Thursday, November 19, 2009

Creative Non-what-now?

My life for the past nine or ten months has become devoted to the grad school application process. It took me a long time to get to the place where I could admit that, both out loud and to myself. But be it self-consciousness, fear of rejection, or fear of the unknown, I just couldn’t say it. But thankfully, sometimes we are forced to make decisions. The deadlines loom, the essays must be written, the transcripts ordered.

So I’m no longer just “thinking about applying,” or “looking into schools,” or “requesting information.” I’ve gotten the information, I’ve read the books, I’ve drawn up lists and agendas and due dates on a cork board in my living room and stared at it for a really really long time. And a few days ago, I officially sent in my first application. Hello world, I’m applying to grad school.

Yet unless you know me pretty well, I probably still won’t come out and tell you the truth—that I’ve actually been thinking this over since I started college, and that I really want to get into a top writing program, I mean really. And that my feet are feeling pretty damn ready to walk right out of San Diego, soon. Despite my glorious apartment, and free food from Krakatoa, and a cat that affectionately steps on my spinach, I’m ready to go.

So why are you ready, you may ask. Let’s face it—“I’m going for my MFA in Creative Nonfiction,” sounds like Bosnian to most people. The moment the statement is off my lips, questions flash. What’s an MFA? How can “nonfiction” be creative? Why would a writer need a Master’s?

I do not know how to even begin to answer these questions. And, yes, I admit it, sometimes I feel like I’m part of an elitist club who feels that the questions aren’t worth answering. “Well if you really have to ask,” one might say, “Then you just wouldn’t understand.” But I’m not elitist! I want people to understand!

So here goes—

“An MFA is a Master’s of Fine Arts. “

“Whoa, there, Bessie. A MASTER’S of Fine Arts?”

“Well, yes. That’s what MFA stands for.”

“But you’re 23. You’re not old enough to be a master of anything.”

“Well, yeah, I know, but maybe with the right program, and the right professors, and some experience teaching freshmen comp, and after completing a thesis (publishable book) about my issues with my family, or my elementary school days, or my first crush, maybe I’ll have mastered something.”

“I don’t think it works that way.”

“Shit. You’re right.”

Okay, so maybe not what, but why. Why do I want to go to grad school? Let’s see—

To become a better writer.


To use big words in a very intelligent way that causes readers to crack open a dictionary.

Ha. Sure.

To be one of those people who goes to book parties on the Upper West Side.


Wait a minute—no, that’s not it at all. That “image” thing right there, is so totally not IT. I am not bothering to apply to Columbia (which costs about $80,000, by the way) because it would be all about the image.

So let’s do this right. I’m applying to grad school because…

I want to.

If, though, in the next six months, you notice I become a little jumpy when you ask, “What is Creative Nonfiction anyway,” don’t take it personally. I may sigh, take a swig of my drink, and reply, “I really wouldn’t know.” Because in all honesty, I’m still trying to figure that out myself.

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