Rush rush rush to get it all done.  And so, slowing down, especially when I don't know how beneficial-- or at least, when I can't quantify how beneficial-- that lingering might be... it becomes very difficult.  But I've made next to zero progress (by word count, page number, outlines) on my thesis, and even though I've read a lot I haven't processed it in a way that feels worthwhile.  But instead of trying to take the time to process it, I've just kept looking for more sources to read in the hopes that one of them will make me feel like I've hit the thesis jackpot.  Maybe I already have, I just haven't thought about it enough to realize it.

So this week: I'm thinking.  I'm going back over poems I've read; I'm close-reading.  I'm looking for moments of brilliance and moments of connection-- both to eighteenth-century society/movements and to my own emotions.  My adviser told me that literary criticism should be analytical and emotional, as if the two were not usually viewed as opposites.  My thesis class professor told me that her graduate adviser told her that each project needed to be personally meaningful and to help her learn a new skill set.  For me, reading eighteenth-century poetry (actually, reading most poetry) feels a bit like reading another language, and it's a skill I want to learn.  So, I'm ignoring secondary sources for a bit so I can determine what I personally think, instead of relying on other critics and scholars to tell me what to think.  I'm going to try to learn the art, mystery, and skill of reading poetry in an analytical way.  I'm looking for what moves me and trying to figure out why.

And I'm going to write it down.