6 First Year Lessons

The second year is in full swing. Tonight is my first literature class and this past Monday I had my first meeting for my fiction workshop.  This will probably be the only week the entire semester when there is no real work.  I take that back.  There is always real work: writewritewrite.

 As promised, here are some lessons learned from my first year:

1.      I learned to bug people. Professors. Second year students. Especially second year students.  I learned to bug them and ask them for things like coffee dates and the low- down on professors. I learned quickly that many students were eager to share their experiences.


2.      New skills, new story.  I learned to let go of the old.  Sometimes you can only take a story so far. I hung on to one particular story, white knuckled, for way too long. It sucked me dry of creativity. I learned to let it go and move on to something fresh.


3.      I learned to create my own mini program within the larger program. Meaning this: I listened closely to my professors’ specific advice for me. One professor suggested I read a story by a certain author and so I read every book he wrote. Another professor suggested I dip deep into my autobiographical tank of memories and so, painfully, I held my nose and tried.


4.      Drinking wine before class with friends is okay if limited to one glass.  Not three. Never three. After one of our pre-class “meetings” my friend Lisa’s class accused her of being uncharacteristically talkative and hyper. “I ate a lot of Skittles,” she told them.


5.      To focus on the work, not publication.  It’s hard not to compete in the race. My mentor says: “Publication comes when the work is ready.  You don’t want to be published too early when the work isn’t ready because then it will be out there and it will always be associated with you.”


6.      To take risks. Always. In writing and in life.



Quote of the Day:


“I like pushing the form, over-reaching, going a little too far, just on the edge, sometimes getting your fingers burned.  It’s good to do that.” –Gay Talese





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0 thoughts on “6 First Year Lessons

  1. E

    As an emerging filmmaker exploring all aspects of the field, I completely identify with your advice on taking creative risks. Sometimes the most difficult being to have faith in is one’s self…. but you’ve got to if you want to grow artistically and professionally.

  2. MFAwannabe

    Right on with the bugging people thing–I wish I learned that earlier in life! Advocating for yourself is one of the most important things you can learn. Looking forward to reading more of the MFA Confidential blog!

  3. Nikole Hahn

    When I was sixteen, I was impatient to get published. My focus was on publication and not the work. My lack of experience in life made my work naive and shallow. At 35, I have alot of both pleasant and unpleasant experiences under my belt. My work has more depth and I write with purpose. My focus is not so much on getting published, but on getting my work out there whether I get paid for it or not. A story is useless if no one reads it.