I am graduating in less than a month from my MFA program. I am awestruck that the two years are over. I’ve met so many lively characters and have been mentored in my writing. All I can say now is I will take what I need and leave the rest. What does that even mean? It means I integrated into my mental scripts some extra things: doubt about whether what I’m writing is realistic or will be well received. Things like that I will leave behind. Learning that my stories are worth telling, that I will take with me.
I have to say I am leaving my MFA program with a heavy suitcase full of positive life-affirming skills. I learned skills that go beyond writing; I learned skills that make me a better listener and a better person. I was hospitalized twice during my MFA years. I learned through those experiences I was determined to finish. I also learned I was a harder worker than I gave myself credit for. I showed up to hospital with all of my books and had read them all before I was released (and before their due dates).
I came into the program a poet. I came overflowing with poetry quotes. Yet, I only took one poetry class in my entire stay. During the course of my MFA, I began to write short stories and engage in fiction writing. However, in my last semester I began to secretly write a memoir. I signed up for a class at Gotham Writer’s Workshop while writing my thesis, taking an independent study, and taking a class on Ulysses. It may seem like a lot and it was. My commitment to writing came from this mental script that if I have to write 1,000 pages of garbage before I get to one page of pure gold, then I better start producing content.
I will greatly miss my classmates: the man who couldn’t read a book with less than four hundred pages as leisure reading, the man who equated every life experience to alchemy, the woman whose playwriting put you right on the stage with the characters, and the woman whose poems were gold nuggets masquerading as pennies. Yes, my MFA class was filled with characters. Our experiences together were so dramatic and profound, it was almost group therapy. We wrote the deeply personal as well as the absurd.
We handed in assignments just to hand in assignments sometimes. Sometimes we got so sick of MFA-ing we began to workshop life and classic literature. When someone blurted out something that fit them too well, we would say now does that sound realistic. Would your character really say that? Would the black character say something so stereotypical? Then we would dissolve into laughter knowing that life couldn’t be workshopped. I remember trying to workshop Latin American classic literature; famous authors who are considered geniuses and we would imitate our professors’ workshop voice and rip it to shreds for fun. In doing so, I learned what purposeful rule breaking is. I also learned consistency is absolutely necessary.
Moving forward, people have asked me what will I do with my useless degree. I wish I knew. I wish I could say I’m utterly prepared to teach a classroom full of undergraduates or that I have a book deal. I don’t know where to go from here. I have an internship in publishing and a part-time job tutoring English. However, wherever I end up I know getting my MFA was totally worth all the growing pains. I am a writer. Wherever I go, however spectacularly I fail, no matter how thick my Gmail folder gets with literary rejections, I will keep writing because for me there is no other choice.
Sarah Francois is a graduate of LIU Brooklyn Campus with an MFA in Cross-genre poetry and fiction. She resides in Brooklyn. She is committed to writing and feels that she was chosen to write and that for her there is no other choice. She has been published in poetic diversity, Visceral Brooklyn, Vagabond lit, Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn paramount.
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