The Sunday Seven: Not Quite an MFA Graduate

Not me.

If I was going to walk, I would have done so this past week. But I didn’t, because I’m not done with my thesis and graduations are about being done. I tell myself I have a lot of time to finish the thesis, which is due early August, but you and I both know how quickly the past two years went by. Pretty soon it’ll be July 31st and I’ll be sweating and typing till my fingers seize and using up a lot of printer paper. I’ll wonder what it all means.

Except thank God, a handful of “let me be real with you” classmates have said the thesis is pretty low stakes. Two or maybe three professors will read it. They will give their suggestions and you can either beat yourself up because they were suggestions and not praise and pay another few thousand dollars in research fees to “revise” the thesis so you a few dozen rewrites later you can hear the word, “Promising.” Or, you can say, “Thanks for your time.” You take the thesis home, tuck it into the deep left hand drawer of your desk where rest a half dozen other drafts of old old old essays and stories, and think, “Well, that was interesting.” Then leave to go buy groceries.

I think I’ll go for the latter option.

Anyway, I’m happy with who I’ve met and what I’ve read. I’m even pretty happy with the eight or ten pages I actually took the time to rewrite. Rewriting – what a revelation. But I’ve accepted that the fruits of the MFA grow on a mysterious tree that takes forever to flower. I’m sure the branches will bear fruit but when or how, I don’t know and I’ve stopped trying to guess.

So this Sunday’s Seven: some opinions on the MFA in Creative Writing:

1. A flashback to my personal statement for Columbia’s creative writing program, which I described two years ago as a sort of “homecoming.” While I still feel comfortable in academic, writing intensive environments, I realize was hardly “at home.” An early instance of this writer throwing that word around.

2-3. MFA vs. NYC was a popular debate the past two years. It’s impossible to apply to Columbia without writing about New York City so the Columbia MFA is like the best of both worlds…(or redundant if you’re feeling glum). But intimate and fully-funded as the MFA in North Carolina might have been, I don’t regret moving (back) to New York. Saying “I study creative writing at Columbia” at every cocktail party for the past two years was also fun in its own way.

4-6. If I say I’m happy with the program one more time you probably won’t believe me. It’s fine. I waffle back and forth between loving and hating the MFA, wondering if I’ve become a certain “type” of writer or if I’m too stuck in my ways to change.

7. But in the end it’s always, always, what you make of it: 27 Writers on Whether to Get an MFA 

And some laughs: The James Franco Problem, Actual Sentences Written by Students in a Well-Respected MFA Program Fiction Workshop, and Writer’s Workshop Critiques as Applied to Your Sex Life. 

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