Wednesday, May 7, 2008

On My Own

I'm finding that being out of college is much like getting out of a long term relationship. I'm having to redefine who I am now that I can't define myself in terms of that relationship: a student working towards graduation. I graduated. I'm out of that relationship. It's a good ending, but still an ending.

I didn't picture it being over. I thought I would be going to graduate school this fall. I still plan on going to graduate school, but in the meantime, I have to figure out who I am. For one, I have to figure out if I'm really a writer. Do I have the self-discipline to sit down for hours and hours every week to write? I'm a little anxious about this. My self-discipline has recently hit an all-time low. What if my dreams and ambitions can't kick it back into gear? What if I continue to spend time reading blogs, watching tv, and blogging instead of reading novels and short stories, doing writing exercises, and working towards publication?

I have been feeling the drive lately, though. The excitement I feel when I think about the several stories that I'm working on. The anticipation of writing. Often it doesn't last once I've got that blank screen and that cursor blinking at me; I stare at it and wilt in the face of my own expectations and can't even write a sentence. But I have got the drive, and that makes me happy. It's a start.

My list of MFA programs for next year is just as ambitious as my list last year; it's just a lot longer. I've been criticized for this by fellow MFA hopefuls. They say that only one-third of my applications should be aimed at top twenty schools; my entire list is made up of schools with around 5% acceptance rates. I know they're right. But I have trouble accepting that. I know it's foolish to dream big, but whatever they say, I know that getting into a top tier school isn't like the lottery. It's not pure chance. A lot of it is arbitrary--I can't control people's opinions of my work--but a huge amount of it is based on talent. I don't think it's arrogant of me to hope that I have the talent level to succeed at one of the big name schools. It's more that I have something to prove to myself. I have to believe that I can do it. I don't know how to define myself except as a writer, and I don't know what to hope for myself except great things.

So maybe I won't get into any of those schools next year. Maybe I'll have to accept that they don't see that talent level in me. But even then I won't be able to accept that it doesn't exist. I'll just have to keep working.

Andy says I'm the hopeful type. He says that only the foolishly hopeful are foolish enough to keep working for big dreams, and therefore the only ones to accomplish those dreams. May that prove to be true. May I not find out later in life that I've been jousting with windmills. Because I don't know how to think in any other way. I'm afraid of the day when I figure out that I don't have it in me to be a great or even good writer. Though it's not my only identity, my romance with my far-too-ambitious dreams is an integral part of me. If I ever lose that, I won't know how to define myself at all.


r.p. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.p. said...

(Okay, Attempt #2)

Rachel- I really enjoyed this post. When I applied all 11 of my schools were in that 1-5% range. It's supposed to be "dangerous" but if you know what you really want and what you are willing to take, then you're ahead of the game. Why go somewhere you feel fine or okay about?

As far as writing, in my experience, the discipline sometimes is cyclical. I can't always pull it together and I spend my time going to the dog park too often, reading stupid magazines at Barnes and Noble (my only real trashy media outlet), or reading which is at least useful. I don't have a television and haven't had one in 2 years-- it's been a huge help.

I feel the same way about dreaming big. I hope that your big dreaming, talent, and hard work are finally recognized this time around.

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