As I review document after document in my final – paperwork – semester of my MFA, I’ve been thinking back on all that it took to get here to this final stretch towards graduation.
March 4th. Yesterday’s date happens to be my sister’s birthday but it is also a message, as I learned on Facebook (the oracle of our times) when someone pointed out that it is the only day of the year that gives you direction: march forth. That sort of sums up how I feel at the moment, that I’m in a “chop wood, carry water” phase of just keeping it all moving forward. March forth.
Semester Four. Wow. How did that happen? Feels like just yesterday I was waiting patiently for my applications to be processed and find out where I might be accepted. And here it is, my last semester of courses. One of the things that drew me to Stony Brook is that they encourage everyone to take classes outside of their comfort zone. This seemed important going into the process and now, as I am nearing the end, I am absolutely convinced that this structure has made me a more rounded writer, critic and thinker.
So far, this winter break has not been very productive for me in terms of my writing. After spending most of my fall commuting between Southampton and Brooklyn, I’ve found myself mostly playing catch up on errands and getting back into the swing of being home full-time. And that’s okay. Time for sleep and recharging my batteries was just what I needed.
As I prepare to register for my last semester of classes, I’ve been thinking a great deal about my future and how it might look with an MFA on my resume. Like many of you applying now for MFA programs, the fact that the degree allows us to teach was a major draw for me versus just trying to figure out the writing thing on my own. My main priority, however, has always been learning the art of creative writing with the invaluable opportunity to do so in a community of writers.
I am now well into the second year of my MFA at Stony Brook University and the question that seems to be most prevalent in my mind is “Why am I doing this?” For the most part, the answer wraps back to very positive notions such as “to become a better writer,” or “to acquire the basic skills required to teach writing,” or, perhaps the most important, “to integrate into a community of writers and like-minded artists.” All of these are good answers.
And so it begins – Year Two of my MFA – with homework piled sky-high. I’ve been describing it to people like this: Year One was like learning how to plan a fabulous, fun-filled, memorable vacation. Year Two appears to be more like learning how to build your own airplane. From scratch. With your bare hands. As I write this (and yes, procrastinate on homework for a while) I am thinking about all of the assignments due before my next class meetings. The list looks something like this: