Mar 25, 2006, 4:14 AM
Post #19 of 74
I think shadowboxer makes an excellent point about reading.
Re: [shadowboxer] On Pongo's Advice: Straight to grad school or take some time off?
[In reply to]
Reading widely in your genre is about as important as life experience. Actually, absorbing as much as possible, reading everything you can get your hands will make you grow exponentially faster. I've tried to accelerate myself by taking up a zillion hobbies and keeping a fresh influx of reading material and subscribing to many magazines. For me, knowledge is everything because it shapes your perspective. Because I know I'm young and lack that experience, I talk to old people a lot. I ask them hundreds of questions. I also take interest (or force myself to take interest) in "old" people's problems. Taxes, divorce, childbirth--I read books on parenting and stuff. I attend as many religious services as possible and take detailed notes on visceral experiences, so I can reuse them later.
That said, other people have made great points about young people and their issues. They're right. It's very tough. I have to constantly work against the grain of my immaturity. Honestly, I do feel it popping up here and there, like loose springs in a sofa.
At the same time, one thing I love about being young is the complete ABANDON with which I am able to throw myself into writing. it's great to just recklessly, hopelessly love something. so that you'd be able to endure anything for it, even the loss of friends and lovers and sanity. Because I'm not burdened by a spouse or children or real world responsibilities or anything pretty much, I can give 150% to writing. I can still pull all-nighters like a college student with too much energy to waste. And I do not need to fear failure because I have the excuse of age.
That said, there's a terrible emptiness that creeps up in me sometimes, and I think it's due to the fact that I'm pursuing this art so intensely. It's like a death drive. Because writing is so bound up with everything I am, I feel sick when I have a failure. It punches my heart out. Like one of those arts-and-crafts-hole-punchers that you slide on to a sheet of construction paper. It just goes right through me, and I feel just dead, punched out. And I look at my friends around me, and I think, "They are so lucky. They work for corporations. When they get home from work, they can relax. Why can't I relax? Cause I'm the sole person responsible for this. If this doesn't work out, it's my fault."
Also, because I come from an immigrant family, I'm going against all the survival mechanisms that are built into me. This, too, is why I'm so crazy about writing. I MUST make this work. I went against my parents for this.
But this how I think of it--I'm going to be a writer for life. Therefore, even if I am not fully matured during my MFA, I will think of it as a toolkit, something to take with me forever. Not necessarily a finished product.
And I love school. To me it is literally paradise on earth. literally. During my undergrad career, I went to bed everynight thinking, "How is it possible to be so happy?" It was a happiness so intense it had a tinge of sadness. I hope MFA is the same way.