Isn't it great to be a young 20 something with the whole world in front of you?
That's what they keep telling me. Mostly I am freaking out on a daily basis, drinking a lot of coffee and staring at open, empty word documents. And spending hours on Tumblr, convinced that I am doing "research" and this will all help my writing. Well, you probably aren't surprised, but it hasn't.
Apparently, I am experiencing a very common phenomenon often called "senioritis", a mash up of words that make it sound like a harmless ailment. The suffix "-itis" comes from the greek word meaning "inflamation". I would not say that my "senior-ness" is being inflamed.
I'm fairly positive they could have found a better word to describe the mind-numbingly terrified feeling I get everytime I open my application to the University of Oregon's creative writing program. I'm pretty sure there is another word to decribe the way that I break down in tears when I've heard the question "Oh, English major, huh? What are you going to do with that?" too many times in one day.
When I was graduating highschool, senioritis felt more like a little inflamation. I was excited to have a high school diploma. There are some people who never make it that far, you know. When people asked me what I wanted to do after highschool the answer was simple. "I'm going to college at Plymouth State where I will study communications and then get a job in advertising where I will sell you things that you don't need or know you wanted."
Things change, and we accept the changes, and I realized what I really wanted to do was write. For a long time I had just been convincing myself that I would never be any good at it. But I tried it anyway. Unfortunately, people told me I was good at it! They encouraged me, damn them! I got it into my head that this was something I could do! Maybe not fabulously, or as good as my mentors, but that was because I needed time to grow and learn.
Since then, I have read many a book on good writing, read aritcles upon articles, and pored over some of the best poets and writers in existence (if such a thing can be determined) and what I have realized is that everything I have ever written is complete and utter shit. Many times this has encouraged me to write more and read more and absorb more creative genius from each page. Most of the time, such as when I am trying to put together a portfolio to send to three of my dream graduate schools, it is terribly discouraging.
T.S. Elliot once said in an interview with Donald Hall (a very small part of which can be seen here in Hall's essay in the New Yorker), that no one intelligent ever knew if he was a good writer. I can only hope that this is true.
However, if you are staring down the great unknown and feeling extremely intimidated by life and the world of grad schools, I offer you the things that help me:
- Breathe. It's important for living.
- Close tumblr. Sign off Facebook. Turn off the TV. They will suck any free time you have away from you.
- Accept that when you are compiling writing samples for fellowships, graduate schools, scholarships, that this is not the time to be writing new things. Take the things you know well, and accept that at the moment, this is your best work.
- Don't cry too much. Your roomates will worry about you.
- Every once and a while, build a blanket fort in your living room and declare that it is watch-movies-and-drink-mimosas-Saturday.
- Go to the gym and run on the treadmill, blasting "Eye of the Tiger" in your headphones while punching the floating, invisible heads of the admissions panel from your selected schools.
- Write down deadlines and leave them every where. Sticky note them to your computer, your walls, your desk, your cat.
- Have a professor that has applied to similar programs help you/convince you not to end it all/put up with your whining for months. Bake that professor some cookies when its all over. (Thanks Liz!)
- Remind yourself that none of this shit is the end of the world. If you miss a deadline, there is always next year. If you don't get into your favorite school, you can apply again.