You have probably not noticed that I haven’t been around. Maybe you missed me at first, but you surely didn’t lose any sleep over it. Summer is generally a less focused work time for me. I tend to stray from my writing, and often go days where I only write for my hour minimum and no more.

That was not this summer. I am getting ready to apply to MFA programs over the next couple of months and the process is showing itself to be rather grueling. It began with the GRE in May and has been spiraling out of control since. I was exhausted by the test and took a week off afterwards.

Then, I began collecting work for my writing sample. I am allowed twenty-five pages to prove that I am the next big thing. When some people hear that, they say, “Wow. That’s a lot.” Let me tell you that it is not enough. I have too many stories to choose from to pick just twenty-five pages. Then there is the problem of not choosing my strongest stories. Just because I like a story doesn’t make it my best. You, reader, see the dilemma.

I finally decided that I needed a writerly break. I needed something that could distract me from the stress of the application process while still being able to write. In July, I began writing short but sweet articles for PortlandBeer.org. As many of you readers know, I enjoy beer. It has been a joy to write for the website. The only problem being that it filled the void that this blog used to fill. But there are certain perks that come with writing for a beer website, perks I don’t get with writing a blog.

Now, I am stuck. I have been making great headway with the application process. I have the two stories that I am pretty sure will be my writing sample. My letters of recommendation are in order. I have a binder full of schools and deadlines. My research into faculty and programs has been extensive.

The only problem is the cover letter. It won’t get off the ground. I’ve started it probably twenty times and erased it just as many. I am told that the cover letter is the most stressful part of the process, especially for us writers who are so concerned with choosing the right words. I am also told that it matters but not nearly as much as the writing sample. So why is it so hard?

I can have confidence in my writing when it is my craft. But when it comes to talking about myself, I begin to falter. It has been humbling. In a strictly masochistic sense it has been fun. The process of putting down my reason for writing onto a page is a good exercise. I think we should do it more often. That being said, I want it to be over with. My reasons for writing sound either pretentious or amateur.

I write because I have to. (clichéd)

I write because I want to see social change. (Who do I think I am? Norman Mailer?)

I write because I want to present the world as I see it. (Is this high school creative writing?)

I write because I think the process is important. (Go on.)

I think that the process of putting thoughts onto paper is something that everyone should do. In the world today, we often speak without thinking, act without considering others. Writing forces one to slow down and consider all sides. (Hippy)

I cannot seem to win. It was nice to take a break from the most difficult 300 words of my career thus far, but now it seems that I have to get back to the grind. Maybe I’ll stop in and write for the blog more frequently. (Don’t hold your breath.) Wish me luck, and if you see me around town, feel free to buy me a drink. God knows I need one.

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