Low Residency MFA Week 1

I started my online MFA classes last week. I’m taking a full courseload this semester: a Fiction Workshop (3 credits), a Creative Non-Fiction Workshop (3 credits), a literature class (3 credits), an in-person week long residency in October (1 credit), and editing the literary magazine (1 credit). Looking at the syllabi and counting up the number of written pieces and books to be read (22), I felt a cold sweat coming on. How the hell am I going to do this? Nonetheless, I’ve already submitted some assignments, and am staying on top of the reading.

Here are a few takeaways from my first week:

  1. There is a learning curve with the online class platform. My school uses the Canvas platform, which allows the instructors to build out their own classes. This means that each class structure is slightly different. There is also a LOT of introductions and unruly, tangled up comment threads while all of us get to know each other.  But, I’m already getting used to this. I’m used to constantly replying to emails, posting comments on social media threads, and it’s really not that different. The downside to this is that I find myself constantly checking back to see if my classmates have posted new comments. This can become a time suck just like social media. I’ve decided to check the discussion boards only once or twice a day.
  2. Making an assignment calendar is saving my life. This is basic, but it’s been almost 8 years since I’ve been in school and I’m a little rusty. Like an old person, I printed out all of my syllabi and transferred important assignment dates and onto my personal calendar. This helps me to visualize the pace at which I need to work and read.
  3. My classmates have a range of experience levels. A few of my classmates already have MAs in literature or creative writing (I was like, “damn! you need an MFA too?”), some have already been published, a few (like me) have just written a handful of things, some classmates have unfinished novels in their desk drawers, others are coming back to writing after a break of 10 years or so. Our ages also range from early 20s to mid 60s. I love this variety of experience and background. To my delight, rather than being intimidated, I find myself excited to learn from these folks.
  4. I wish I could speed read. I need to read 6 books for the October residency, so planning those among the weekly readings for each class stresses me out. I’m aiming to finish one of those per week, although realistically, it will probably be more like one per every 1.5 weeks.
  5. Trying to suppress my people pleasing instincts. Next week, I have my first creative non-fiction essay due.  I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to wow my classmates and instructor with an incredible essay. That’s not healthy.  Nor is it productive. I’m trying to stay in my own lane and write for the sheer pleasure of writing.

What was/is your experience adjusting to a new school year? Do you like the format of online classes or do they stress you out?

Author: Lauren Rhoades

Entrepreneur, vegetable lover, writer.

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