The Other Side

2:20 AM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

I have to be honest. I did NOT think I would be here on the other side. The other side of what?


And it's not that I didn't trust God. I didn't trust myself. I didn't think I had the energy to read one more article, to synthesize one more book, to write one more word. To think. To anything. I just KNEW I didn't have the power. There were many times when I just said, "Forget this mess. OK, let me tuck tail and go home."

But I didn't.

And I don't get all the glory.

I don't even get all the victory.

I know for a fact that it was God who carried me through this darkness, this new foreign place (in so many ways for me).

It was God who didn't hate on me because my attendance at church slowed while I got lost in the forest of academia and could not find my way back out. It was God who whispered in my ear, Keep typing, or who told my body, "Don't listen to that girl anymore. Go to bed. She'll be OK."

And even though I cried on those nights my body betrayed me and fell into a comalike slumber, and even though I was so sure I would be unable to get work done because I slept instead, I DID get it done.

Did I do it well?

Well, that's to be determined.

But I did it. And I did it with the best of my tired abilities.

One thing I know now and what I will carry with me as a testimony is I can get through it ALL because I got through this. This was the hardest part. New city. New state. First time separated from family in eight years. Alone. New school. New discipline. New level of education and expectancy. "Accelerated" pace of learning because as a fellow, I took four classes this semester. Everything about this experience was new. There was bound to be moments of feeling lost, unsure. There, of course, would be times when I threw in the towel only to quickly pick it back up, use it to wipe my tears, and keep moving forward. And yes, there would have to be times when I thought I wasn't as brilliant as I always assumed myself to be.

All those things were expected.

And despite them all, I made it.

And because I've gone through these pitfalls and because I lost my faith and because I regained it and because I am now on the other side of victory, I have a list of "lessons learned" that I can take with me and that will aid me throughout the rest of this journey.

That is, until I hit a "new" thing and have to feel my way around that.

For now, I'll be grateful and blessed for THIS victory and revel in it for awhile.


I Am Grateful For...

1:00 AM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

This time next week, I will have only two final exams to write to conclude my first semester in the doctoral program, and once I'm "done" done, there will be a celebratory, reflective post here.

For now, I want to talk about BEING GRATEFUL.

The Monday before Thanksgiving I was battling some big-time depression, and the Monday after Thanksgiving I was talking about being done with NaNoWriMo.

Totally missed out on that great Thanksgiving tradition of talking about what you're grateful for.

I'm grateful (and blessed because for me they go hand-in-hand) to have a God who looks out for me when I don't look out for myself. He really is the reason I have come this far and that I can see some light at the end of this tunnel. He never let me forget (even when I tried) my intelligence and my strength. He always had just the right word to calm me. He always knew who needed to call me, or who needed to invite me to lunch to talk, or who needed to tweet me so that we could go out and vent. He put plenty of blessings before me and though I tripped over a few, I was smart enough to go back and collect my blessings.

I'm grateful for my mother and my siblings, who love me and my crazy self. We have been through some storms. The trials, the tribulations? Got them in spades. But through every painful moment that inflicted us, there was hope, and there was laughter. There have been a lot of up and down moments for me this semester, whether my own or from those close to me, and my mother was there, on the phone, while I cursed and cried. And when the tears subsided, she made me laugh. My siblings were there - via phone, Facebook, and text - to offer me support, love, and comfort. And laughter. They didn't complain when I didn't call. They called to make sure I was still alive, to tell me they were proud, and to get me off the phone so that I could get back to business.

I'm grateful for my sistahs, my misfit band of renegade chicas, who are always there with a Godly word, an encouraging word, a funny word, and hugs I can feel clear through cyberspace and fiber optics - and you KNOW who you are. Each of my sistahs is different, and each gives me something that I need, that keeps me going. Whether it's a late-night IM chat about men, a praise session over how good God is, a lecture on how I still have talent even if it feels like my creative well has run dry. They know who I am. They know what I need. And they make sure I have it.

I am grateful for those I have met here at Texas Tech; honestly, I do not know how I would have made it through this semester without them. There is my band of "fellow" comrades. Man, barely know what to say about them. When I was working on my MFA the thing I clung to most was my band of writer friends. They were people who shared my interests. I could talk to them intellectually, and they got where I was coming from. There was no need to overexplain. We knew, and we understood. There aren't many people I can talk about Bakhtin to, you know what I mean? LOL But aside from the intellectual stimulation and connection I get from my TTU Crew, the comrades have become a part of my life. I care about them and their well being. And their successes here only fuel me to be as successful in my academic endeavors. There are those professors whose bright smiles, lunch dates, brilliance, spark, demeanor have already begun to help me shape my thoughts into topics of interests. There are those students - on-site and online - who I have encountered who have added another layer of intellectual conversation, another layer of hilarity to my life that has helped right at moments when I thought I was down for the count.

I could, believe me, write a book (or at least a really long chapter - lol) on many more characters who have added color to my life, and to all of those people, I'm grateful to have you, too.

Ultimately, I am grateful and blessed to be here, living and breathing and reconstructing myself through this experience; I'm glad God deemed me worthy of such an honor.


The Journey Continues: What I Learned through NaNoWriMo '09

9:20 AM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

Since 2004, I have participated in NaNoWriMo. In 2004, I didn't win. Can't remember what I was working on, but I know I petered out early on and wasn't concerned with the fact that I stopped participating.

Since 2005, I have participated in NaNo and have won and have actually went beyond the 50,000 words to complete full novels (which will see the light of day).

This year, I was unsure if I would participate. For those of you who have been reading the blog regularly, you know that I've been struggling with my creativity since starting in the doctoral program back in August. In fact, up 'til NaNoWriMo this year, I had written NOTHING. And wasn't trying to. I was convinced writing would have to take place during the holidays - the Christmas breaks, the summer vacays.

So, I decided not to do NaNoWriMo and was actually OK with not doing it. Until everybody started talking about it. Until I went to my page on NaNo and saw that I had participated and won NaNo four years in a row--had the books to prove it.

Mid-October, I decided to participate. Even marked in my planner a few days where I could put together an outline for a story. Two days before NaNo began, I had yet to work on an outline. Didn't have the time.

So, on November 1, I jumped in with a title (Educating Sophia), a character's name and some words in my head for the beginning. That was it.

First week of NaNo, I wrote about 23,000 words.
Second week, I wrote about 12,000 words.
Third week, I began to peter out: about 8,500 words.
Fourth week, just wanted to get done: about 7,000 words.

Two and a half days before the end of NaNo, I stumbled into the finish line with 50,043 words.

In those 30 days, I realized a few things:

I can do more than I think I can. All semester, I was so sure that not one more thing could be integrated into my life. There just was no time. I reading until I wanted to vomit words. I was trying to digest vast quantities of information so that I could at least sound like I might understand. I was working on projects, papers (still am!), studies (still am!). I was busy having my minor (and not so minor) breakdowns. I simply could not add creative writing to the mix. But, just like I realized every November for the last four years, writing creatively is my sanity. It's the thing that makes everything else doable. I was using my morning hours to write, which helped me get through the rest of the day. I was a lot more structured in other projects because I had the umph from writing creatively.

I can write without a net. Though, I have to admit, I never want to do that again, LOL I'm a plotter. I like letting a story develop itself on my mind's screen and then writing out an outline of this story that has manifested itself in my mind for days, weeks, sometimes, months. Once I have that outline completed, then I write, and the writing usually comes fast and swift - not just because I have an outline, but because I know and breathe these characters, these places, situations, conflicts, tensions. They are there, primed and ready to gush out of me. This go round? No outline, no net. But I wrote over 50k in 30 days. The key? About two weeks into NaNo my engine for the story began to peter out. Had no idea where to go, what to write, if I even cared about the character. The story was, in a way, tied to my life, and I was tired of writing about dismal things, LOL So, instead of lamenting (literally and figuratively) over the story itself, I focused on the dreams and wants and thoughts of the character and wrote that. The main character kept a blog and though there is a linear story, there are also links that fall away from the story, links that develop the main character, allow us, the readers, to get to know her better. Because I knew this, I jumped in every day and asked, "What does this character want? What are her hopes, dreams, desires?" And I would pick one and WRITE. In the end, did it make the best story? NOPE, but I tell you what. I WROTE, and that tells me that if I am focused and organized, I can write the "good" stuff, too.

I can be creative and academic simultaneously. This was a huge hurdle for me to overcome. Creatively, I had gotten very complacent, fully believing that I could not be the creative writer, the author while in the midst of Ph.D. Land. After that first week, when I crossed 20k in less than 6 days, I knew that I could be both creative and academic, and throughout the month, as this knowledge bore itself into me, I began to believe it. As such, my mind automatically started to think about this Christmas break and how important it is for me to organize my projects so that once school starts, I can carve out time to write and actually have something good and productive to write. This has been one of the best things about this NaNoWriMo journey.

I can actually merge the two for academic endeavors. The other night, I'm doing research and writing for one of my papers and storytelling is still swirling about my mind and just because, I began research the use of storytelling in the field of I'm studying, and lo and behold, there are books and articles written about this. Initially, that deflated the excitement for me. No new ideas under the sun, I thought. But a good friend of mind, a sister to me in all truthfulness, told me to Spin it. You're creative. So what people have already done something on it. As a writer, you of all people know how to mix what's been done to make it new. Find a way to do that with this. And so now, I have a new research channel in my mind to explore that might actually allow me to play in my storytelling abilities but in an academic way.

The best of both worlds.