First year contributor
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Week Five: Return to Zero

Image: Aikawa Ke

I wish I could tell you my feelings of insecurity and worry have gone away. That I’ve come to learn that I not only belong here, but was accepted to Stony Brook Southampton. While the notion of belonging is getting better now that I’ve made a few friends, I still have trouble accepting my acceptance.

For me, being in an MFA program feels like going to the gym.  I am convinced everyone is looking at me – judging how much I lift, wondering why I don’t increase the resistance on the treadmill, snickering at my Old Navy compression pants. But no one is actually looking at me.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve finally gotten into a routine. I write two hours a day, every day. Thursdays are for homework. I go grocery shopping on Saturday morning, and cook on Sundays.  Evenings are for reading. Last week, the routine went to shit.

A requirement of the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton is the Intro to Graduate Writing Course. If you asked me about it after my first two weeks in the program, I would have certainly given you an eye roll and a sigh. But today, I can tell you the class can be life-changing.

In previous years, the Into class was taught by the same two faculty members. This year, they’ve revamped the course and allow a different faculty member to teach the course each week. You get to sample almost every instructor the program has to offer. And, two weeks ago, I met WAL.

WAL is a memoirist. When she taught our class, I felt an instant connection. In her office, a week later, I wept like a child as I came clean about my insecurities and how I felt paralyzed by doubt. I told her I had the beginning of a story, but could not seem to put anything on paper. Then, she gave me an assignment. I was to write about an important day in my life, and give it back to her in one week. After I turned it in, she gave me feedback, and a two week deadline for more work.

The assignment consumed me. Words came so easily that I thought I could fall asleep and my fingers would continue to type. I couldn’t contain the excitement. The story was new. Sentences had not been recycled or repurposed. I didn’t know the ending and still don’t.


The featured image of this post is called “return to zero”. It is the truth. No matter where you are, who you’ve become, what story you write – you can always return to a blank page, and begin again. And it’s really fucking awesome.

Wednesdays are for returning to zero.



  1. Anonymous says

    I have finally learned in my in my old age (lol); that you can always begin again and go on in a positive manner in your life. Sometimes I do it better than others. You are a very talented woman and you have a gift. Keep writing Lauren. Please don’t be so hard on yourself.


    • Lauren J Sharkey says

      Thank you, anonymous commenter! I so appreciate your kindness, support, and faith. 🙂


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