I'm getting ready to leave. I'm going to Maine one more time. I'm going to graduate in a week and a half.
This week is the anniversary of my friend's death. It is also the two-year anniversary of me starting the program at Stonecoast. It's been two years since I started this blog for real. It's been two years since I looked around and said, "I'm going to make this life look the way I want it."
I've been putting off thinking about Stonecoast and graduation since April. I went to a bunch of conferences this past semester, and I had convinced myself that everything was going to be great after graduation. I busied myself with the new house and the new puppy and the new Avengers movie. I'd convinced myself I was ready.
I'm not ready.
I don't know if any writer is ever done learning.
But I know I've learned this much:
- It's possible to see something you want and to go after it, and furthermore, to actually obtain it.
- Workshops can take place outside under a big tree with a fancy dude who writes fancy things and you can watch the ocean while you explain your critique notes to your workshop mate.
- Pork and beef definitely make me super sick.
- Even when you've been plugging away at something for years, it's still going to suck in workshop.
- You should go to seminars that have nothing to do with popular fiction. One of the best seminars I went to was on Wendell Berry and Medicine and Poetry.
- Just because you don't get what you want doesn't mean you don't get what you absolutely need.
- Gelato is best with nice people.
- There are people who will understand your craziness. And you will understand theirs.
- There are people who are better than you, who are worse than you, and the answers as to who those people are will change depending on who you ask. It's all subjective. It's not about competition.
- It's okay to suck your first semester.
- It's okay to break down crying.
- It's okay to be cold all the time, because Maine is cold all the time.
- A Hawaiian and a Texan building a snowman for the first time is right next to puppies tumbling down grassy hills on the Adorably Pure Happiness Scale.
- Stone House was important, even though we try to forget it was.
- But Stone House wasn't handicapped-accessible.
- Don't give up on a project if it's important to you, even if it sucks and no one else believes in it.
- Read. Read. READ. REAAAAD.
- Be prepared for your residencies ahead of time.
- Book that plane ticket overseas early.
- Do not underestimate the brilliance of Stonecoast in Ireland. It is the best damn thing you'll ever do.
- Say "thank you" to Ted and Annie every chance you get.
- Look out the window as much as you can while overseas, especially on airplanes.
- Don't just go for the residency when going to Ireland. Go for the world. Plan and save for a month or longer excursion.
- Don't forget you can do internships and a bunch of other cool stuff that isn't on the syllabus.
- Find a space to write with a door.
- Don't allow anyone to tell you that what you're doing is stupid.
- Connect with other MFA candidates in other programs. Swap stories. Help each other out. No one else is going to get you the way they do.
- Save your money. That last residency is not paid for.
- Apply for scholarships, even though you'll want to just push delete on what you think is spam from the school. There's money in those hills.
- Don't waste one day. Unless you're sick or someone died or you're on your honeymoon. Then make up that wasted day the next day.
- Find your voice. It's harder than it sounds, but a lot easier than you think.
- Make a friend in the program that holds you accountable. Hold them accountable.
- Be honest with your mentor.
- Act professional at conferences.
- Go to conferences.
- Invest in some cheap, good-looking slacks.
- Love yourself, even on the hard days.
- Bring a fan in the summer, there is no air-conditioning.
- Eat lobster.
- Start early on your thesis. Start earlier on your graduate presentation.
- Don't pack the day before.
- Don't freak out when you haven't packed the day before.
- Take a moment to look back two years ago. See yourself at twenty-six packing for the first residency. Look through all those moments you lived, all the places you went, all the people you met. Look at who you've become.
- You're not perfect by any means. But you're a lot more equipped. You're a lot closer to getting what you want.
Happy graduation, cohort.
What is this?
Dawson is an editor and writer and MFA student at Stonecoast. She writes stuff.