The 12 Emotional Stages of Going Through a Creative Writing MFA Program

If you've completed or are currently in a creative writing MFA program, you know that there's more to getting this graduate degree than just sitting down and writing. It's a whirlwind of deadlines, long nights, literary events, terrible first drafts, and so much reading. (And the people you meet... well... let this guy explain that you to you.) Sometimes, an MFA program can even feel more like high school, with all of the gossip, cliques, and drama. Not to mention a healthy amount of self-doubt, worry, procrastination, stress... you get the idea. 

I know I'm making this sound really enticing for all of you who haven't yet enrolled. I know.

Still, getting an MFA in Creative Writing is a completely rewarding experience; its a two year chunk of time dedicated to your writing. And that's great! There's nothing better than that! Still, you will probably doubt your sanity more than once. You will go from completely confident to feeling lower than dirt in the span of one workshop class (and vice versa). If you're like me, you can relate to the emotional roller coaster below that follows you from start to finish of your creative writing MFA experience:

1. Disbelief

Wait, you actually got in? Did they send your acceptance to the right person? Someone else likes your weird fiction? Well, I'll be dammed. 

2. Excitement

You're going to be a real writer! You get to go back-to-school shopping again! You can spend your days back on a campus reading great books and meeting new friends! This is going to be the best two years of your life! 

3. Terror

Oh wait, you actually have to talk in class now. You're expected to turn in good pieces to workshop. You have to sit silently as the class rips apart your metaphors. What kind of hell is this? 

4. Fatigue

You love the writing community, the professors, going out for drinks after class, but you need sleep. You have a stack of books to be read and a draft on your desktop that makes you sick. Not to mention you have no food in your fridge and are living off a stale pot of coffee.   

5. Jealously 

John got his first publication before you? Sarah got that TA job, out of everybody? Fine. Everyone else is sooo awesome and will do great things and you'll just sit in the corner forever.

6. Lust

Let's admit it, MFA dudes are sometimes hot. Plus, you are grown and independent and you spend a lot of time with the same 12 people. Things are bound to get at least a little sexy. 

7. Pride 

You finished your first year with all As. Your director says your thesis has promise. Your last story went over pretty well in workshop. You sounded smart in your lit theory class. Dude, you're doing it. 

8. Panic

YOUR THESIS IS DUE NEXT SEMESTER WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING ALL YEAR YOU WILL NEVER GRADUATE 

9. Anxiety

Your thesis defense is in two weeks how do you breathe again? 

10. Relief

You got through your defense in one piece and only stammered once! All of your forms are signed and your last lit paper is turned in! You even get to wear a fancy hood at graduation! 

11. Euphoria

You're in a boozy haze of glory and accomplishment and you never want to come down 

12. Nostalgia 

It's already the fall semester again? Aw, everyone's going to back to school. What classes are they offering this semester? How are the teachers doing? She said that? Are you going out for drinks? Can I tag along and be an MFA student forever? 

Images: Charlie Barker/Flickr; Giphy (12) 

Must Reads