I know strange title. Why not just put discouragement? Because it is going to be a strange post about encouragement out of discouragement – and it was a lot better than WTF??

It’s the day after Christmas and sadly I didn’t get to go home as planned, but I got over that (a little bit), and then something told me to look and see if my last mentor posted my grade for this past tutorial session.

I was calm at first and a little bit optimistic. Then after I saw my grade I frantically began to search the site for my transcript to find out the status of my current GPA.

There it sat, barely intact, to the right of the offensive B. It stared at me weakly from its new level of 3.57. I stared back, helpless to remove it from life support and return what had been lost. Gone was my 4.0 after the July residency, but even that left it at a 3.8 which meant there was still hope. Now there’s not much of it left. One more hit and we’re done.

Confusion, anger, and discouragement assaulted me while depression waited in the wings, anxiously awaiting its turn. “I will not let them win,” I thought as what was left of me longed for the safety that could only be found in my bed, beneath the covers, underneath my pillow where only quiet and darkness dare to exist.

Am I logically correct in assuming that a “B” means the student writer has not worked as hard on creative output that the mentor desired? For if they had the mentor would have given the student writer an “A” right? If so, who sets the bar on creativity and progress?

How does one grade creative progress? Is it determined by how a piece makes you feel or by the growth the writer has shown piece by piece, revision by revision? What differentiates an “A” writer from a “B” writer for each mentor and what chance does the student writer have of determining the formula before final grades are due?

In undergrad it was easier to discern an “A” piece from a “B” piece because they had a similar format, and all followed the same general direction.

Creative writing programs are different. Students work on different pieces, there are different paces; they sort of guide themselves. But if the point of an MFA is to help the student become a better writer so that (1) they may teach others (if they so desire), and (2) hopefully write literary-worth material, how is the student supposed to jump through the necessary academic hoops if they’re constantly changing while embracing their individual creativity? Does it mean I have to like what you like? Do you have to like what I like? Am I supposed to wow you or is it based on how much progress you feel I’ve made from the beginning of the semester to the end?

To date I have completed one year of my MFA program. A semester that ends like this doesn’t encourage me to write – it leaves me confused. I think there are times when we all feel discouraged about our writing. I know grades are not what matters most, but when annotations and personal writings are all you have to go on each semester, and you receive positive feedback each time please tell me how all of that factors into a B at the end?

I encourage you all to use your discouraging moments as motivators. This is a knock down time and I know there will be others. I’m sure this is mild compared to some of the rejection letters I will receive when I complete and attempt to publish my novel.

I know it hurts – but give yourself time to lick your wounds, and then start writing again. Life won’t always make sense – especially during the times when it should. No matter what keep writing.

Happy New Year