After Your MFA, Treat Yourself Kindly

I found this essay by Sara Finnerty, on Brevity Magazine's Blog, very moving.

I'm sure that its advice will ring a familiar bell for anyone who has gone through an intense period of study or graduate programme, whether writing-focused or not.

In “What I Wish I Knew After My MFA Ended,” she explains:

In the years after I got my MFA I was a miserable mess. I felt like a failure as a writer and a human being. I still feel that way sometimes, but now I try and fail and try again and I know that does not mean I am a failure, it only means I am a person like everyone else.

She then offers nine pieces of advice to her younger, unhappier self. Here's one of them:

5) Forget about TIME and forget about OTHER PEOPLE. Forget about what you should have accomplished by now. Forget about how long it takes to write this essay or that novel. Do not compare yourself to anyone else. The race and the competition are imaginary. There is no race, there is no competition, and there is no rush.

You will meet writers with ten published novels who worry about the next one. You will meet accomplished writers who are seething with jealousy over other, more accomplished writers. You will meet writers who make you feel as if you are not a serious writer if you don’t have an agent or a novel. The writers who feel this way must be somehow damaged if they truly feel the need to feel superior to you. They are not. They are unhappy and unenlightened and they don’t matter. Get ahead of the game and just stop caring right now about other people and about timetables.

Instead, find joy inside of your every day. Find gratitude instead of self-pity. Take it as a given that you will never give up. An essay I wrote in graduate school, when I thought I was a shitty writer, ended up being published seven years later in The Weeklings. The publishing will come, eventually. Don’t wait for it, or hope for it, or hang your self-esteem on it.

What matters is the love you put into your work and the love you give to others and the love you graciously receive. The rest is nonsense.

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