Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Does anyone have an OPINION/s on the personal statement?

Angelle solicited opinions:

Sorry if this has been answered before but...

In your opinion, do you think that the personal statement should be more of a letter (like closer to, say, a cover letter you'd write to a company, but obviously about yourself and writing and goals) or more of a narrative/college-type essay (where it's almost a little creative non-fic/slice-of-life format)?


My opinion is that the personal statement should be a combination of both. This is only my opinion. Does anyone else have any strongly-held notions regarding Angelle's question? Please do chime in and let readers know.

16 comments:

M. Ramirez Talusan said...

i don't think there's any one way to write a personal statement. the only rule i can think of is to avoid the obvious "i've wanted to be a writer since i was four" cliches. some are formal, some are informal. some are cover-letter like, some are journalism-like. i think it depends on the writer's level of comfort in terms of different modes of writing. i remember tom posting his and it was way more informal than i would feel comfortable writing.

Lizzy said...

Here's an observation from another setting that might hold for the question at hand here:

In the first-year writing class I teach now, most of my students get mired in the "absolutes" that they think I am requiring of them. Where I try to set up their assignments with maximum room for creativity, most of my students do not seem to feel comfortable in that mode. They get bogged down by minutiae like word count or paper length. They tell me they don't want to be penalized for turning in a paper that is twenty words too short. They've been trained to write papers under a traditional set of guidelines, and giving them the freedom to really "blow my mind" (by bringing their unique perspective into their work) seems to make them more uncomfortable than anything. They pass by a golden opportunity to really stand out by taking risks or playing with form or whatever, in favor of the safety of rules. Much as I try to explain that the rules are not hard and fast--and do they really think I am going to sit there and count every last word of their papers?--they insist on having me review the letter of the law over and over again.

I hope that is helpful :o)

McAllister said...

Anyone have a link to Tom's personal statement? I've written a rough draft of my statement and it's pretty informal. A lot of people say don't worry about being creative in your statement but mine is fairly creative. I'd like to see Tom's and see if I'm a little too out there.

Lizzy said...

http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/2005/12/my-personal-statement.html

It's Tom's statement to the Stegner people.

Vince said...

Who are the Stegner people?

Lizzy said...

The Stegner Fellowship admissions committee?

Lizzy said...

OR selection committee... Sheesh. Anyway. Check out the link. I found it helpful.

K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K said...

Your personal statement should offer the committee insight to the kind of writer you are. What is your metier? Your creative philosophy? What kinds of forms, themes and characters motivate your work?

Which writers do you read and admire (or dislike)? The committee does, after all, expect you to read other writers. My students often find that idea surprising ... but as a legitimate applicant to an MFA program you, of course, do not. :)

I think it is possible to convey this information with some slice-of-life creativity that helps the readers hear your literary voice. But a typical 'college-type essay' is probably too juvenile, too cheap an idea of what will reach your reader. Whatever approach you take, be sincere, even as you are being sly. Nobody wants to be the subject of a cheap trick, the flaw of many such essays. Good luck!

Noor Mayal said...

Just wanted to say that I found this discussion pretty helpful. Seeing Tom's essay helped too because I was under the strange impression that I'd have to extraordinarily creative. It's good to know that I can simply be direct as well.

Laura said...

i am sad that to a creative writing mfa you have to be formal at all. it seems silly and i just want to write and not capitalize things is that bad or good or relative to who reads it?

Joe said...

Laura,

If it's at the sake of clarity to your audience, then yes, it's bad.

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Edward Dowdell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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