A Student's-Eye View: The MFA in Writing Residency
MFA in Writing student Patrick Ross shares his experience at Vermont College of Fine Arts and this past winter's writing residency in a recent blog post at Write to Done.
Each day during the winter residency, Patrick posted a daily "MFA Nugget" at his blog, The Artist's Road. Here, Patrick takes more of a long view of the immersive, ten-day residency at VCFA, and details four rewards of the experience:
"Energy. When your entire day centers around creativity, and you know the next day will as well, the creative energy is palpable. You quickly realize at an MFA residency that you don’t need to seek out your muse; she’s embracing you. Even when you don’t sense her, she’s there. She knows she doesn’t have to compete with your daily routine. So seek ways to insulate yourself, even if it’s just for a day, from the drama of daily life. If she knows you’re sincere in your commitment, she’ll fill you with creative energy.
Discipline. Thirteen hours a day of tempting lectures and readings, multiplied by ten days, equals a potential for overload. As an MFA residency student, you quickly learn how to balance your time. You seek out lectures that you suspect will provide value, whether that means targeting an area you struggle with, building on an area of strength, or exposing yourself to the unknown. But you also learn when to take a break. Any creative writer needs to balance dates with her muse with life’s other obligations; surviving the boot-camp of an MFA residency makes other scheduling seem easy.
Dialogue. I loved learning how “excessive detail” can improve my writing. But I also valued participating in a late-night debate over the relative importance of metaphor. An MFA residency is a safe zone for a creative writer. Over your tray of cafeteria glop you can launch an attack on the decline in use of the Oxford comma, and while you may receive pushback on your thesis, no one will think you odd for raising it. There are many ways creative writers can engage in such conversations, which can be energizing and informative. Join a writer’s group, take a local class, or participate in comment fields on blogs like this one.
Inspiration. Before my first MFA residency last summer, I received one-paragraph summaries of all of the scheduled faculty and graduating-student lectures. I felt fortunate to have so many stimulating choices before me. But my greatest joy at that residency came from the student readings. That’s why I volunteered to moderate them this time, because I knew I’d be attending each one. Hearing my classmates read their own creative words–sharing that gift of themselves in such an intimate way–is inspiring beyond words. Whether it is listening or reading, savoring a creative peer’s creative output can inspire more creativity from you."
Read the rest of Patrick's post here.