January 2017 has been the most productive month of my life. When I started this MFA program, someone warned me, “don’t expect to finish your novel in a semester. But maybe over the course of the whole program.”

I nodded. Of course I didn’t expect to complete my whole novel in a semester! I have two kids at home with me! I work part-time. I read and I exercise and I make dinners and even occasionally clean this house. Don’t be preposterous.

My first semester, I completed 60 pages of my novel. I was writing it simultaneously while writing short stories. I was pleased with some of it. A lot of it, I suppose.

Then, I took a break from writing. I spent December barely writing at all (did I write anything?). There was a trip to Seattle and then I had my 10-day residency. At residency, for second semester, I was assigned to a new mentor. Let me tell you about her: she’s a real badass. She’s tough as nails. She pushes people to be their best. She runs a printing press and has multiple books to her name already. She is working on other ones. She runs marathons (yes, plural). We vibed instantly. And I knew I had to impress her, or at least not let her down.

So I got home from residency, started running again, and wrote like crazy. I revised the 60 pages of my novel from last semester then added 20 more and sent it to her. Then, I started on my real work: writing 50 more pages. Yesterday, I finished my creative work for the month. My novel is now 132 pages. I have lost eight pounds and my mind is clearer from the exercise and the writing. I have new thoughts churning and escaping into my writing over and over.

And now I think, maybe I can finish my novel by the end of this semester. Because no one knows what they’re capable of until they fill up their capacity. It’s easy to say you can’t do something; it’s fulfilling to actually try to do it.

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