Almost six months ago I applied to do my MFA in Creative Writing and on Friday, after leaving the Lego Movie with Le Novio (which was actually incredible and self-deprecating and great), I got an e-mail with my first acceptance!
I had prepared myself for months now for blatant rejections, so I’m a bit at a loss for what to say when it comes to positive news. I had developed some really great insight into the importance of rejection and why it wouldn’t stop me in developing my career but FORGET THAT!
Just over a year ago I made a very important decision. I was working a job with no long-term goals other than a weekly paycheck. I was living in what I consider to be a fairly unambitious city. The only people who “make it” in New Orleans are in the culinary industry… and possibly healthcare or environmental policy. My mother had me really and truly convinced that I should become a Librarian.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d be a great librarian and I think that it would be a fantastic career… surrounded by books all day… lot’s of new technology. Really great, consistent job. But I don’t want to be a Librarian. I want to be a Writer.
I mostly keep my writing to myself. Ask anyone in my life and, outside of this blog which is my first committed attempt to public writing, and they won’t have read more than a piece or two of my work. Complete strangers I shared classes with have read more of my stuff than most of my friends.
When I was still an undergrad I’d let my mother sucker me into sending her a play I’d written for class. I was wildly proud of this play. It was read on stage by a group of professional actors. By Christmas, however, my mother had circulated this play to my entire family and it had become a running joke. I didn’t know this until my sisters started quoting it over dinner, much to everyone’s amusement at my expense. After that, I swore I wouldn’t share my writing with people I was close to… My latest project has been one of three times I’ve let a personal relationship read my work.
If I wasn’t going to let anyone read it, my work would never be more than a hobby.
Last year while at the park with the children I cared for, I ran into my Freshman Writing professor with his kids. I hadn’t been writing much at all. I’d been too tired from the kids and too distracted by my personal relationships. He seemed surprised that I wasn’t writing, that I wasn’t applying to school.
“I’d bet if you submitted works just from Freshman year, you’d get in. Doesn’t hurt to apply.”
Seemingly innocuous enough statement, but his words changed my life.
I had failed at writing. I had failed at writing because I’d stopped trying. The worst kind of failure is when you give up on yourself. If I wasn’t willing to put myself out there, I was the worst kind of failure imaginable. I was a coward.
So here I am a year later. Grad schools take a national percentage of 6% of applicants in America… and as of Friday I’m in the 6% and more than halfway through my first novel.
Forget the numbers though… They make this career look impossible. Work hard. Write well and often. Take rejection on the chin. And just keep putting yourself out there, no matter what it is you hope to accomplish. Only I will decide when my writing career is over.
I’m not all the way there, we’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m closer than I was last year.
Nothing anyone could say would make me feel like a failure right now.