How To Be An MFA Student

1. In the first month of your first year, sleep with as many people as possible. This is important. Sleep with as many people as you can because after that, everyone will pair off like penguins until graduation and you’ll be forced to sleep with people outside of the program and you won’t be able to talk about how bourgeois everything is after sex.
1.1. Sidenote: in the first month of your second year, sleep with as many first years as possible. You only have a narrow window of opportunity until they figure out that you’ve been “thinning out the herd.” So what if everyone in your program thinks you’re a sleaze. At least they won’t think of you like the people from your home town did, as that introverted virgin who sang entire Anne Murray albums with your mom.
2. Hate everything you read. I mean really fucking hate it. If you’re lost for words, say it’s “trite,” or “bourgeois,” or the kiss of death, “sentimental.” You shouldn’t read anyway. It’ll water down your genius.
3. Only refer to books written by non-Americans, preferably books that haven’t been translated. This accomplishes two things; it proves to everyone how much more widely read you are and it creates a totally defensible argument for anything.
4. You also need to master the dramatic pause because whatever comes out of your mouth is that important now, so when you’re lecturing the rest of the workshop for ten minutes at a shot about how trite someone else’s piece is, they will be spellbound. If you forgot what your point is, just keep talking, but slowly, until something sounds good.
5. Don’t ever ask questions. Your classmates will doubt your brilliance. Instead, yoke eleven contradictory statements together and phrase it as if it was a question.
6. Make plenty of enemies. Anyone who doesn’t wholeheartedly worship your tortured genius should, as a general rule, die. Enemies should be anyone who didn’t compliment you for that 32 page short story you wrote in an hour and a half, or give you a standing ovation for that piece you read in the coffee shop about the anthropomorphized Proust muffins trapped in a loveless marriage.
6.1. Get back at your enemies. Firebomb their writing in workshop as if it were Dresden (consult rule number 1). Give them lots of dirty looks in class, and conspicuously not pay attention when they read in public. Write thinly veiled short stories about them getting sodomized.
7. Develop a hierarchy. It doesn’t matter that everyone was an introverted wallflower who relished their time as a dungeon master, every MFA program needs a group of “cool kids” to exclude everyone else.
8. You’re just here for a piece of paper. The degree is just an inevitable technicality. John Updike said something about 25-year-olds already knowing everything they’ll ever need to write. Like how to get a 32 kill streak on Modern Warfare, or spend daddy’s money.
9. Drink like you’re trying to jettison your liver before midterms. But you drink wine now, or really obscure imported beer. Only drink where people can see you, which will hopefully draw a comparison to a young Hemingway or Dorothy Parker.
10. If you’re not too hung over, get some writing done.

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