Summer is nearly over, and fall is fast approaching. We are 4 months away from application deadlines. What can you do now?
Save the online application, essays, CV revisions, and recommendation requests for later. Focus on your writing sample. I have two reasons–one for the applicant, and one for the writer, and they’re not exclusive.
As an applicant, your writing is the element with most weight among your materials. As a writer, it takes time and a somewhat relaxed state of mind to think creatively and critically about your work. Working in a manic, acutely stressed state doesn’t promote creative connections or deep thought about the work’s underlying implications. (Think: building a 7-story house of cards with a 2 minute deadline on 3 cups of coffee.)
So begin working on the writing in a focused way. Put a plan together. Think about what you want to submit. Choose or write the stories that have the most personal emotional investment because it gives your work a pulse. And don’t worry about what everyone else is doing because you’re the only one who sees the world in your own particular way.
This time will be rich with challenges. But if you can build your writing practice with this four-month deadline, you will learn how to be a writer, and how to improve the work and the process.
Carol Dweck at Stanford University has a great piece of advice for parents about growth mindset, but this applies to writers and everyone else: “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
Embrace your obstacles, and get to work. Make it a weekly routine, setting aside some hours to think, draft, and revise. Establish a pace that you can work in.
“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.” -Isabelle Allende