Monday, January 25, 2016

The Beginning

Tobey's Tentative Thesis Schedule

The Start of My Thesis Journey...

My head has been kind of spinning since our first meeting last Thursday.

Before I met with everyone on Thursday, I felt like I at least had a broad idea of my topic. I was going to focus on the process of revision in writing. As a writing teacher, I know the struggle of teaching how to revise to middle schoolers. As a writer, I know the value and importance of engaging in the process of revision to strengthen my own work. I know some of the theorists who have explored this topic. I even quoted Nancy Sommers in my PLC meeting at work recently. I find value in doing more research on revision as I know there is not a lot out there. I even had some thoughts about where I might further explore this topic: recursive vs. linear, methods taught in schools, the college writer and revision...Ok, not overtly specific, but there were some ideas rolling around in that part of my brain now devoted to thesis work.

Then, we met. I listened in on the conferences and ideas that are happening and taking shape by my fellow peers, and new ideas came into my head. I realized that I didn't have to create my thesis one way, there were options. With those options came a refreshing look at what I  might want to do. Revision is  an important topic, but am I passionate about it? I have to admit that I went with it because I felt it would fit nicely into the structure I thought the thesis had to take. But now, I know differently.

Graduate school is personally challenging for each person who thrusts himself into it. For me it was not an easy decision to come back to school at almost forty years old. I had so much self doubt. Could I keep up? Could I handle the technology? Would I be able to manage my time well? Am I intelligent enough to do the work? The self doubt almost won, but I talked myself into it. I knew that I had to make some changes in my life. Now that I am starting this last process of the program, I can't tell you how much I have grown since I began.  The most surprising area where I felt change happened is in my emotional world. It is reflecting upon this area of personal growth from which I think my thesis should grow.

I tell my students often that writing can be cathartic, but it wasn't until I began to allow myself to write about my own difficult life moments that I realized how cathartic it actually can be. When I sit and look back at the writing pieces I wrote in my classes, I can't believe that I was so free. That I allowed myself to write about issues that I often avoid talking about, that I have pushed away. Why did having the freedom to write about anything I wanted produce these kinds of pieces? I'm very open about the fact that I have been seeing a therapist for the past twelve years. I went to her about a year after my mom died and I started to develop some heavy anxiety issues. However, even there we talk more about my avoidance to address things then actually confronting them.

When given the opportunity to write about anything I wanted, I chose hard-avoided-topics. In my Writing About Non-Fiction class, I created two pieces; the first about the death of my boyfriend when I was nineteen and the abusive relationship we had before he died, the second about a symbolic keepsake in my family and finding pictures of my mom after she died and being able to add those pictures to this keepsake. In my Writing for Children and Young Adult class, I create a thirty page draft of a ya story about a young girl taken over by anxiety-pulled from my own life. Finally, I created two poems directly about my mother's death during my time at The Summer Institute.

After creating the last two poems and sharing them, especially with my therapist, doors to healing opened up for me. I have been able to talk about some of the more difficult things surrounding my mom's death easier and my own anxiety has become lessened. I still have quite a ways to go, but writing about it has been the greatest therapy of my life. after all of this rambling, I come to my point, one of my lessons through my grad school journey is that writing holds powers of healing. Can I create some sort of thesis from this? I don't know.  There are studies out there about journaling and creative expression helping people of all sorts. I worry about what new spin I can take on this topic. Could I focus on my own journey?  I also know that much of the research will come from  psychology texts. I'm not a psych major. Will this be a difficulty for me? Many questions.

So an idea has taken shape, but what to do with this idea...


  1. Hey Tobey - welcome to thesis world. It sounds as if you are being called to write about your own journey, which is fascinating. Your poem this summer -- and I just re-read it as I was looking through our summer work for my own thesis -- was very raw and real and powerful. The beauty of "writing studies" is that it is a very wide open area--you can do the thing that will mean the most to you, personally. The thesis requires too much time and energy to invest in something you don't really care about that much. Anyway, Tobey, good luck with whatever you decide...

    1. Hey Larissa. It's good to hear from you. Thanks for the insight and support. You always have a way to put things at ease. I hope we can catch up soon. I've looked over your past blogs. Your work is impressive and important.