Sunday, March 20, 2011
Night Shall End in Day
This is Lent and the theme at Trinity Church on Wall Street is “Night Shall End In Day.”
I take this to mean that there is hope; we don’t have to live in darkness—unless we choose to do so.
I have been trying—really trying—to turn off the dark this week, but I sometimes feel like I’m running short on matches in a drafty room.
In January I applied for Hunter College’s Creative Writing MFA program. I graduated from Hunter three decades ago, when, as I said in my application “Jimmy Carter was president, bread cost 48 cents a loaf, and Hunter’s West Building was just a hole in the ground.”
I thought it would be great to go back to my old college and work on my writing. Well, I learned this week that the program’s selection committee had decided not to extend me an offer of admission, according to the online message I received.
In other words, I didn’t get in.
I was a little bummed, of course, but I’m okay with this—seriously. It was a long shot to begin with, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure how I would be able to attend classes and go to work at the same time. Now I don’t have to worry.
My return trip to my alma mater began last fall when I heard a BBC radio interview with the novelist Peter Carey, author of Oscar and Lucinda and other works.
I was quite impressed and I learned that Carey was the head of the creative writing program at Hunter. When I found out that Hunter would be hosting an open house for the Creative Writing MFA, I made sure to get up there.
The auditorium was packed and the instructors and students on stage gave off this fabulous energy.
“We’re not teachers who write,” Peter Carey said at one point, “but writers who teach.”
I was so amped when I came out of that place that I decided I would apply for the program.
But it was strange being back at Hunter after all this time. As I wrote in my application. "this is where I tutored English, met a woman I wish I had married, and made the decision that I wanted to write."
And I remember making that decision. I was a sophomore, doing poorly in several classes, and I thought I'd better crank up the writing and try to make a living that way because I didn't see myself working on the stock exchange. I started reading Ellery Queen Magazine and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine and writing crime stories of my own. I also signed up from creative writing courses.
In returning to Hunter, I found myself looking over my life and asking what have I actually done in the last 30-odd years?
You’re not rich, you’re not famous, this dark voice inside me said, and while you write for living, it’s as a reporter, not as the novelist-screenwriter-poet warlord you want to be.
I know so many people who have started families, created their own businesses, and generally done a hell of lot more with their lives than I have with mine.
I've also allowed my social circle to shrink, using the lousy weather as an excuse to sit in front of the TV most weekends and watch movies.
I think I applied to the Hunter program because I wanted a second chance at being a college student, a do-over, because I didn't do such a hot job the first time around. I thought I could write, hang out with really cool people, finish that novel and get on with my career before I became eligible for Social Security.
So it looks like that’s not going to happen. It’s no fun being rejected for anything, but I’m not going to crash and burn on this. And I’m certainly not going to give up on writing. I'll finish that manuscript sure as the night shall end in day.