Thursday, April 13, 2006

Disposable theses

It has always amazed me for how long some of my former students flog their Master Theses along. I keep in touch with many of them through email, and I'm stunned when they're still massaging the same material they submitted during their tenure in MFA programs from whence they've long since graduated.

I gave a reading a few weeks back in San Antonio, and a student I taught in a workshop back in 1995 cornered me afterward: "I'm excited about MY's finished almost ready to send out," she said. I smiled and didn't have the heart to tell her that HER NOVEL wouldn't be greeted with the same level of enthusiasm by the world at large. A novel isn't a unique thing, and the world is a cold, indifferent place. YOUR NOVEL is not a child, and you've no obligation to see it through to its fruition. It's something we make, like a piece of furniture, and nothing more. What's more, it belongs to a specific time and place even before it's finished. In most cases, it doesn't age gracefully. Try writing a new novel instead of embarking on draft seventeen.

I now tell all my advisees up front that they should plan on disposing of their thesis as soon as they finish the program. It's merely the price of the diploma. There are exceptions, but such publishable (if barely) work among the endless stacks of MFA theses are as rare as they are brilliant. Throw your 'script away and start something new even before your diploma arrives in the mail. You aren't the same person you were when you started that novel ten years ago...every cell in our bodies is replaced every seven years. The world has changed. You're entire belief system has likely shifted. It's time to move on.

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