Semester is over, and I’m curled up in Northampton, relaxing. The last few weeks were pretty intense, just a barrage of finals, plus trying (and failing) to do writing I’m really satisfied with for workshop. But overall, I think it did a really good job of rising up to graduate level work this semester.
Looking back over the last two months, though, I feel like there’s been a lot of growth in unexpected areas. My research and methods class blew me away, my 18th century literature class opened up a whole new world to me, and talking to various professors, it’s clear that I genuinely want to pursue a PhD next. I’m realizing that I have the passion and focus for it, and I feel like I’ve found real mentors here who will help me grow in that way. I’m really excited about the academic side of graduate school, feeling stretched and invigorated. Socially, too; I’ve always considered myself a loner and a wallflower, but for the first time in my life, I’m finding it very easy to make friends, and there are such wonderful people here. There’s so many people I want to talk to or hang out with that I often have to remind myself to carve out alone time to do my homework.
But as I said, the one fly in the ointment is my writing. I’m writing a decent amount, but I feel like I should be writing more, and that it should be having a deeper impact on me and on my fellow writers who critique it. My nonfiction class hardly even bears mentioning: the teacher was awesome, but swamped as I was, I just couldn’t give that class the dedication and effort it deserved. And as for my fiction workshop … I feel like the first story I wrote for fiction workshop was great, and they really kicked my butt to make it better, but every story since then has felt less good, less personal, and less well-received. Maybe it’s that the third and fourth stories were rewrites of older work, turned in while I was sick. Maybe it’s that I didn’t feel as comfortable showing my work to this teacher. But it feels like I can see improvements in other people’s work, and I’m fascinated by what they’re doing, but keep feeling like I have to apologize for the quality of my own work. Hopefully, with a lighter course-load, a different fiction teacher and a warmer season that will allow me to play with ideas while I ride my bike, things will improve. But it’s frustrating to feel so rudderless, my first semester in an MFA program.