MFA Confidential Blog

On Courage

“What “real artists” have is courage. Not enormous gobs of it. Just enough for today. Creativity, like breathing, always comes down to the question, “Are you doing it now?” The awful truth is that there is always some small creative act for which we can find the courage. If you can’t mail your manuscript...

Five for Friday: Just getting it down on the page

  “Don’t get it right, just get it written.”–James Thurber * “Whether or not you write well, write bravely.” –Bill Stout * “Don’t think of literary form. Let it get out as it wants to. Overtell it in the matter of detail—cutting comes later. The form will develop in the telling. Don’t make the...

Why Encouragement Matters

Yesterday, I picked up one of my short stories from my mailbox at school and a professor had written only this on it: You’re on your way. I didn’t know what it meant and I knew what it meant. It wasn’t specific, wasn’t especially useful feedback, but in the same sense, it was the...

Your True Self and Your Art

Recently, my husband and I watched a documentary film called Every Little Step. The film follows the lives of a few dancers, dancers who are auditioning for a part in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. It also weaves in commentary and testimonials from the original show, specifically exploring the late Michael Bennett’s...

On Imagining

“‘Writing a novel is gathering smoke,’ says Walter Mosley.  ‘It’s an excursion into the ether of ideas.’ Most people dismiss most of their imaginative life with amused indifference, and maybe even a little contempt. That is where you must part with most company.  Your fantasies are a resource, and the place where ideas are...

5 for Friday: Knowing when a Novel or Story is Finished

  I often struggle with knowing when a story is finished. Rarely am I completely confident that the line I’ve just written is the last one. It happens once in a while. You write a killer line and you just know it’s the story’s finale. But that doesn’t mean the story is done, finished…...

On Telling the Truth

    “Writing is the way I ground myself, what keeps me sane. Writing is the way I try and make sense of my life, try to find meaning in accident, reasons why what happens happens-even though I know that why is a distraction, and meaning you have to cobble together yourself. Sometimes just...

Writing is Revising

  One of my teachers always said that the revision process required an entirely different part of the brain. When it comes to revision, she said, you have to think more like a scientist, like a problem solver. I posted about “solving the puzzle” not too long ago… the idea that we sometimes have to...

On Words Flowing and Why It's Worth It

  “You begin by hard work and discipline, digging in the dirt until your fingers are bloody; and suddenly the characters find themselves. The setting is in place. The cellos have picked up the mood and are keeping the whole act together, while the background a low drum beats. Now you have only to...

On Making Wishes Come True

  “A choice at a time, we execute our lives, placing into them what matters to us. We buy houseplants because we hunger for green life. We Windex our windows, yearning for more light. We may write down “next time, a sunnier apartment.” We all have things we wish for more of, and we...

Quieting the Mind

    I’m so excited to get my hands on author Dani Shapiro’s upcoming memoir, Devotion, which is available next month. The memoir is about her “search for something to believe.” You can watch the book trailer on her website here. I remember reading Shapiro’s first beautifully written memoir, Slow Motion, years ago and...

5 for Friday: Writing Advice and Reflections on the Process

  Happy Friday, All. I found some great writing advice and writing reflections in The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction and thought I’d share it with all of you… Enjoy and happy writing! 1.       Edwidge Danticat on finishing… The biggest obstacle in terms of the writing itself is finding something that keeps you...

Can You Measure Good Writing?

I’ve struggled with the AM I GETTING WORSE complex as many of you know… I mean, you want to think you’re getting better. Don’t most writers look back at their earlier works and shake their heads with wonder at how much they’ve grown? You know, you do all the right things: You put in...

5 for Friday: Beginning Again

  As mentioned before, I am just jumping back into my writing schedule after a couple weeks off and I need all the inspiration I can get. And as most of you know, I often look to quotes for inspiration. So here are five quotes about the process of beginning. Isn’t that always the...

Grateful in the New Year

  Happy New Years, everyone! I hope you all had a happy, healthy, safe holiday season. I feel like I’ve been MIA lately… well, I have been MIA lately… But it feels good to be back. To be connecting again. Writing again. I did take a great big break from writing—almost two weeks—and I’m...

Books! Books! And more books!

  -One of my overflowing bookcases- I am obsessed with books. What writer isn’t? It’s a problem actually—the piles of books beside the nightstand, under the coffee table, all over the kitchen table. And then there are the three overflowing bookcases. My mother actually gave my husband and me a huge bookcase last year...

You haven’t yet published…so, are you not a real writer?

  In Stephen King’s On Writing the author talks about success.  He says something like this(I’m completely paraphrasing here): that many people don’t care about what you’re writing and will think your work is of little importance UNTIL you’ve been published.  Then, suddenly, everyone comes scurrying out of the cracks and exclaims: “We always knew...

A Little Friendly Interview with YA Author Siobhan Vivian

It’s that time of year. My fall semester officially ended last night and MFA applications are due for potential incoming students in just a few weeks… I only have one semester left of school—a time period which will be heavily focused on writing my thesis. And then it’s off into the real world…This is...

The wind in my face, the play in writing

After one of my last posts about my struggle with self doubt, a reader made a good point: Writing should be fun. We should enjoy it. I am grateful for her comment, for this reminder. I agree with her and I didn’t mean to imply that the process should be all business. Of course...

5 for Friday: Quotes and Meditations for our writing

  Here are 5 quotes and their matching meditations from Walking on Alligators, by Susan Shaughnessy. Some reminders for when you need them… perhaps to keep you writing through the weekend. 1.      “When stuff in life gets really rough, I would just die if I was not writing a novel. Once you think it...

Am I getting worse? Thoughts on self doubt

This is what I’ve been thinking lately: I’m getting worse. My writing just isn’t as good as it used to be. With every new story I write I believe I’ve lost something—the spark, the raw energy, the ability to see the scene, to tell the truth, to imagine. I look at my stories and...