A Short While in the MFA (part 3)

I’ve had a couple of months worth of experience in the MFA to write a few things about it. That’s not to say that I’m an expert because I’m just not. I can, however, say that at the end of my first semester here, I’ve had one helluva time. It may bit have been the most exciting experience, but I’ve enjoyed my days nonetheless.

The transition itself was jarring at first. Going straight from undergraduate to Graduate school can be intense, exciting, or depending on the kind of person you are, a piece of cake. At first I was excited, and a little sad. I used to live on campus, in a dorm and saw my friends virtually everyday. Now, I only have one or two friends in NYC who I can see–and I don’t even get to see them all that often, if at all. Solitude can be disheartening or liberating, depending on how you look at it. But I digress,

The change from on-campus to off-campus, and going back home, was difficult. I cried a lot from stress, visited my friends upstate to calm down, and came back with encouragement to look at things more positively. I tried.

Change is difficult to deal with. I don’t know how many times I can express that. And I understand that a lot more now. I’ve also learned things about this school, my old school, my craft, the business I want to get in, and frankly, it’s a jungle. There are also bits and pieces to publishing and getting published, that I’ve found myself lost. I still do. With this last week of classes, I realized that while time flew by I’ve gotten better at knowing what I want to do and I’ve gotten better at knowing myself, both as a person and a writer. I may not be the best critiquer or blogger, but I try.

I need to keep trying. I took a big step in wanting to continue being a writer. I’m sure I could have been anything else, but I wanted this. Going for your MFA isn’t easy, and loans aren’t cheap. But I think this is something I set my mind to so long ago that I didn’t know how to turn back. Maybe it was stubbornness. I sometimes think it was more stubbornness than courage that took my down this road.

And I begin to see that courage may be a thing that I lack most.

Writers who start out are going to be afraid. Our work is set to be approved by others. We fear rejection despite being told that rejections are just as important as acceptances. In fact, I had a professor in my undergrad who would tell us that we should keep our rejection letters and hang them on the walls. With every rejection is the measure of your progress, your effort. I find that hard to believe sometimes. Then again, I’ve only submitted my work three or four times to magazines. But we have to start out somewhere, don’t we? And I don’t think there’s anything wrong or anything to be ashamed of my admitting that.

There is however, something wrong with not trying hard enough. I have my faults, both as a person and a writer. And as I listen to the things my peers have done in the last couple of years, I feel a bit disappointed in myself. Whether it’s teaching after school, to convicts, acting as a teachers assistant or being an intern at a publishing house, I lack the courage to do those things. But it’s okay. I need to accept that and find a way to get past my fears. This semester has taught me that I am afraid of not just being rejected as a writer, but of being successful as well. There are so many expectations, that you have for yourself and others may have for you. I t can be overwhelming.

But isn’t that life? Writing is a challenge. If we were weren’t up for it, then we wouldn’t have…well, anything really. It’s why so many of us take it up.

I suppose I’m writing this to tell you that I am afraid just like many of you are. And writers are in fact human, in case some of you thought we weren’t. I mean, sure we come up with crazy stuff, drink lots of coffee/tea/alcohol, and are up most nights–don’t mind us we’re just creating an entire universe by pencil– but we are individuals. Often times, rejections scare us, talk away any confidence we may have built up in ourselves. Sometimes, success does that too. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’m afraid of both.

So, at the end of my first semester I say to you: keep writing and keep dreaming. Close your eyes and click that submit button.

I’ll be sure to do the same right beside you.

Happy writing everyone.

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