Sunday, August 17, 2008

Buying a Little Time

One thing that you get out of an MFA program is simply time. And I don’t mean time to write; like I’ve said before, I don’t feel that you actually have as much time to work on writing in an MFA program (especially if you’re a TA like most of us are) as you would working a 40 hour a week job and writing in your spare time. What I mean by time is that you get to delay the future just a little bit longer. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve only got a year left and I’m beginning to think I should have gone for an MA, instead, so I could continue on for a PHD and gain even more time.

When I was an undergrad and avidly working on the first novel I actually finished and revised (though it’s one that no one anywhere, thank God, will ever read), I kind of thought I was going to get a book published by the time I was out of college. When it became increasingly clear that, A: that novel wasn’t any good, and B: even if it had been, it doesn’t really happen that easily, I realized that I needed to go on to grad school, if for no other reason (although there were many other reasons . . .) to give myself another 3 years to write and work on getting published before I had to go out there and get a “real” job.

In grad school, I’ve had time to really focus on my craft and work to become better and better and better. If, instead, I were working full time at, say, the medical clinic I worked at before coming here, I might feel less justified in spending so much time on writing. I might feel like I was wasting my time because it hadn’t happened yet and it probably never would.

As a creative writing student and an English teacher, I feel like it’s totally acceptable to spend so much spare time on this thing that would otherwise just be considered a hobby. I’m sort of given permission to let it be the center of my life for a little while. I get to exist in this kind of cushioned bubble where I can go whole days, if I want, where I don’t do hardly anything but read and write.

And I think it’s made a huge difference in my skill level and endurance as a writer. I write consistently way more and way better stuff than I did just two years ago, and I expect these extra three years that I bought myself with the MFA program will have made a lasting difference in my future writing life, as well.

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