Great expectations

I’m back from Boston, I’ve finally gotten a couple of good nights’ sleep after a week of lost snoozing for various reasons, and I am down to the last stretch of thesis writing.

My trip was just as whirlwind-y as the last one, but it also left me feeling kind of disillusioned about my MFA program. Well, not the program exactly. I learned a ton in my classes and was motivated and challenged by my classmates. I made some good friends… I am glad I did it.

But.

I guess I had the expectation that my thesis was going to be a chance to have one-on-one assistance with my book from someone who really knows what they are doing. And to some extent I have had that, but not to the extent I was looking for. I have come to realize that my expectations were, as usual, too high. I have been working alone with minimal contact with my adviser and minimal feedback when I do have contact.

The last time I went to Boston I was feeling a little let down by the vagueness of the feedback I got on Part I of the book, but this time was worse. I won’t go into too many details, but there were excuses for why more specific feedback couldn’t be given, and now I must turn my thesis in earlier than I had anticipated, which means I have three weeks to finish and few guidelines to go on to get the problem areas re-written. I just know (and frankly, already knew) which areas are problem areas.

Part II was definitely the half of the book I felt I needed more help with. I did get some help, in the form of a suggestion that I focus on one character more. But that was about it. No line edits, no clue on whether most of the chapters in the second half of the book are working or not. Even as I write that, I wonder, is my concern over the lack of feedback some kind of workshop withdrawal? After all, I just spent two years taking courses in which 12 people would give me feedback on a 20-page piece of writing. And we would discuss it for 45 minutes or so. And here I am with a 250 page piece of writing, and I’ve taken two X-country flights to have it be discussed for all of 45 minutes total and to receive 2 pages of feedback. Obviously, without workshop, I’m going to see one person’s response as less than enough.

So I am left with the same conclusion as I was after my last visit to Boston: I am on my own in this book project, as I will be in any future book projects, so it’s time to get used to it. For many people, this probably highlights the pointlessness of MFA programs, and I will admit, it has made me wonder. I have always tried to ignore those articles and critics of MFA programs, because going through an MFA program was something I just wanted to do. But I do find myself thinking of the money I spent to work with my professor this semester, and what I (don’t) have to show for it. I question my choices of the classes I took…was I wrong to try to work with this person? Would it have been different with another adviser, or another program? Maybe, but maybe not. Probably not.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: the only person who can write my book is me.

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2 thoughts on “Great expectations

  1. Saw a link to your posting on Jade Park’s blog. I too am in the same boat with MFA programs, questioning their validity as I write my thesis. But, what the hell. You’re right. We really have to struggle alone. Good luck with yours.

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