MFA programs

On working with creative feedback

On working with creative feedback

I thrive on structure in my creative work. But it’s also the most vulnerable spot in my creative process.

Preparing to write my thesis for my MFA made this painfully clear. When I convened the meeting with my thesis committee to vet my proposal, I thought I had a decent outline of the chapters I would write, even if underneath it all, I wasn’t ready to write a full book. The subject was family history, the narrative through-line of the memoir a recent medical diagnosis, the questions pertaining to the former woven into the story of the latter. It was a sound project, and my advisor was just as on board with it as I was.

Within the first ten minutes of the meeting, the outline went out the window.

When a story isn’t

When a story isn’t

Last week, I talked about the challenge of facing a story that needs to be told when we’re afraid to start telling it. This week, the obstacle on my mind is not having a story to tell.

I spent the first two years of my graduate work in Iowa struggling to figure out what the central narrative of my thesis would be. Sure, I had stories. But my story — the one I was supposed to turn into a book-length manuscript — eluded me.

“Some people only have one book in them,” my thesis advisor said to me, intending to reassure but seizing instead upon my fears. “It takes the effort of a lifetime to write it.”

On the necessity of play

On the necessity of play

When I began blogging ten years ago, I would never have considered that such an unserious side project would become one of the primary tools to unblock my “real” writing. I was finishing my first year in a prestigious MFA program where I was supposed to be honing my craft, refining my voice, generating the work that would form the foundation of my thesis (and with luck, my first book). Because this is what you’re supposed to do if you want to be a “real” writer, right?