who the heck knows anything, anyway

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I would like to outsource these questions to the Grand Scheme of the Universe

Today was not my emotional best, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I got a lot of stuff done. Did some writing (real, true blue fiction with no computer distractions), finished a new comic (view here, at your leisure), and I've been slamming down chapters of Oscar Wao* (my second time indulging--just as absolutely, insanely excellent as it was when I read it in 2008) like whiskey after finals. Not too shabby.

It's important for me to keep busy this week, since it's Acceptance Blow-Up Time. Everybody is losing their pants over grad school decisions** and I am no exception. I was accepted by Pacific (in OR) yesterday, and it felt WONDERFUL--for about two hours. For some reason, I just can't feel proud of myself. Yes, I worked my butt off, and yes I think I'd enjoy going there, but the Michener rejection has gotten itself wedged in my throat. Not in the way you'd think, though. So, a girl on the MFA draft page got accepted at Michener yesterday--for fiction--and she said she her hands were shaking so hard that she couldn't open the champagne to celebrate. I'm totally supportive of this girl I've never met ("happy" would be a lie, let's be real) and am really, truly, absolutely not all that jealous of her getting the spot. What made me most envious, most incapable of feeling happy about my own little success in light of hers, was the freaking champagne

When have I felt like I deserved a bottle of champagne to honor an accomplishment recently? Or ever?

So that sent me down a good ol' despair spiral. When did I last feel proud of myself? I still don't remember. Finishing college is about as close as I get, but I don't feel all too self-impressed with that. Finishing my last short story felt dandy, but it isn't published or anything. Minor accomplishments, sure, and worth  feeling a little self-satisfied, but they just aren't quite good enough. I want to be proud of myself. Champagne-popping proud.

"So do something about it!" you say. 

I'm scoffing. And adding an eye roll. You think I'm not trying? Think I'm not submitting my stories and trying to write every day? Believe me, I'm trying. It's difficult. Especially when you feel like a total useless loser (yes, that's been me lately).

Then this thought weaseled into my head late this morning (a result of a tweet by Kate Beaton): what if an MFA in fiction isn't what I'm supposed to be doing? What if I should be looking into school for comics?

Or, wait, maybe you've lost your marbles.

How do you know what you'e supposed to do in this situation? I love writing, and I'm sure I'll keep knocking out prose, but what about an MFA in cartoon studies? eh? EH??? I have no idea. Maybe I'm delusional. Though it's not like I'm getting my fiction MFA funded, and they cost the same amount of money.

How are some people so sure of what they want to do? My current "idea for the future" is: going low-res, getting a new part time job, basically living my undergrad life all over again. Not that that's a bad thing, but I don't know if it's right.

A million questions are running through my head: am I afraid of applying to CCS? Is my Catholic Guilt somehow playing a part in this, prompting me to stay on this path because it's what I've told people I was going to do and I don't want to disappoint them? Is it pride, telling me I'm not allowed to give up on being a traditional novelist because the key word there is "giving up"? Or are the reservations rooted in something better? I know I'm good at writing (despite recent grad-school-related events that have made me doubt myself), I know people believe in me, and I know that I'm not going to write anything Great with a capital "G" until I'm at least a little more wizened (30's at the earliest). These are facts. I should feel totally zen about not being mind-blowingly genius because I'm a baby, and babies should be learning from their skilled elders, not pretending (or suffering delusions) like they're already equal to them. And I feel fairly zen about that, actually, but what the heck do I do with the years between then and now??*** Do I get a job that's super crappy in hopes that the pain will inspire me? (does not sound great). Do I get my MFA, then spend 10 years feeling guilty about having Daniel support me while I continue being mediocre, until the day I write something wonderful? I don't want my life to be empty. This year's been awesome, but if the next 10 years were like it, I would lose it. What if I could make comics my gig, be exposed to a whole new group of people? Would that inform my writing as much as an MFA? More so? 

But comics and fictional prose are sisters. Neither one requires secondary education. It can be helpful, definitely, but it's not necessary. This makes the choice extra difficult. It makes either one feel like a throw-away, a poor choice--creative writing MFAs are oft perceived (not always incorrectly) as a racket, and what if comics are just supposed to be my hobby? 

Sheesh, I should probably just go back to school for botany or something. I could use a field with a bit less wiggle room.

Too bad I've never been very good at making tough decisions. Oi vey. 


Update/Note: I've also thought a lot about an MA in Folklore/Mythology. This and the comics thing introduce an issue I completely forgot to mention, which is: so, do I decide now, after all the money and work, that the fiction MFA is a bad idea and then wait an apply for Folklore and/or Comics next year? Do I get the fiction MFA (a 2 year commitment, on average) and then get an MA or comics degree after that? Is that bad? Is having two Masters degrees ever a good idea? GAAAAAAAAAAH. SOMEONE GIVE ME SMART ANSWERS, PLEASE. *falls over*

*The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. If you haven't read it, you should. Dude won the Pulitzer in 2008 and he 100% deserved it. He used footnotes like a CHAMP. Also, he's coming out with a book of short stories soon! His first book since Oscar Wao, and I am STOOOOKED.

**pro-tip: if you apply for a Creative Writing MFA, stay the HECK away from the facebook group entitled "MFA Draft __(insert year here)__". Not only will the suspense of waiting for a phone call/email/letter in the mail totally kill you, but associating actual humans with the spots at top tier schools that rejected you will sting like you just fell into a hornet's nest. I don't think it matters how good of a sport you are: it hurts.

***aside from practicing and improving continuously, of course.