Lessons in Community, Rejection, and Doggedness: What I’m Actually Learning in an MFA Writing Program Now That I’ve Finally Gotten Around to It

On becoming a writer and a better person: “Life can have a way of catapulting us great distances only to bring us back home, bedraggled and, hopefully humbled and ready to be our true selves.”

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

A guest post from Samantha Claire Updegrave:

Samantha Updegrave Samantha Claire Updegrave and one of her blessed distractions

I’ve been chewing on Ryan Boudinot’s essay “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One” that ran in my (Seattle’s) local weekly, The Stranger, at the end of last month. Perhaps especially so, since I wonder (worry?) he’s trashing people like me: a late-blooming writer in her late thirties who struggles with imposter syndrome and is pursuing a low-residency MFA anyway, works an extracting full-time office day job, and is raising a five-year-old who requires health insurance, time and attention, and regular feedings.

But I’m in a split camp.

Boudinot’s piece is funny, in the way satire is funny; I get the tongue-in-cheek humor. There are points where I agree – talent is a real thing, you must actually write, writers need to be…

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The Art of Being Still – NYTimes.com

The No. 1 question I get at readings is: “How many hours a day do you write?” I used to stumble on this question. I don’t write every day, but when I first started going on book tours I was afraid I’d be revealed as a true fraud if I admitted that. Sometimes I write for 20 minutes. Other times I don’t stop writing for six hours, falling over at the end like an emotional, wrung-out mess, simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated. Sometimes I go months without putting a word on the page.

One night, however, I was asked that question and the right answer just popped out, unknown to me before it found solidity on the air: “I write every waking minute,” I said. I meant, of course, that I am always writing in my head.

via The Art of Being Still – NYTimes.com.

Special thanks to Jessie van Eerden, Director of the Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at West Virginia Wesleyan College, for sharing this essay with incoming students.