Writing Song of the Day: “Lesson Learned” by Ray LaMontagne
Sorry we’ve been MIA this past week again. You see, Quita and I just “graduated” with our MFAs in creative writing. So why “graduate” and not graduate? Because even though we presented our theses and marched across the stage, we still have to defend our theses to a panel. Yikes. And that’s an understatement.
There’s been a lot of buzz lately over whether or not an MFA is really worth it. My lovely agent, Sarah LaPolla, recently wrote an awesome blog post
that gives other suggestions in case you’re not willing to shell out the dough for an MFA degree. Hmm, where was this list 2 years ago? But I digress…
Quita and I have been through so much with this program, but we wanted to narrow it down to the TOP 5 THINGS WE’VE LEARNED THROUGH MFA-DOM:
THING #1: RED INK IS YOUR FRIEND
This program truly, TRULY taught us the importance of revision. As an undergraduate, my idea of revising was to change a verb to an action verb (“He STRODE to the door” is much better than “He walked to the door”). But I have to admit, submitting the first few chapters of Wants to my modules probably helped me nab my agent. I understood why it worked better in 1st person POV, and why the voices needed to be more distinctive.
THING #2: NOBODY’S OUT TO GET ME
There’s an inside gag between Quita, Racquel
, and me involving the movie, Karate Kid
. It’s all based on a critique I received from one of my classmates. At the time, I was highly insulted, but once I allowed his feedback to marinate, I understood what he meant: avoid cliches. There’s no point of getting defensive during a group critique. Everyone’s in the program to become better writers, not to bash your creative mojo.
THING #3: ENOUGH WITH THE EXCUSES!
At first, Quita and I thought we were SO misunderstood because only a handful of our classmates wrote YA. “They just don’t get it,” we’d cry out to each other, wiping our tears with Five Guys fries. But you know what? Good writing is good writing–it doesn’t matter if you’re writing a coming of age story, or about a 77-year-old widower reentering the dating scene. We were there to improve our craft. Period.
THING #4: PICK UP SOMETHING DIFFERENT FROM THE BOOKSHELVES
I’ve read a few books during the MFA program that I would have NEVER read on my own. Some of them I ended up loving, others I wanted to hurl out of a window. Overall, I loved the challenge. I’ve been reading so much YA lately, which I love–but I also enjoy trying new things. This is a habit I’ll be sure to continue.
THING #5: LOOK…PEOPLE!
We’ve all heard that writing is solitary work, so I wasn’t expecting to actually make friends with anyone in the program (plus, I had Quita. I guess
she’s my friend even though we’re related). But I actually got a bit weepy on graduation night knowing it would be the last time I may actually see some of my classmates. What I loved most about my 10-day residencies was just talking books and writing to people that loved them as much as I do. I did make some lifelong friends, too–including our lovely adopted sis, Racquel, who we started Black Fox Literary Magazine
So yeah. The money was totally worth it to us–not to mention we’d love to someday get the opportunity to teach writing to others, and the MFA degree can aid in that (of course, you also need a solid publication history, but that’s just logistics, darling).
Any of you in an MFA program or considering applying to one? What are you most looking forward to learn?