Return to Excellence

February 20, 2016

 

I learned yesterday that I will be returning to Spalding, where I received my MFA in Writing.  I am very excited, to put it mildly.  The place has become a beacon of sorts for me.  I love being there.  One way to explain it is to say "it fits me," and in this case, fits me much like a spring dress.  When I am there, I feel lighter, as though I've taken off the heavy winter dress of my everyday life.  Don't get me wrong, I love my everyday life - my church, my job, my family and friends, any time I get to write.  But being among all the creative spirits is very special.  When we're there, it's like everyone is busy being his or her beautiful self.  Suddenly everything is poetic, lyrical - a powerful force, for sure.

          Let me take a moment and say that brief residency MFA programs don't fit everyone, but for people like me, who need to take a moment away, briefly, to study the art of their craft, with the guidance of mentors who speak their same language, it works.  The residency period is all the classroom periods, thrown together.  The remainder of the student's course of study is done at home, where she can write in her most comfortable, usual environment, where she can read other artists, where she can truly grasp what she learned at residency and spin it into something magical. 

         As I went through the MFA program, my time at home became very busy.  There was work and daily life; and yet, I was able to make the time to write and submit my work on time.  Perhaps that is part of the reason why it works so well: students are forced to make time for their writing.  Writing becomes the most important thing for them in those moments.  (Otherwise, we sometimes let a zillion little things get in the way.)  Students realize the importance of quiet space and of moments to contemplate life, for this is what opens up the writer's creative process.  My space has generally been at my desk, looking out upon the patio, or out a window.  Looking upon nature calms me and sets me in the right frame of mind to write.  Throw in a little music - gospel, for certain, but all genres are good if the right song is playing. 

         Isn't it true that we never know from where the inspiration will come?  I was sitting in my car last night, waiting for my godson to return (I had picked him up and he was hungry, so we stopped for wings), and I heard a song on the radio that I had not heard before: something about "Seven Years."  The beautiful truth and craft of the song truly touched me, and later I created some work of my own.  A by-product of my brief residency program: writers learn to use every little moment they have in their lives - they borrow and steal time that so that they can create.

         Anyway, just a few reasons why I'm grateful to return to the excellence of residency.

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