So I'm furiously revising my stories for MFA applications, and they're coming along pretty well. I don't want to speak too precipitously, but I believe I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've completed the actual application for one school, am gearing up for the other two (one started), and am following all that up with a flurry of transcript ordering and mailings to departments.
I was perusing through some old drafts of one of them on Saturday, looking for things I had cut in past versions, and I was surprised at just how much revision I had done on the piece in question. I think of myself as noodling around the edges and making superficial changes, but it's been a long evolution on this story. It's heartening, really. One of my references, a former teacher, showed me a draft of his letter of recommendation, and he noted that I grasped the importance of revision. It reinforces a view of myself as hardworking, looking to improve, and taking in constructive criticism. I like that view a lot.
The part about this whole endeavor that really runs contrary to my makeup, though, is the schizophrenic melding of the solitary artist with the self-promotion machine. You can write the most beautiful pieces in the world, but unless you send them out in the world and work toward getting published, you might as well leave them in a dusty drawer.
So, it behooves writers to network, promote, send things out, withstand rejection. I had a couple of offputting classmates in previous classes who pelted everyone with their myspace pages and facebook fan sites, all promoting their work. It's uncomfortable to get blatantly networked for someone else's career aspirations. I'm supportive of other people's work and am happy to spread the word if I think it's worthwhile, but at the same time, there's a line between cultivating relationships that enhance your ability to spread news about your writing and treating people like their sole purpose is to help you.
Which brings me to friend X, whom I met about fifteen years ago. We both loved books, talked about writing, and followed a similar trajectory from our unsatisfying technical jobs to editing and academia. After I moved away, she kept me posted for a while on stories she was getting published (which I would diligently and mostly unsuccessfully try to look up), but we lost touch a couple of years ago, at the time her first novel came out. At her exhortation, I bought the novel, told all my friends, mindful that sales figures would determine the fate of the book itself and her eventual career. After that, I sent her emails, to which I never got replies. I figured she had changed email addresses. From other sources, I learned that her press was good, and she's launched what appears to be a great career, for which I'm very happy. I know she worked really hard for it and is very talented.
Recently, she friended me on facebook, which was awesome--I was excited to see how she was and tell her what was new in my life, on the cusp, as I am, of new frontiers. I sent her a quick email commenting on her kids (one more than last I spoke to her), effusing over her successful and good work. And I heard nothing back. And what was initially a personal page when she friended me has morphed into a professional promotion page, pictures and personal details gone.
So I kind of feel like I've been used to up the facebook promotion footprint, and that she really doesn't give a shit what's going on in my life anymore. Which is, to say the least, depressing.
Ergo, I vow to not be one of those power-hungry, fame-hungry people who will only trade personal banalities with you if you promise to sell ten copies of my Great American Novel. (The one that I'm writing right this very second. Um. Yeah.)