Brandon Taylor on applying to MFA programmes—
[T]he notion of purpose in one’s writing is so slippery and strange that it feels cringe to go around professing it toward other people. We are taught to have a natural suspicion of people with goals in their creative work, and some would have you believe that all artists share the same single pursuit: trust and honesty. The notion of purpose is also haunted by that most nefarious of specters: politics. And so the statement of purpose for MFA programs in creative writing seems to be a dubious genre in which we are meant to recycle and repurpose the usual platitudes one finds in craft talks from the late mid-century, all about beauty and art and self-expression, or else we risk billing ourselves as propagandists and socialists.
I don’t mean to say that this is what a statement of purpose actually is for. I guess I am trying to recreate the atmosphere of my own thinking when I sat down to write my statement of purpose. That feeling of not quite knowing what to say or how to say it without getting myself dinged. I think I was trying to imagine what a person on the other side would want to read in order to accept me, and in that way, I was trying to biomimicry my way out of science and into art. If only I could fake it well enough to deceive those dastardly gatekeepers.