Coping With the Dark Days

Jacqui and I graduated from the same cohort at Antioch.  She’s awesome and talented, and you really ought to check out her work.  She and I (and many others from Antioch) also have mixed feelings about our MFA experience.

Yesterday, Jacqui tweeted, “I never imagined feeling so unqualified to do this thing I spent so much time studying and practicing.  Such complicated feelings I have about grad school.”  Whenever I hear something like this, I think about others I know in similar situations, fellow grads who feel like they’ve wasted their time, who feel like they’ve invested so much just to make friends, who asked and waited on those letters of recommendation that a program director was too drunk to write.

Personally, I would have done things differently in grad school, but wondering about it is a moot point.  It happened and there’s no changing it.  But I don’t regret the people I’ve met through Antioch.  I really don’t think I’d have met them any other way.  These aren’t just writers who push me out of my comfort zone; they’re genuinely wonderful people that are becoming rare in an increasingly polarized world.

Writing takes skill and dedication, but it also takes a support network.  No one actually knows what they’re doing.  Working in isolation most of the time can really do a number on your self-confidence.  In her TED Talk on the Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer mentioned the fraud police, the nonexistent organization we’re afraid is real and will confirm our dreams are meaningless and sentence us to a lifetime of reality.

I don’t keep in touch with other writers because I want them to critique my work and give feedback.  I keep in touch with them because they’re going through the same meat grinder I am.  Different genres, same struggles.  We can relate to each other over mountains of revisions, uncertain submissions, and first drafts that feel like they’re going nowhere.

The universe is vast and we might be alone in it, but in our chosen profession, our journeys are not truly in solitude.  Our roads diverge, but they’re never far from each other and intersect often.

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