In a time of economic downturn and imploding journalism and publishing industries, an unprecedented number of people applied to Master’s of Fine Arts programs in creative writing for Fall 2010 admission. I am one such person. Unhappily employed and longing for creative fulfillment, I dusted off some undergrad poems and came up with some new ones for my 10-20-page portfolio. I applied to nine programs across the country – eight of which were highly competitive due to funding availability.
At the end of my MFA season, I ended up getting into the noncompetitive program and getting waitlisted at NYU. The noncompetitive program offered me a GSI position but the tuition and cost of living was steep. I declined my spot and I am thinking about applying again in the fall – with an improved portfolio and a revised list of schools.
While it does bruise the ego to receive creative rejection, it is difficult process for many and rejection is part of being an artist. You are competing for anywhere from 2-20 spaces per school, which leads many people to apply to 20+ programs. There are a growing number of programs to choose from and it is difficult to determine which programs match up with one’s aesthetic beliefs and educational interests (heavy literature load vs. ability to take non-literature classes, career colloquia, ability to teach, etc.) – and where the stars align among funding, weather, and local city quality.
To pay my Manhattan rent, I have worked at job that involves scientific reading and writing. I have spent many years trying not to absorb any of it. However, it has had a negative effect on my ability to write poetry – stifling my ability to “say it slant” and to stay focused while reading lit crit.
I know my poetry portfolio could have been stronger and should include more current work. To rid myself of the toxic job and immerse myself into creative expression, I intend to make a big move in the next month. I am incredibly excited and motivated to make a fresh start.