It’s not as if I woke up one day and decided I would do this: spend money and time, peel myself away from the track laid before me. I admire people who know their minds and make decisions, firm and quick. They don’t seem to have doubts or second thoughts and for that reason they are, to me, superhuman.
But a funny thing has happened this year—my year of choosing one path and then rather dramatically course-correcting: over and over people have said how impressed they are that I changed my mind and followed my heart, come what may. So maybe we all have these little superhuman abilities when something really important is at stake.
I don’t mean to say it was easy—not at all. And I felt a good amount of embarrassment, too. Did I seem as chicken-sans-head as I felt? The thing I’ve found is that if you believe in yourself, other people—the people who matter—will believe in you, too. Good friends want to be excited for you, and they want to see you do that thing that you’ve always wanted to do.
I feel exceptionally good about the decision I’ve made, but there are a few things about the MFA that I hope I can manage in the next two years:
- Balancing full-time work and the MFA program - I know others have done it and have managed their families besides. Surely I can, too—especially without kiddos or significant other. However, the creative space flourishes when the mind is at its best, least cluttered, most rested. At the end of a long workday, the day’s quota of problem-solving and problems-yet-to-solve can really drown everything else out. I’m not sure how to manage this, but I’m practicing leaving work at work. (If you’ve succeeded at this, please share your tips in the comments!)
- Writing and writing well - I love it, but can I do it regularly and despite all other commitments for two years? Time and determination will tell.
- Money - One’s money is one’s business, but I will say that this is an investment for me. I’m not expecting it to pay out in terms of ever achieving a New York Times Bestseller placement (if only!) but I do hope to learn, stretch, and eventually publish. To me, that’s worth it—but the cost and cost management is a stressor.
- Workshop - Honestly, this is the least of my worries at the moment. I have a pretty thick skin, thanks to age and experience, though I may feel more vulnerable in just a few weeks. Every participant, I’m sure, wants to Not Suck. We want constructive feedback, including criticism, but we don’t want to appear foolish. Oh, humanity!
- The residencies - I’m looking forward to them, but as someone who has fully embraced her introversion*, days packed with lectures, readings, workshops, and all manner of socialization sound exhausting. The bright light on the horizon? I received a note last week that I’ve been awarded a single room in the dormitory for this upcoming residency. (Yes, most participants share a double.) I’m so relieved! There is a chance of survival after all.
If you are currently at an MFA program, low-res or not, or if you are entertaining the idea or if you’ve graduated (ages ago or just a few months ago), I’d love to connect.
And for anyone at any point in the writing/MFA journey, I recommend The Postmasters Podcast.
*Most people cannot believe I’m an introvert. I’m not particularly shy; I like people well enough. But after socializing I need copious time to recharge. I have three days after the January residency before I go back to work. Think it’ll be enough?