On Monday, I finished my first novel draft.
It was 192 pages in total and just over 58000 words long. It’d taken me seven months to complete, and I wrote it for a fourth year seminar course (VIC479Y1) called The Novel: A Masterclass. Throughout the year, we’d been writing 2000 words per week — but as the bulk of the mark is completion, most of what I wrote is garbage. That said, I still felt a rare moment of pride when I stopped to consider what I’d accomplished.
As is the case for most students, this past week has been extraordinarily stressful. I’ve been churning out paper after paper and don’t always feel like I have enough time to let the course material sink in as much as I’d like. Often, I find myself wondering whether any of my schoolwork has a larger impact or significance. But the novel was such a big project that, when I finished it, I gave myself a moment to take in what it meant, recognize how much I improved, and feel proud of my work — a valuable reflection exercise that we students don’t do nearly enough in the midst of finals.
I remember the first time I sat down to write 2000 words at the start of the year. It took me eight hours to squeeze out just 300, and I laboured over the exercise all weekend. But by the end of the year, I could write 1000 words a day with relatively little stress. The process felt more natural, and my first drafts sounded less cringe-worthy. I’d also developed a community within the class — and I don’t often make friends in my classes, but I was genuinely sad to leave my amazing fellow writers. When I finally printed the manuscript out, I felt a sense of certainty that this was something I wanted to pursue in the future.
This moment of reflection reminded me of why I’m in university and the reasons why I love learning. Though it’s often hard to recognize in the heat of exams, I do feel like I’m growing from these assignments, getting a chance to practice my skills, and discovering the work I love most. I’ve found that it’s particularly difficult as a humanities major to understand where exactly my courses will lead me. This uncertainty has also been on my mind a fair bit in the face of my impending graduation in June and has caused as much anxiety as my coursework. Even though I may not have a definite answer to the “what next?” question, I was reminded of how much I’ve gotten out of studying a subject I love, and that recognition made the late nights worth it and helped me find the motivation to keep going.