Monday, August 16, 2010

Pre-MFA Thoughts

by Laura

The summer is steadily coming to an end and I am about to begin my MFA program, taking with me a huge jumble of excitement and nervousness. One moment I think that it will be the most wonderful thing ever, picturing myself strolling across Boston Common with autumn leaves crinkling underfoot and my head filled with ideas and inspiration. The next moment, this idyllic image suddenly turns into a nightmarish one in which I can't think of a single thing to write, can't find a job and have to leave school, and retreat in shame to my parents' basement. I figured that it would be helpful to get all of my mixed feelings out of my head and onto the internet, in convenient bulleted lists...

First up, we have Pre-MFA Fears:
- The issue of needing good employment immediately. A variety of factors led me to accept an unfunded offer, but sometimes I wonder if this was the right decision. Don't get me wrong -- I want to work and am applying to jobs that I'm really excited about. I just hope those jobs will be equally excited about hiring me.
- My worry that everyone in the program will be smarter than me, more well-read than me, and just far more fabulous in general.
- The question of genre, more specifically, the need to choose one. Yes, I love to write poetry. I also love to write creative nonfiction, and I sometimes cautiously venture into fiction. Did I pick the right one to spend the next three years focusing on?

Ack, now I feel even more anxious. To counteract the anxiety, a more positive list:

Pre-MFA Things to be Excited About:
- Hey, I'm in an MFA program! If I could go back in time and talk to Laura circa-September 2009, then she would be ecstatic that her future self would actually be accepted to a program.
- I'm enrolled in two classes with professors who seem very awesome, and I know that I will learn a lot.
- I'm moving to Boston! (Well, near Boston.) I get to live with my lovely boyfriend, write away in my tiny corner of our tiny apartment, and explore all the beautiful places that the city has to offer (that is, after I take the train out of our rather non-stunning neighborhood).
- I actually do love to meet and talk to new people, and I'm looking forward to making friends from a wide variety of places and backgrounds.
- There are many opportunities out there for me; I just have to be willing to work for them.

I guess that what it comes down to is this: I get to start a new life and can choose whether I want to view that life as an exciting place of opportunity and growth, or a place of abject terror. I struggle with the whole positive-thinking thing, but I want to get better at it. Here's to exciting things ahead!


  1. As a very soon-to-be post-MFAer, I can assure you that everyone feels the same way.


    Also, I attended a not-fully-funded program in San Francisco, which is right up there with Boston when it comes to living expenses and competing in a job market that already has a great deal of smart, experienced people in it. And it's been totally FINE. Finding a job is always awful, but having a job? It was a relief, some days, to go somewhere where everyone wasn't talking about writing endlessly. And it makes writing time valuable.

    Best of luck!

  2. Second that, Margosita, about going to work somewhere outside of where you turn your writing in. Working as a waiter this summer just felt more real than teaching, in terms of getting my hands dirty. Maybe that's because my hands increasingly were dirty.

    And Boston! A whole city awaiting you--yeah, that's pretty great.

  3. Thank you for the encouragement! Margosita, hearing about how you were fine finding a job in an expensive, competitive city makes me feel a lot better. I think it will be a relief having a job in addition to working toward my MFA. I'm hoping for something in an office on-campus, so it will still be an academic environment but I'll get to interact with students from the whole school in addition to the MFA program. I want to get some teaching experience but it will also be nice to get experience doing other things.

  4. Yup, everyone has the same fears and worries that everyone else is going to be better than them. Until you get through a few workshops and realize you're all unique and doing your own things and have different strengths and weaknesses. At least that was my experience. You'll feel so much better after your first few workshops. Boston sounds like a great city. I worked part-time (well like barely part-time) last year at the law school and I really enjoyed talking with my co-workers so I totally agree with what Margosita and Josh had to say. Good luck on everything this year!

  5. Love your fears/excitement list. I'm going to do just that now. Splendid idea!

    Hope you love Boston. Beautiful, beautiful city. Especially at Christmas. Oh, the nostalgia!

    Best of luck with your job hunt and, of course, classes. You'll knock 'em dead, I'm sure!


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