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Lessons in Lasagna For MFA Applicants

Tis the season for hearing back from M.F.A programs. Not only are people hearing back about fall but they are still applying to  workshops and fellowships for Summer.

The next few weeks will determine where cohorts of people land, where people move, what they will pack, where they will live. Anywhere from the next few months to the next three years are being decided in these moments.

I know it seems silly to give a lasagna recipe in the midst of all the decision making, chaos and motion so I won’t. To quote Lil’ Wayne “real G’s move in silence like lasagna”.  

Granted this is not the best line in music, in my opinion it’s not even the best line that Wayne has said. The point is that there is a value to silence, and keeping some things close to the vest. There is value in not letting excessive opinions, and agendas into the process of how you live the next months and years of your life. It should go without saying that those closest to us can have valuable feedback and advice as we embark on pursuing our education, and passions in writing. There is a huge chasm of difference between a few trusted voices and the opening the floodgates.

Last year around this time, give or take a couple months, I made the grand announcement that I was accepted into New England College. I was excited and happy about my next steps in my formal education as a writer. When the funding was not as much as I needed to attend, not only did I have to deal with that blow I had to do so in the flurry of questions, comments, and concerns from social media followers, from acquaintances, from that one person I did that writers group with a few years ago. It was a headache. A large part of that headache was me deciding to jump back on the bandwagon and apply again the following cycle, not because I wanted to but because I wanted to save face and prove myself and say I could get in and I could get funding. Honestly at that point it was more about my cracked up pride than the my education. It was more about my life plan not working the way I came so close to it working as I crept up on 30 and I wanted so badly to get it back into some semblance of control.  None of these wants are or were a bad thing but none of them are what an M.F.A program is made for. I ultimately decided to sit this cycle out of applying and work on myself and my writing in other ways.

I still make my share of lasagna, even as someone who is not an applicant for a program, I have learned and relearned the lesson of not letting to many people in on your plans. It may seem like a no brainer but everyone who is around you isn’t for you and everyone who follows your facebook or instagram isn’t a supporter. Be careful how much of your hopes and dreams, and good ideas you let spill forth in view of people whose agenda you don’t know. Trust me, this advice is not to introduce more paranoia into what can already be a stressful process but it is to create more awareness. Not everyone should be trusted with your biggest dreams, greatest ideas, and most cutting edge innovative plans. It is okay to be a bit selfish with your intellectual property.

Speaking of intellectual property, stop putting your newest best work on your blogs. You tie your own hands on many of the publications that will take a look at it. I don’t want anyone to see a very similar plot or poem winning a chapbook prize or being published and lauded over. PROTECT yourself. As writers, and artists and creators of every kind we tend to be too giving with information, and ideas. Even at the graduate school level there is still an aspect of business that comes with writing and creating.

I digress only to tell you that this chaotic yet exciting and hopeful time in your life is a moment unlike any other and having strong boundaries that still allow the flexibility for creativity and collaboration is a lot like making a perfect lasagna, it takes practice, but the results are delicious.

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