People underestimate the draining powers of the grad school application. I’ve known for years that I wanted to get my MFA in fiction. I started preparing for this process way back in June 2013, with the intention of spending my entire summer working on perfecting the stories I would use for my writing sample. I would create the perfect personal statement within that time as well, the one that would blow away each and every person reading it.
But we know that none of that actually happened. I was scrambling to complete a shoddy 500 word personal statement this past Sunday and submitting writing samples that are nowhere near done (at least by my standards). I’m not lazy, I promise. I don’t wait until the very last minute to do anything important either. But honestly, even if I finished everything three months ago, would I still have been happy with it? Probably not.
I dragged my feet for so long because I was so worried about pleasing complete strangers. While I was doing these applications, I lost focus on the real reason why I was going through this process and spending a crap-ton of money on applications in the first place. I wanted 24 perfect pages, pages that could be immediately submitted to literary magazines around the country for publication. But I wasn’t writing for myself, and you can only come up with the good stuff when you’re doing it for you. So instead of writing, I sat there worrying about having the perfect plot, the perfect sentence, the perfect imagery, and all of the other stuff that doesn’t matter anyway, because my heart wasn’t in what I was doing the way it should have been. I put too much pressure on myself, which might hurt me in the end.
Either way, I gave it my best shot, and I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time doing this. I have one more application to submit and then I can breathe easy. Then maybe I’ll go back and rip those stories to shreds, without concerning myself with page limits or the use of excessive expletives.