Friday, March 05, 2010

How it's goin'.

Well, it’s goin’.

I still feel strongly that I will get in. Both because I have felt so settled about it all along and because the odds are pretty good. Also because I can’t imagine anything else for me for next year.


The magic is gone. I used to be so excited about it all, and now I feel just draggy and sad and tired. And, despite the reassurances of the guy I spoke to at BYU that I had easily made the first cut--which means I have been deemed capable of succeeding in the program--I am doubting my abilities. If/when I get in, I will go in cowed, worried. Maybe I will slink in. Which is not what I had imagined for myself at all. This has been my biggest loss through all this, the biggest price I’ve paid.

And, if I let it, this doubting feeling can infect me and bring me very far down. All writers vacillate between thinking their work is something special (or we wouldn’t bother trying to get it published at all) and thinking that they are the biggest frauds out there. All of my doubts have risen to the surface and are having a party. Have I been fooling myself all along that I might be able to write?

Here is where your encouragement, dear blog readers, has been so helpful to me. So life-savingly helpful. Thank you, thank you for your comments.

(I should say here that the guy I spoke to at BYU sounded very positive about my application and made me feel a little better. He’s doing more research and will have more info for me soon about why I was placed where I was, but it seems that the reason is not obvious on the surface, anyway. Which is good and bad. Good, because it’s nice to know that I’m not obviously below standard. Bad, because it may have come down to a matter of personal preference—the preference being expressed by the very teachers I had hoped to study with. Which makes me feel awfully awkward about meeting them in class this fall. I’ll be sitting in a class knowing the teacher said about me, “She’s obviously prepared for this program but I’d rather not be teaching her.”)

Then there is the little question that comes up every so often: what if I DON’T get in? What if this is the year they don’t draw from their alternate list? What in the world will I do with myself next year, all year long? Should I try to work? At what? My kids are in year-round school, which means they are home for all of September, December, March and parts of May. I can’t stick them in day care for those times. I could substitute teach, I suppose. But if I did, who would get my kids off to school in the mornings? If I do think I might teach, I should probably renew my teacher’s license, which expires this summer. But I am one credit short—should I quickly complete a one-credit independent study class?

My mind goes in circles. I still believe I’ll be in grad school this fall. How silly to lose faith in that and rush off to take a class. But what if? What if what if what if what if?

So that’s where I am. Trying to float on my back in this little pool of waiting, but occasionally forgetting to breathe and sinking down and sputtering around for a while until I can get myself stretched out again.

In other news (is there really any other news? Yes, yes, my life is bigger than all this) my ESL student, Maria, recently took another placement test. We were both delighted to find out that in the 18 months I've been teaching her she has gone from level one to level five!!!! This is one hard-working chica. I'm very proud of her.

And child #2 got an A+ on his (huge) Egyptian project (the one for which I had to find him an Egyptian "costume" five minutes before school). We got the news this week that he was accepted into the honors program in middle school. He has chosen NOT to go to the ALPS junior high. Child #3 and his parents attended our first Anger Management class last night. He and #4 got the letters that they were accepted into ALPS again next year. Seems there are a lot of people getting acceptances around here . . .


Wm Morris said...

This is likely the wrong thing to say (and something I'm sure you already know considering how many people you know who have gone to grad school), but I'm going to say it anyway in the hopes that you and/or your other readers will benefit:

Much better for the magic to be gone now than when you actually get there, where the disillusion comes when you are actually expected to produce but you don't feel like it. Grad school seems like magic. It seems like it will solve a whole host of problems. It seems like it will make you MORE of what you already are.

It doesn't. Or at least it doesn't do so in any sort of magical way.

Don't get me wrong. Grad school can be great, and, yes, even magical. It can also be a lot of fun. But the hardest thing about grad school, in my experience (although I had it pretty easy for a variety of reasons -- much of this is what I observed in others in my program), is a) adjusting in the first or second semester to the idea that you may not be the smartest person in the room and you may get a B+ or even (horror!) a B and then realizing that that doesn't matter so much -- what matters is that you are doing the work with rigor and with passion because that what makes for the best experience and b) keeping alive the passion and discipline needed to complete either that one class or paper that just isn't working or even more likely -- that final project, the thesis or whatever your culminating experience is for your program.

Also: there are worse things than going in to a program a bit disillusioned and with a wee chip on your shoulder. It can force you to be more pragmatic, work harder and take more good risks than you might otherwise.

And the magic comes back when you have that one moment you write or say or read or think something that blows you away and you realize, that yeah, when it comes to that one thing, you rock it harder and better than anybody.

Michelle said...

Please don't doubt yourself. Please.

I think they put you on the alternate list because they saw your writing and list of accomplishments and said, "This girl doesn't NEED us. She's there."

Your writing IS something special. It is.

Th. said...


Does anyone know anyone who is part of the pilot year? I still don't know anyone. I'm curious if they've been able to get any editors of publishers out West for chatting yet.

Anonymous said...

Does "pilot year" mean this is the first year of the MFA Creative Writing program? I've been realizing the program I got into back in the day probably wasn't the same one--it was just a master's in English, and I'd said I wanted to do a creative thesis. (Honestly, I'm glad I took a different path, because at the time I didn't really feel like I had a lot of life experience to draw on. Now I have life experience but a mothering-centered focus for now. Someday I'll have both the material and the time to write, I think.)

I'd to add my own two cents and it's hard without sounding patronizing, but please take this as an outside perspective rather than my thinking I have a superior perspective (if that makes sense). Since you can't really know what went on in the decisions, you can choose to not take it personally. Don't imagine things like that the teachers don't like you, when you just don't have any evidence to go on. Choose to imagine the most rosy possible scenario, because it's just as likely to be true as whatever gloomy one you might come up with.

I've gotten to hear Dean's descriptions (in general terms and without his naming names) of his experience helping select new professors for his department. The existing professors do it by consensus with everyone having a say, and sometimes they really like all the candidates but just can't hire them all, so they have to base it on some objective impersonal thing such as that one is in a more trendy field (yes, even engineering has trends) or one has some extra certification or more experience, even though both appear to be just as effective of teachers. Or sometimes they'll want someone younger and fresher. Or sometimes there will be personality issues where one or two professors has a strong favorite and others have a different one, and in those cases it can almost become a battle of wills.

Anyway, I'm just saying that those on the decision-making end can be foibled or hobbled, and that their deciding not to choose you could be based on some seemingly arbitrary criterion that has absolutely nothing to do with your not being a fabulous writer nor their not liking you. And you might as well assume that's the case. I'm sure it's harder to go in under a less bright banner, but once you're there you'll have the same chance to prove your worth as anyone else--and I truly believe that effort and determination do count for as much as raw talent, and you WILL shine.

(As I said, take all that for whatever it's worth.)

Cheri said...

Love this image:

"So that’s where I am. Trying to float on my back in this little pool of waiting, but occasionally forgetting to breathe and sinking down and sputtering around for a while until I can get myself stretched out again."

Just want to appreciate your honesty and openness about how this is affecting you. That's such a healthy thing to see. Love you!

(and I did recently hear someone call you the best Mormon poet writing today . . .)

Anonymous said...

I just noticed it may have sounded like I meant that you had determination if not raw talent, whereas I meant that you have both. (Sometimes I think I shouldn't ever try to communicate on the internet. It's so easy for things to come out sounding wrong.)

Darlene Young said...


I've been thinking about your comments and I believe you're right. At the awards "ceremony" for the Utah Arts Council awards, I realized that the award didn't feel that great--that the true reward for what I was doing would have to be the joy of doing it or it wasn't worth it. It's good to be reminded that it all gets down to me, my writing and God. I have several reasons for thinking an MFA program would help me, but approval from the BYU community would turn out to be as empty as any other award if that were the only reason I wanted this. Thanks for your thoughts.

Wm Morris said...

I'm happy to be of help. And don't forget that it's not just you, God and your work -- it's also your readers. And you have some great readers some of whom have said some very nice things about your work. To me, what makes it all worth it is a) when the writing is fun [and it often is even though it also often isn't] and b) when you encounter a reader who gets it. And the very cool thing about being a writer and reader in this day and age is that it's easier than ever to experience b).