Hope you guys are enjoying the guest blogger series. Here is the next installment from yet again another fellow writer and MFA Candidate from Fairfield University:
Brooke Law is pursuing her MFA degree through Fairfield University’s low residency program and is currently working on a novel. She writes about her favorite books at Books Distilled, which is a TLC Book Tour featured blog. She lives with her husband in Long Island, NY.
I got married last June and two weeks later my husband and I moved (from each of our parents’ houses and our apartments in Durham, NC) to Long Island, where he had been appointed head pastor of a small church. I had never set foot on Long Island until the day we moved into our house.
I managed to land a job as a waitress a few weeks later so I had some income while I looked for a “real” job. My background was in nonprofits, and specifically I wanted to work with a nonprofit focusing on education policy. Opportunities were nonexistent, unless I was willing to make a 90-minute commute to and from NYC. Being newly married and also fiercely protective of my personal time, I wasn’t.
So during my slow lunch shifts at the restaurant I daydreamed. At first I wished we were still living in Durham (which surprised even me) and I wished I could go back to my old job. I was bored. I was resentful.
Slowly I accepted the fact that I couldn’t change where we were living. Instead of complaining in my head while I sat in the near-empty restaurant, I took a second order pad from the closet and began writing scenes for a novel I’d started after graduating from college but hadn’t touched in over a year. Then I went home each afternoon and typed them up, trying to ignore the shouting in my mind that I was wasting my time.
That fall I read a book of short stories published by a kid I’d had a writing class with in college. He had been a decent writer our sophomore year, but he had become an amazing writer in the intervening years. I thought my usual thought when I read something beautiful: I will never be that good of a writer. And there in the darkened, empty restaurant, something flared up inside me and I determined that I would work until I became that good of a writer.
A few days later I found an email I’d sent to myself the year before about a low-residency MFA program through Fairfield University. I liked the structure of the program and I loved that the residency was based in Mystic, CT–I’d lived there for a semester during college and thought it was a beautiful town.
I emailed the director, Michael White, with a few questions, and he wrote back an hour later to tell me there were still spots open for the December residency. I put together my application in two days, got recommendations, called Vassar for my transcript. Four days after submitting my writing sample I received an email from Michael, noting that he was impressed with the first chapter of my novel and as long as all my other paperwork was in order, I could consider myself accepted.
I was thrilled. I was going to be a writer! I signed the acceptance forms, quit my waitressing job, started looking for a full-time office job so I could pay for school.
And then panic set in. I got my tuition bill in the mail and freaked out. I was being foolish. Following my dream in this way was much too expensive. I was being selfish. My husband and I already had a lot of school debt, and I was just adding to it for a profession that might never pay me a living wage. I cried.
And then the storm passed. I remembered that I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first learned to write my name. I had tried writing a novel on my own but knew I could do better if someone taught me. After facing the deluge of fear and standing firm, I felt at peace.
Now I wake up early each morning to spend an hour writing before I start my day. Every morning I spend time getting to know my characters more deeply, learning more about setting and dialogue, and every morning that time is a blessing I never imagined I could have. And once a month I get in-depth feedback from a wonderful faculty mentor, an accomplished writer in his own right.
I have always wanted to be a writer, and now I am. That is the main thing that has changed: my mindset. I’m not waiting around to become a writer, and I don’t have to get a book deal to become a writer. I have become a writer already, in my sheer commitment to and love of this work. I’m not published yet, but I will be someday. Sometimes it’s scary to spend so much time and energy on a process so deeply creative and vulnerable, but it’s a relief to be afraid I won’t make it as a writer–rather than being afraid of regretting my life because I never tried.