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Just Turn It In!

Categories: MFA Confidential Blog.

Like most writers I know, I can be sort of a perfectionist. I don’t like to turn in work for class until I’ve revised and revised until I can’t revise anymore. I’m fully aware that this is crazy: the whole point of turning in work is to get feedback and ideas; what you hand in is not supposed to be a final draft.

But something—whether it’s pride or anal retentiveness—prevents me from allowing myself to hand in a draft I’m not satisfied with, and I’ve found that the farther I go in my program, the worse my problem gets.

The reason it becomes a problem is that I fall behind on page count. I don’t turn in enough pages per week, not because I’m not writing, but because I don’t feel that what I’ve written is ready for the eyes of my professor and classmates quite yet. Last year, one of my teachers gave me a pretty simple piece of advice: at a certain point, you’ve just gotta turn in the work. And I did, sheepishly, the next week: forty pages I’d been hanging onto since the beginning of the semester.

That’s what I’m telling myself now, as I’m holding onto this full movement that I just can’t bring myself to turn in, even though it was due last week! (By the way, I’m not sure if “full movement” is a Columbia-specific term, so let me quickly define: it’s a piece seen from beginning to end—an entire story or a long sustained scene or chapter that can stand on its own).

Today I was hanging out with my mom and sister, both of whom are teachers, and I confessed to them that I hadn’t turned in my homework. My mom quickly morphed into sixth-grade teacher mode. She pointed at me and said sternly: “you better get that in. Otherwise, he’s not gonna take it, and you know what? I don’t blame him!”

So I’m going to just bite the bullet, turn it in, and hope for the best. There’s no one who can kick your butt into reality quite like Mom can.

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  3. Claire says:

    All over the blogosphere, I hear about writers who queried way before they were ready. And I wonder how that is even possible. Because, me? I’d never hand in something that important un-re-re-re-re-re-revised.

    I’m actually at the point where I worry I might never submit.

    Good to know it isn’t just me who has a problem handing it over.

  4. I am a master at changing "happy" to "glad." Then I wonder why I haven’t gotten to the dirty dishes or the laundry or my exercise routine!

  5. J-A Brocke says:

    I agree with Kristan – it’s usually better than you think. We tend to focus on the shortcomings in our writing and forget the good parts!

  6. Kristan says:

    Another reason just to turn it in: it’s almost always better than you think. ;)

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