Saturday, February 23, 2008

MFA Blog Addictions...

From our reader Lucy. Thanks!

--------------------

The Nature of Addiction
By Lucy (Hey, we don’t have to share our last names here, right?)

There’s a fellow in my writers’ group who has written a memoir about his thirty-year addiction to crack cocaine. Our group of fiction writers has regarded this “real life character” with fascination, and our discussions of his saga have often spilled into our social gatherings at Applebee’s. Last Monday, over baskets of deep-fried grease, we mused about the nature of addiction—how people become addicts, how they act under the influence, how they respond when deprived of their substance of choice. I had a stunning realization.

My name is Lucy, and I am addicted to MFA blogs. Seriously. I just checked three of them for the fifth time this morning. It started innocently enough. I read Tom Kealey’s MFA Handbook last fall, and some time in mid January, after all eight of my applications had been filed at their distinguished destinations (not a form, transcript or rec was missing—believe me, I checked), I remembered he had a blog. I never was really big on blogs, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to visit this one. Oh what a glorious initiation into the blogosphere! I felt like E.T., finally getting beamed back up to his cute-but-freaky alien buddies. There were hundreds of other writers out there, entrenched in the misery of waiting, just like me.

The man in my writers’ group curses the day he first laid eyes on a crack rock. I curse February first, the day I discovered two blogs that track application responses. I was immediately hooked. I actually think my pupils dilated. After memorizing the days that each of my schools issued their acceptances in years prior, I felt a surprising increase in dread and anxiety. That should have been an indicator that I had stumbled upon something that would have deleterious effects on my writing ability and my psyche. Instead I thought, “odd,” and commenced checking the blogs twice a day, just in case one of my programs started informing its chosen ones early.

That was three weeks ago. Now, I have a once-an-hour rule for checking the blogs, which I break incessantly. I know immediately if there’s been a new entry by the number of posts listed at the top of the screen. Every time there is one, even if it has nothing to do with the programs I’ve applied to, I read it greedily, ravenously. I actually feel the adrenaline squirting out of those triangular glands on the top of my kidneys. This is quickly and inevitably followed by a crash in my mood and an insatiable desire for more, more, more blog posts.

I’ve justified this behavior by telling myself I’m in control and that there are plenty of people out there who are much more obsessed than I am. After all, I don’t have a list of area codes taped to the back of my phone—yet. And there are worse things to which I could be addicted, not least of which is crack cocaine. Yesterday, when I left the dinner table for the computer, my husband sweetly suggested that it might be good for me to stop checking the blogs. He would’ve been better off trying to separate a she-bear and her cub.

My writer friend finally broke his addiction in the slammer, where he had no access to his beloved narcotic. Unfortunately for me, the Internet is everywhere. I’ve entertained thoughts of “getting away from it all” on an extended backpacking trip, but unfortunately I have a full time job. Of course that job requires me to sit in front of a computer connected to the Internet nine hours a day. If you are a recovered MFA blog junkie, please share your secrets. Then again, if you’re reading this, you’re probably as bad off as I am.

42 comments:

m said...

Lucy,

Thank you so much for writing this. I used to scoff at the idea of blogs; now, I am an addict all because of these MFA blogs, especially Seth Abramson's 2008 acceptances. I'm still trying to keep it a secret from everyone (that's a sure sign of addiction, no?), and I promised myself, at the very least, I wouldn't post a comment...

But alas, I falter.

I'm in desperate need of help (preferably in the form of an acceptance letter, phone call, or e-mail). Knowing that others are going through the same thing does help me (and my team of therapists) figure out why I feel so crazy right now.

Thanks again. I'll see you in recovery when this is all over.

-Mike

Speak Coffee said...

I started reading this entry and was in love with its lighthearted tone. But when I got down to the reference of taping a list of area codes to the back of the phone my firs thought was "oh! what a great idea!" and I knew I was in trouble.

My own blog stalking habits were the topic of own of my own recent blog posts: "Waiting, Watching, Stalking" http://speakcoffeetome.blogspot.com/2008/02/waiting-watching-stalking.html

Hello, my name is SpeakCoffee and I, too, have a problem.

Samara said...

um, yeah. A few weeks ago everyone at my job had to sign something saying we wouldn't use the computer for non-work purposes. Yet here I am, on a busy Saturday afternoon, desperate for my fix.

spillingink said...

I was MFA blog-less for a whole week because I was in Las Vegas and hotel room internet was 12.99/24 hours (which was way too much)...

So anyway, yesterday upon entering the airport (to leave Vegas) I noticed that internet was free. I immediately went to the "acceptances" section of this blog and started to have a panic attack in the airport. I called my mother crying and she replied: "I hate that f***ing MFA blog." Would I be in a better mental place right now if I didn't know about all the acceptances that are going out to people (not me)?

This site was my saviour in the whole application process--but I really think that I need to stop stalking it now. I just don't know if I can. Now that I am back in the real world (away from slot machines and expensive wi-fi) I cannot find a reason to not blog-stalk every few minutes. (Especially since I have still not heard a peep about any of my 10 applications.) Help!

chelbeerocks said...

Lucy,

Your post made me laugh. I, too, have become addicted to these blogs. Just this morning my boyfriend said, "I'm glad you don't have a blackberry anymore because you'd probably be checking the MFA blogs even more than you do now...".

I saw someone wrote on here, the last step is acceptance. Let's hope that applies to us!

Samara said...

Spillingink--
It's still early! I'm sure you'll start hearing soon!

Tine said...

This has been a long month.

Margosita said...

Tine, how right you are.
Lucy, great post and also dead-on.

KSY979 said...

lucy, thank you for this post. i thought i was the only one. maybe we could all share ways to distract ourselves? writing exercises, mantras, prescription drugs, etc.

Andrew said...

I would challenge that the typical MFA Blog Web site with its Application Response section gets more repeat visits per day on average than any other type of site. (Not including pornography, I guess.) My existence has been limited to three mediums: My computer, my cell phone and my mailbox. Every time my phone rings, I take that necessary deep breath before answering. ("Oh. Hi, Mom.") I check the GMAIL every other second. (E-mails from Mom, unfailingly.) And finally, the mail. At least with the mail I'm only disappointed 6 times a week. Sure beats 6 times before noon every day.

We'll get through this.

Lucy said...

I just got my second official rejection. Paranoia has set in. My vision has gone catywampus. I'm hearing voices, and they sound a lot like those mean boys from my 7th grade lunch table. Wait, no. I think they're singing. What's that I hear? "Killing me softly..."? AHHHHH!

(The preceding excerpt from my brain was dramatized for effect. Really, I'm happy for all the camraderie, and I'm doing my best to cope).

Lucy

KSY979 said...

lucy, if you don't mind me asking, where was the rejection from?

Lucy said...

Based on a tip from Seth's blog, I checked my status on the University of Wisconsin website. Alas, it said "Refusal."

KSY979 said...

Refusal? Ugh, that's harsh. Don't they know how sensitive we writers are? C'mon!

I wish you only positive responses from the rest of your schools.

Noah said...

yep, lucy... two down for me, also (officially, but UMass doesn't look too good, either). i'm right with you: refused by Wisc this morning.

gulp... 9 left... it only takes one, right?

lis said...

Having gone through all this hullabaloo last year, you would think a girl could learn from the agony of checking the boards. Alas, no. And on a day of rare form when I thought I could quit, cold turkey, wash my hands of you, evil MFA boards that give me nothing but conjecture and excruciating eyeball pain, a former teacher of mine emails the link to seth's blog to me and says, "I don't know if you saw this, but it might keep you up to date!"

There should be a 12 step for this. With a pamphlet for friends and family.

Mare said...

hi all!

lis-- a professor of mine also turned me on to all the MFA gossip and tracking going on on the web. I definitely lived to rue the day!
Thankfully he didn't tell me about taping area codes to the phone.

Having been through all this last year, all I can say is 1.) It's getting pretty close to being over (as you surely know, since you've memorized the timeline of all this and 2.) Congratulations on getting your work out there!

Someone will love it back! Now, if more than *one* someone loves it back, that's when it gets *really* bad...

lis said...

Mare--

Good to know others are in the same boat! Luckily I'm only applying in one area code, so there will be no taping of anything to the back of my phone. I do jump everytime someone calls me from work or a cellphone not already in my contacts, though.

And thanks for being so positive; it's very important! I myself have picked up Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, because all this MFA stuff has been really making it difficult to write (I mean, since I *started* applying, like, a year and a half ago), and it's the first book that's helped me separate what I guess she would call "monkey mind" from the actual writing process. I know it's like, the old standby book on creative freedom and all that, but it's taken a LOAD of the pressure off by helping me see long-term instead of just what happens to my mailbox in March.

Samara said...

Hey, this is off topic, but just to get our minds off the suspense, I thought I'd ask if anyone was reading anything good. I just started "One Good Turn" by Kate Atkinson (a follow up to "Case Histories," which I liked) and have been reading a Richard Yates story collection my brother-in-law gave me. His story "Fun with a Stranger" blew me away. What else are people doing for fun these days?

KSY979 said...

oh good, samara! i've been trying to get a thread like this started for a while.

i'm about to start alicia erian's towelhead. has anyone heard anything about it?

KSY979 said...

side note: alicia erian was rejected by mfa program after mfa program.

Samara said...

No-I haven't heard of her! What is it about?

You know, it seems like one of the most important reasons people go to MFA programs is to be part of a community of writers--and nothing is more fun than writers talking about writers we love.

Lucy said...

What am I doing for fun these days? Hmmm. What is this word you speak of... "fun"?

Just kidding. Obviously, I have to do fun things in order to keep from having a total nervous breakdown. They include:
- Eating Girl Scout Cookies, especially Caramel Delights.
- Experimenting with oil paints (I'm a watercolorist).
- Learning how to cook delicious vegetarian meals.
- Playing ultimate frisby.
- Kicking my husband's butt in Scrabble.
- Tracking democratic primary results.
- Writing (Yes, I've managed to continue writing, and yes, I still enjoy it).

spillingink said...

KSY979:
I have "Towelhead" but I haven't read it yet...it's in my stack of to-read-next. I discovered Erian when I was reading "The Worst Years of Your Life" (a collection of short stories by Mark Jude Poirier). One of her stories ("Alcatraz") is in there--it was great--so I decided to look for more of her work. Let us know what you think of it!

I am currently reading "Lolita." I must confess that this is my first time to read it. It is funny how there are some classics that you can just miss somehow. What are all of your thoughts on Lolita? I think it is lovely, but I am hating myself for feeling sympathy for the ever-so-twisted Humbert Humbert.

KSY979 said...

I totally agree with you, Samara. And the community has been so helpful during this whole process. When I'm not torturing myself searching for others' acceptances, I take comfort in the fact that others are going through the same thing. It's like a rite of passage.

Anyway, Towelhead is about a 13 year old girl whose Irish mother sends her to live with her Lebanese father in Texas. Alan Ball adapted it into a movie coming out this year.

My friend has been pushing me to read Erian's short stories for some time, but I think I need a good, engaging novel right now. I haven't really been able to get into anything since I read Coatzee's Slow Man a few months ago.

KSY979 said...

Don't feel bad, spill, I, um, haven't read Lolita either. I bet some lurking professor will figure out who I am and make sure I receive a rejection. Crap.

As far as other distractions, I recommend the following for a guaranteed night of fun: a bottle of wine, an empty house, a playlist of diva power ballads (aretha, whitney, etc.), and a wooden spoon (as your microphone, of course). Hours of fun, my friends. Hours of fun.

Samara said...

I second the vegetarian cooking--I recommend anything by Deborah Madison. I've been on a mushroom crepe kick. Yep. Cooking with a big glass of red wine and some old school R.E.M. or some good jazz is my perfect night. And letting my husband clean up.

Elizabeth said...

Hey all,
I've been testing out yoga to try and work with the waiting-period stress (and because I'd like to be able to touch my toes). I've gotten no official responses yet, but have sufficiently freaked myself out by looking at the blogs that I'll be rejected from all 12 schools and will have noplace to go. And I'm so glad to hear that I'm not the only one who is finding it hard as Hades to write right now. For reading material I suggest Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth." It's not earthshattering fiction but I found it really nice to have something I didn't have to think too hard about right now. Oh please, let at least one phone call come.

Lucy said...

Maybe reading books with writer protagonists would be helpful. Two suggestions:
- The World According to Garp by John Irving (one of my all-time favorites)
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (what I'm currently reading)

Toby said...

Can we maybe get a new mailbag, please? I'm sure that a lot of us have questions related to deciding on schools, coping with rejection, etc.

Thanks.

Samara said...

Elizabeth--I've been reading The Thornbirds for escapism. I started The Pillars of the Earth but had trouble getting into it.

KSY979 said...

Sorry if I post this twice--having some problems with the internet.

Towelhead is turning out to be a great, albeit extremely disturbing, read. I can't put it down.

I have been looking at my own stories in the harshest of lights lately, and I thought the last thing I'd want to do is read others' (superior) work. But reading is proving to be a salve for my wounded ego. When I am inspired by literature, I remember the real reason why I'm doing all of this, and it has nothing to do with an arbitrary measurement of how good my writing is.

That doesn't mean I'm not in a panic that I haven't received calls from Brooklyn or Iowa, but, you know, it's a start.

Samara said...

ksy979--
I feel the same way. I'm not reading anything by anyone in the programs I haven't heard from yet, just out of superstition. When I was applying, I couldn't read my recommenders' work--it was painfully good. But when I'm able to set aside my own insecurities and just enjoy good writing, it serves to inspire me and remind me how much a part of me this whole writing thing is.

Mumkin said...

Samara,

I love The Thorn Birds! Hope you're enjoying it. Maybe I should dig out my old copy to take my mind off the waiting game, too.

Samara said...

Mumkin--
Yeah, The Thorn Birds is pretty good so far. I'm still at the beginning. Sometimes you just need a juicy epic novel. My mom always tells me to read Clan of the Cave Bear but I haven't yet.

Vince said...

Writers, like all human beings (especially creative ones) can be eccentric.

Speak Coffee said...

I'm (re)reading Pam Huston's collection, Cowboys Are My Weakness it a really fabulous collection of short stories. And I'm working through The List by Tara Ison (novel).

Colleen said...

If anyone has a blog addiction, rather than going to the blog every 3 minutes, enter the blog address and then your email at http://rssfwd.com - it'll automatically email you new postings. very helpful if you prefer email to feedreaders, which I do.

Sarah said...

My name is Sarah, and I am new to this world. thegradcafe.com was my gateway drug, introduced to me last week by a friend waiting to hear from English PhD s. Just say no, just say no, I whispered over and over. But I was too enticed. I gave myself over to it and then quickly moved on from there to Seth Abramson's blog, which has given me many reasons to give up and start looking for a nannying job for the fall. Now I am here, typing this pathetic posting while I watch the clock clicking toward 2:15, when the mail comes. I have never been so miserable.

camilynn said...

Hi,

You have a nice blog. I'm always interested in gathering details on panic attacks and stumbled upon this http://panicfreeme.com. It seems to be a good website with important details on panic attacks.

gaohui said...

Warm dog clothing Abercrombie Polos is made in many different popular fabrics as well. You Abercrombie Polos can get sweaters which are made out of fleece, jackets ed hardy Hats made with micro fiber faux suede as well as knits and standard cotton blends. The Ed Hardy Sale best place to find all of these selections though is through the internet. When Ed Hardy Swimwear you go to the local pet store, if they have any selection at all, their Ed Hardy Swimwear prices can be expensive. The same also goes for specialty shops. However dog Ed Hardy Swimwear apparel on the internet are cheap and since they are even delivered to your front door, you get even more savings.

每当遇见你 said...

Here’s a list of tools you will need to start: Jewelers’ pandora jewellery wire cutters - If you can only afford one pair, get memory wire shears. pandora charms These are designed to make clean cuts on tough memory wire, so can also be used for pandora charms uk softer wires. Chain-nose pliers sometimes called cheap pandora charms needle-nose pliers – Very versatile for picking up and grasping small items, pandora charms sale bending eye pins, closing jumps rings, even closing crimp beads. discount pandora charms Round-nose pliers – Used for creating loops on beaded head and eye pins. Can also be used for winding your own jump rings and as the second pliers you’cheap pandora ll need for closing jump rings. Optional pliers – Wire-looping pliers which have several graduated circumferences to allow you to form perfectly uniform jump rings and loops in place of the pandora discount uk round-nose pliers mentioned above. Crimping pliers which have little notches to allow you to both flatten a crimp bead and then bend it to form a rounded finished look instead of the flat crimp you pandora uk get using the chain-nose pliers. As for materials, I recommend some assortment packs of beads in coordinating colors, some decorative metal spacers, seed beads in both silver and gold These can serve as spacers and beautifully set off pandora sale your other beads., tube-shaped crimp beads Buy the best you can find – these are what hold it all together!, head and eye pins. Other than that, let your choice of project be your guide. You might want some silver or pewter charms.