I've been thinking lately about all the questions and answers we have on the blog. What I like about this forum is that it gives people a chance to share their experiences and concerns, and that we all don't feel like we're out on a limb alone.
That said, David Roderick and I were talking on the phone last night, and we were sort of joking around about how a lot of my answers on the blog simply state the obvious. And that some of the questions are about such slight details that I fear that sometimes readers and visitors might be missing the larger points of the MFA application process. (Which I'll get to in a moment).
If you visit here often, you can probably think of some examples, but I'll skip on listing some of my own. The whole point of the blog and book is to take away anxiety, and I'm fearing that somehow I'm enabling people's worries by addressing all of these smaller points.
As an aside, I was driving in San Francisco this weekend with Stephen Elliott. We were listening to an NPR show where an author was offering advice about how to avoid lending money when you don't have any money. That seemed to be the point of the book: If you don't have money, then you shouldn't be lending it to your friends, especially the friends who are not going to pay you back.
Steve was like, "Why do you need a book to tell you that? How many pages could that possibly take up? It's like, if you don't have money, don't lend it out. If your friends don't pay you back, don't lend them anymore money. That's like a pamphlet."
It got me to wondering about the MFA Handbook, and maybe how that probably could've been a pamphlet too.
In any case, my main point: Don't get caught up in the MFA noise. I mean: the noise in your head, the noise on this blog, the noise from other people. Don't outsmart yourself through this process, and above all, don't spend time worrying over small things, or things that you have no control over.
Do check out our Tip Sheet. And if I were to write a pamphlet on the MFA process I'd simply say...
- Send your best work.
- There's no ifs, ands, or buts about that. Send your best work and quit worrying about it.
- Apply to as many programs as you possibly can.
- If funding is important to you, make that a priority in your program selections.
- I said a priority, not the only priority.
- Have someone read your work and personal statement before you send them.
- In your personal statement, explain what you'll do with your time in the program. Come across as friendly and focused.
- Choose recommenders that you can count on.
- Take the GRE. It expands your program choices.
- Read a lot. Write a lot. Get feedback on your writing. Repeat.
Cut out the rest of the noise if you can.