Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Everyone is Losing their Minds, But Not Really

Josh Young

It’s that time of the year at that point in the program where everyone gets grumpy and stressed and frustrated.

It happens. It happened when I got my bachelor’s, and it’s happening now. It makes sense, because we are finishing up the final touches of our thesis and still taking classes and grading papers and working and looking for jobs.

I think that might be the hardest part. We don’t know where we are going to be or what we are going to do for work when we graduate. But come on guys—we knew this. We knew the odds, and we came here not for a job but to work on our craft and to form a community of poets and writers so that we can support each other’s work and career and  help each other with job leads, contest deadlines, and submission guidelines.

Dear Incoming graduate students,

Don’t expect an MFA to be your ticket to a job. You must expect to adjunct or piece together other jobs when you graduate, while you build up your CV, experience, and publishing record.

This a OK. Very few will land a career/job right out of an MFA program, and even fewer will have a book published right away. Give it time. The point is to grow as a poet, thinker, teacher, and editor so when the right job comes along you’re prepared.

That’s why I constantly say you need to really make grad school work for you. Work, teach, edit, publish, work on side projects, collaborate, go to conferences, present papers, go to extra readings, read your work, and work extremely hard in ALL of your classes. But remember this: if a class is bumming you out or stressing you out, you don’t have to write a perfect poem or even get it right; just do as much as you can muster. It’s pointless to stress yourself out so much you can’t even learn from it.

I’ve been there. And I’ve had my foot in my mouth and only now, months or years later, can say OH THAT’S WHAT I GOT OUT OF IT!

The point is, you will be frustrated and maybe a little pissed and uncertain about your future, but that’s OK. It’s normal. There will be classes you don’t enjoy and people you don’t get along with. But that’s OK, too. Get what you can out of your program, build a community, and you will have a great CV and a great experience to take with you upon graduation. And really, doors will open; you just gotta keep at it.

Everyone is Losing their Minds, But Not Really

It’s that time of the year at that point in the program where everyone gets grumpy and stressed and frustrated. It happens. It happened when I got my bachelor’s, and …

Creative Writing - Poetry MFA Josh Young, joyoung@colum.edu
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