I See My Path… To a Point

So far, I am leaning into my creative project from the Writer’s Retreat.  It’s a fictional piece, informed by some on my own personal experiences, and colored by some of my fears about the future.  I suppose, genre-wise, it’s a “speculative memoir,” so imagining what will happen in the future, rather than recalling what has happened in the past.  The premise of the work is that the protagonist returns to her childhood home after the death of her father, a hoarder who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.  She moves throughout the physical spaces of the home, interacting with objects along the way, which serve to trigger memories, and paint a picture of her life, the characters in the story, etc.  So far, I have three chapters done, and I have a decent roadmap of where I’d like the story to go in the future.  

I want it to follow a classical “Hero’s Journey” model, in a way.  I’d like my protagonist’s journey to begin with crossing a threshold into the unknown, and ultimately involving a “descent” of sorts (into the basement of the home, as it were) to emerge with a new understanding of who she is, who her father was, and what her past experiences give her, as far as strength, knowledge, and the power to love, heal, grieve, accept, and move on.  Here’s an outline (from my notes) of where I would like the chapters to go (along with some rough ideas that probably won’t make sense to any of you!):

Outline: prologue-ish, kitchen Part I

1. Bedroom

2. Bathroom

3. Parlor (not “living room”, called basement “cellar,” Zenith tv set, duck pillows, pillow forts)

4. Front room (grandpa, plants, piano, deer, Christmas, Dutchess, plastic tree needles melting to the radiator)

5. Toy room (used to be her bedroom, clown balloon lamp, clowns, Elaine, jack in the box)

Part II

6. Upstairs (berber carpet, indian burns, later, sleeping on the pullout couch, for lack of a bed, found the night-night tape)

7. Her Bedroom (purple under purple, closet Girl Scout book, care bear suitcase, tragic futon)

8. Her Sister’s Bedroom (feeling like a stranger, don’t belong, sister’s furniture, had a boy, not a girl)

9. The Un-Bathroom (things left unfinished, boxes of apt. stuff)

Part III

10. Laundry Room (mismatched socks, doubled as mom’s hair salon, Chinese bamboo calendar from 1989)

11. Basement/Cellar (farm stove, jetpack)

12. Workshop (reference the sawdust on the floor, from the toilet seat vignette, idea that some things can’t be fixed.)

Epilogue- back up through kitchen, and outside, leaving door open behind her. 

            So, I think the roadmap of my actual work is pretty solid, but what I also really want to focus on this semester is the technical “thesis-y” stuff, such as my Literature Review and Proposal, which I have not even started.   I think what I will wrestle with the most is not the pacing of my work (I want to get somewhere upstairs by semester’s end), but with how it will contribute to “new knowledge” in a meaningful way.  It’s really important to me to do justice to the topics, such as hoarding (or OCD) as it relates to Alzheimer’s, and the suffering it can cause not only to the person who is sick, but to their families.  I think there are deep phycological issues that I haven’t’ even scratched the surface of, and that, I think, is where the majority of my academic efforts will lie this semester.  Thankfully, I have all of you to help me along the way…

Checkpoint

The time I’ve spent on this Writing Program had been filled with many upsides and downsides, each challenging me and making me reevaluate what it truly means for me to want to be a creator. I’ll be honest in saying that there have been many moments where I considered dropping from the program all at once, either because of the strain of balancing my life’s workload or my sense of insignificance to the grand scheme of things coaxed me into believing I offer nothing. Yet it is in these moments where I had to look within and understand more of what I stand for. I’m constantly surprising myself with this. I had never realized there was much that I dislike about myself, but yet there are aspects that I want to see flourish.

This brings me to my project as of now. I spent quite a bit of time juggling between ideas and concepts that I felt might satisfy the course requirements. Many hours were spent on researching, reading on what others have done before me, and understanding the weight of the assignment as a whole.

As a brief recap, my focus is on the marriage of meaning-making between creators, focusing primarily on writing and visual arts to aid my thesis. My original intention was to create a series of interviews for veterans of these crafts so that I can find an underlying connection between each story and intention and find that unknown component of creation. The further I got into this, the less I wanted to pursue this.

I heard many stories. Many painful recaps of memories that I saw tore up the insides of these people as they shared with me. The vulnerability they were willing to share with me was nothing short of touching, and for that I feel I cannot consider this option as I’d like to. While I haven’t had to face what these brave souls have, I myself lost many things in this past year. Frankly, it’s part of the reason I kept myself so distant from the rest of the community, I didn’t want to draw attention to me. I know what it’s like to be so emotionally weak and trying to recover from that, and while the intention of sharing these stories to help aid others in understanding the benefits of creation, I feel I can approach this in a different manner.

The other main reason stems from my background as an artist. It has been engrained into me that I must show rather than tell, to let the work speak for itself. While I have no issue creating an essay of sorts to fit the criteria of the program, it didn’t feel like I had a personal hand into it, and explaining the phenomenon was lacking as an idea. I can talk about it yet, but without a good way of executing the idea it felt a little hollow of me to consider this option.

For these reasons, I had to reevaluate my options. One thing I came to that I might pursue is a visual novel of sorts, a strong part of me yearns to create something like I’ve done in digital artmaking. That semester opened my eyes to a new medium that I really want to break into so I think I’d like to jump into this concept. I have many experiences in creation and programming, so the ‘hardest’ parts will cost me no time.

There in lies the issues I’m tackling moving forward – writing a narrative to fit my main thesis and find a way to make the execution make sense to everyone while getting out the heart of my pursuit. I’ve studied and played many visual novels and digital stories since the summer started, so I have a small idea on what I’d like to do.

I can even use the opportunity to create assets myself and inject more of my personal work and words into this without sacrificing the main concept of my thesis. Part of me feels a bit selfish going with this idea as I feel like I’ve abandoned what made my thesis important, but I had to convince myself it is not in vain. I wanted to share with others the struggles of the human mind and how creation can heal those in need, regardless of medium. Using this method makes the concept feel more universal rather than exclusive, so I’m hoping this project comes out as something for everyone.

First things first, a narrative. I have several ideas on how to go about doing this, but I want to avoid the obvious iconography and rather focus on the abstractions of creation and mental health. While I will research to get a grounded concept of what to look for (which I have), I feel finding a new way to share this while retaining the core idea will make my piece stand more on its own legs.

Here’s hoping I can make something decent by the end of the semester. I’ll definitely have a rough draft as time marches forward and I hope this is the appropriate way to make my idea heard.

-Hugo

 I See My Path…

First blog for my thesis website. I cannot believe that I am already here. One year ago, I was fresh out of my undergraduate experience and had just started my graduate degree. Little boxes on Zoom were the extent we could all go to being with each other. Now, it’s different. With vaccinations and a mask mandate, I feel this in-person journey will go a long way. No matter how tiring or annoying the commute, I am not afraid to admit that I love being back on campus. I can now finally separate my home, my social circle, my work and my studies in multiple buildings, not just one. Physically being in front of the professor really changes a lot of things, in a good way of course.

Although my thesis course has just started, being Jessie, I started planning and thinking way ahead of time. After successfully publishing my sequel to my first book “A Friend Till the End: The Sequel” (which is available in eBook and paperback on Amazon!), I decided to dedicate all my creative and writing energy to this upcoming school year. Writing creatively has always been my passion and strength because it doesn’t have any boundaries. Anything is right, as long as I make sense of it. About three years ago, I wrote a short story as a final project for my Introduction to Short Fiction class in Middlesex County College. I was nervous because my professor never got easily impressed. However, after my different take on a cross-cultural love story, my professor thought I did an excellent job. It was a motivation and a piece of work I am still proud of to this day. It’s titled Kosher. Within 17 pages, a story of an orthodox Jewish girl and a liberal Muslim guy takes the lead. And it doesn’t end with closure. It starts with a question, and ends with the exact same one “Where do I go now?”

Photo by Tobias Bju00f8rkli on Pexels.com

So, instead of reinventing the wheel for my thesis, I decided to give the characters closure. It’s the least I can do as the author of them of course. But, I had also done research on how classical music impacts students in their classrooms for a whole semester. Can the two be tied together? At first, I didn’t think so but time gave me my answers. Here is the path I intend on taking:

  • The title of the story: The “I” of the Storm
  • The plot will revolve around the following concept:
    • Sarah and Ehsan come back into each other’s life unpurposefully as Ehsan starts becoming little Isaac’s new favorite music teacher. Learning music has dramatically changed Isaac’s behavior and has made him become a better child. After growing up in a one-bedroom apartment with his single mother, his father gives him love through his passion of music without knowing it’s his blood.
  • Although the first story was a short story, the continuation will be extended into a novel.
  • During my WIP presentation, I do plan on reading half the story to give my peers a background of where this story and plot stems from
  • Extensive research has been done on the topic of children and their relationship to classical music. This will be included in the story when exemplifying Ehsan’s musical abilities and his teachings
  • This story focuses on a very diverse couple. I am somebody who advocates strongly for a inclusivity, not only in other aspects of life, but in literature as well. Although the female is Jewish and the male is Muslim, they both end up meeting via a connection of a Catholic school. The same women’s hostel who took Sarah in when no one else accepted her had an elementary school affiliated with them. She eventually moves out and starts working in a doctor’s office, but because of her gratefulness, she makes Isaac study in their school. This is where Ehsan gets a job as a music teacher, and the real story starts from there.
  • Because my thesis will be a novel, I will be dividing it into chapters. I haven’t gotten that far into the plan, but once I decide how to start the story, that will be completed.
  • In terms of what I would like to do, I would like to definitely start writing my novel by the end of this semester, if not middle. The reason being, I have so much in my head that I want to get down on paper because I know exactly how I want the flow and continuity to be. Especially since it’s kind of a sequel to a previous text, getting the ideas now while it’s fresh is always the best. And if I can achieve that, I will have less to do next semester in terms of planning. It will mostly be finishing up the book and refining it to be a work I am happy and excited to share.

I am very eager to start this journey, and I hope you all like my ideas and where I am planning to go with this. The title has two meanings: not only is the son going to be the focal point of the plot whose name starts with “I”, but based on the previous story, the ego of each one ends up hurting their situation and makes life an emotional storm for them. Their “I”, their pride, makes them fall. But once they start healing and are mature enough to be more selfless instead of selfish, life decides they deserve each other now more than ever especially because of Isaac. So, let’s see where this goes and how it goes. Whatever it is though, my mind is exploding with ideas and can’t wait to get this on the road!