I’m sitting here writing my last blog as your Fiction Ambassador, and reflecting back on my time at Columbia with rose-tinted glasses. I’ve still got a bit to go in terms of my degree in the MFA program (see: Thesis Semester) but a lot has happened since I first started here.
Sometimes I think of where I might be if I hadn’t gone to grad school. Where my writing would be, where I’d be living, who I would’ve made friends with instead of my cohort, who I would’ve learned from instead of my instructors here at Columbia. I’ve always been an optimist, so that alternate-reality Sara isn’t living a bad life, but I don’t think her life is one I (she?) would be wholly satisfied with.
This summer, some of my cohort and I (never content with taking the summer to just r-e-l-a-x for heck’s sake) exchanged manuscripts in preparation for meeting with our thesis advisors where we’ll do the same thing. This body of work that I just invited them all to view on Google Docs (bless the Internet) has been crafted mainly over these past two years. Their fingerprints are all over it already. The stories’ iterations are from countless hours of reading and revising based on workshops, but their initial creations are also due to having met these people, and their ideas and questions, and that one night at a bar where someone jokingly (but also sincerely) said something like “what have you always censored yourself from writing? why…?” and boom, I set a goal and wrote a scene and it turned out great.
What would my collection be without this program, without this process? It’s hard not to get philosophical when thinking about the “what-if” choices down the timeline of your life. I think as a writer it would’ve gotten done, just out of sheer necessity for me to tell stories. But would they be good? Would they have as much life? Would I have the same outlook about structure or meaning, would I think twice when someone used the word “always,” would I pause to find a better comment before I said “this scene isn’t working?”
The logical answer is “no,” I wouldn’t do or know all those things. I would do and know a whole set of other things, because that’s how time works (and here I go…), but what I’m trying to get at is I’m so grateful. The things I’ve learned, the people I’ve gotten to know, the skills I’ve added to my bag of tricks — they’re all things I wish all the alternate-reality Saras could have. I’m a better writer, reader, workshopper, thinker, friend, all-around person, because of a decision I made over two years ago.
If this sounds too good to be true, it’s ok, sometimes I think that, too. But then I get a text from a cohort member with a picture of a new book and some run-on, giddy sentence about how I must read this book immediately it’s so you you have to you’ll love it it’s just like that story of yours that i read and loved SARA READ IT, I realize that it’s exactly as good as it’s supposed to be.