I've always thought I was going to apply to get an MFA, not in a grand "life plan" kind of way of knowing but in a "I'll get married one day and have healthy kids and a good amount of money and a good job because everything works out in the end" kind of way. So basically, without a lot of realistic or logical thought. It just kind of sat there, on the tail end of every one of my life plans, as an afterthought.
Like, we should totally buy a cabin on the lake one day...maybe before I get my MFA and become super famous.
Or, No, I can't get rid of that random book on writing... because I might need it when I get my MFA and become super famous.
The embarrassing thing about this is that I know next to nothing about the MFA process. Like you say, MFA and I say, Iowa? That’s all I know! One word! I don’t even know anybody who has an MFA! The only person I’ve ever met who attended one of the MFA programs that I'm going to apply to said that it was awesome but she was totally broke and freaked out about how she was going to make money from poetry. But I should totally apply.
That conversation ended up being part of a big catalyst in my life. It happened on the same day that I decided to give up the idea of focusing on my writing and instead focused on building my marketing career and buying real estate...this is before I realized that I can’t seem to make myself stop writing...which is what led to me being able to quit my job and start working as a writer. Which is why I find myself coming full circle to the idea of going to an MFA program. And now I'm having to actually do the rational thought around it, like do I even have a chance of getting in? And what can I do to improve my chances? Should I hire an MFA coach? Which programs do I want to apply to? AM I GOOD ENOUGH?!?!?
First, here's all the reasons I probably shouldn't apply for an MFA:
1. Insecurity. I get sucked into anything that will give me "authority" or act like a stamp of approval on my body / life / writing / career, etc. And an MFA feels like the ultimate stamp of approval. I keep convincing myself that if I have one, I'll feel like a real writer...which I suspect will not be the case.
(this reminds me of one of my favorite spiritual teachers, who says "Just cut out the middleman." Like, "if you think you need to lose weight to be happy, just cut out the middleman and get happy.")
2. Excuses. I can imagine that I will use attending an MFA program (or even applying to an MFA program) as an excuse for why I'm not writing more. It'll be, "when I graduate, then I'll work on my book." The reality is that I could just work on my book now (like right now, I could literally stop writing this blog post and go work on my book).
3. Moving. Andrew and I are both settled in Portland. We own a house (plus a few rentals which we're very involved with), our childhood friends are here, our families are here. Moving sounds like a grand adventure but also like a big life shake-up and I'm not sure that would help us in the long run.
Most importantly, I just finally got the courage to buy West Elm furniture (maybe a tad bit used, but still West Elm)...
4. Self-bullshit. I may or may not be using applying to an MFA program to explain to myself why I'm not just having kids already instead of facing my inner bullshit.
And here's all the reasons I think I should apply for an MFA:
1. Closure. Like I said above, It feels like coming full circle. The person I was at eighteen when I trotted off to the east coast to become a famous playwright was obsessed with external validation, lost, lonely, and chasing a "dream" that had no grounding in reality. Ten years later and I work full-time as a writer, write 10+ hours a week and am about to finish my first full-length manuscript. It feels like applying for an MFA will be a sign of how seriously I take my writing.
2. Potential of extreme failure. Have you read that chilling statistic that it’s harder to get into an MFA program than the top law school or medical school? How will it feel if I apply to 10 schools and get rejected by 10 schools (which is pretty likely)? How will I deal with coming face to face with the you're-not-good-enough monster? This idea keeps calling to me. I think some failure would be good for me. I tend to avoid it by working on projects in isolation or taking on challenges that don't feel that challenging. And that’s so destructive in its own way
3. A grand adventure. Like I said above, we've been in Portland for a while. We still go on dates at the bar where we went on our first date! Our families are here. We grew up here. I always imagined that before I really settled down, I would try one brand-new place. A totally fresh city that I'd never lived in before.
4. A community of writers. This is maybe the biggest motivation for applying to an MFA. In college, I was part of a writing group who became my close friends. They meant the world to me and were a big part of how I survived college. To be able to talk deeply about writing with other people who take writing seriously...it was magical and I want more of that in my life.
4. The kids thing. Whenever I think about having kids, I think about the fact that I haven't gotten my MFA yet and that I don't feel like I've given my writing a real chance (time + resources = real chance).
4. Hey, I'm just applying...this is what I keep telling myself. It's also what I tell myself when I apply for a new job or make an offer on a new house, and then totally freak out when I get accepted for either.
So, my plan is to apply.
The rest is unclear to me. Do I need to take the GRE? Do I have the right writing sample? Who will provide letter of references? Am I too white and straight and kind-of-with-a-suburban-haircut to even get in?
We shall see.