2016, Archives, October 2016, The MFA Years

The Writer’s Life

Image: Bruce Guenter

All the writing books I have read say the same thing.Writing is a solitary activity. I’ve written a lot in the past and recognize that, yes, it can be a lonely way to go. However, when I entered the MFA program, I thought with it being an educational program, I would be able to connect with others and, maybe, take a few friends with me. Unfortunately, this was not the case. When attempting to connect with people in my group, I felt shunned. This only made my attitude bad, which affected my relationship with others. I had forgotten the main reason I had entered the program.

I have learned that sometimes making friends is not easily accessible and  when attending an academic program that requires aloneness and solitude to “get the job done,” it is sometimes impossible. In most MFA programs, I notice that they talk about a writing community. In my case, I have not found this to be true.  I have found the opposite. However, this isn’t a bad thing. If anything, it has helped me to refocus on my game plan.

Since my last residency, I have discovered that I do better work during our writing semesters when I am working alone with my mentor. I don’t need the camaraderie to get me going. If I need the support of other writers, I now sign up for classes and workshops through community writing agencies. For instance, I am currently enrolled in a course entitled, “Reading as a Writer: Flannery O’Connor” which is providing me with not only the support of learning more about writing styles, but it is also giving me a glimpse into the perfection of other writers who are trying to improve on their craft. In fact, the reason I decided to take this course was to stretch my abilities and begin to work with a new genre—Southern Gothic.

Human beings are pack animals. When alone for too long or when attempting to do something new, I need human beings to tell me I’m good and I can do whatever I set out to do. This insecurity seems to be prevalent among writers considering our work is not just finding the bolt for the screw, rather it is revealing and displaying our inner souls to the outer world. I want to know that I’m doing great and that everyone loves me through my writing. I am discovering this isn’t always true. Not everyone loves me nor will they approve of everything I write. In fact, with my rebellious nature, chances are there will only be a few people in this world who can find me tolerable!

When attending college, I have always said that my greatest learning was not in the classroom, but in the interactions I have had with myself as well as others in the world around me. The MFA program  brings these personal experiences closer in so that I am able to experience, reflect, and then apply solutions or new attitudes in my life. This is one thing I am grateful for. Yes, my writing has improved since attending the program, but I am also grateful for the personal growth I have experienced in this short time.

The writer’s life is abundant. Even though in this time of my life, I do better by living alone and at times, I get very lonely, if I only take the time to look deep within myself, I am able to find characters and places that cannot even be accessed in the real world. Writing is the tool, which provides me with fertile ground to create my life as well as digest it.   Even though at times, I do not wish to feel the discomfort of being on the out with others in my world, once the discomfort is ushered out of my life from waves of understanding and insight, I am grateful that I am alone.  It is this kind of experience that helps to grow my craft and to become more human.  I say, bring it on. I am ready!

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