Writing

Scared Gradless

Last night I found myself perusing my grad. school options. I have been slowly easing myself into the idea of going back to school, but choosing what I want to study has been the hard part. I had narrowed it down to three fields: Social Work, Law, or Writing.

But there are other factors involved other than just wanting to study in these fields. I am getting married in a little over 8 months. We would like to start a family relatively soon, and I would like to be a stay-at-home mom for the most part. You can’t really start studying law, have a kid, get a degree, take a couple of years off to stay home and then look for work in the law community.

But writing. That is a whole different ball game. I can write from anywhere, while I do pretty much anything. So the choice is writing, which I am ecstatic about, or I was until I started researching MFA programs.

Doubt and fear starting creeping up on me when I read that I had to choose a genre: poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. Then my eyes started skipping over Portland State University’s MFA Creative Writing Manual and picking out words like oral exam, thesis committee, and deadline. Added on top of that I looked at what it would take to get my tuition paid for and I am not qualified to be a teaching assistant. They want a grad student who can teach writing, literature, grade papers, etc. NOT QUALIFIED.

Yes I have a BA in writing, but that does NOT mean I know what I am doing. And choosing a genre? I love fiction, but I have never seriously tried my hand at it. I feel more comfortable with creative nonfiction, because then you can always write about yourself. I know myself, but do I want label myself as a writer so early in the game?

I turned off my computer. It was all too much. If I choose law or social work the pressure would be a lot less. But writing? I feel like I need to know a lot more than I do. Even if the program expects less of me than I do, I still have to contend with myself.

And what on earth would I submit as my application. For law or social work you have to submit an application, answering questions that they have selected. You have to write essays on topics they have provided. Writing? You have to submit a 15-20 page example of your best work.

Do I even have best work? After reading over some of my work from college–the work I thought was kick ass, I am realizing I no longer think of it as kick ass. It is alright. There are a couple shining moments, but they are shadowed by paragraphs of crap. My senior year I took a Spiritual Travel Writing and there were about 4-5 heavy hitters in the class–I was included in that group. My professor even told me that I have brass ovaries (believe me, it was a compliment).

We would all sit at the end of the table and we dominated. But now I am wondering why? Well, not for the others in that select group. They were awesome! But me?

Not so sure. But until I find my swagger again, which I seem to have misplaced, I am just going to keep writing. My grad school application is due January 3, 2014. I have some time to wrap my head around everything, take a refresher course on grammar, and write like the dickens. Here’s hopin’ that I write something truly spectacular between now and then. And decide on a genre, and unravel the mysteries that are verb tenses, and commas, and become worthy of being a teaching assistant…

I need to go lie down.

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3 thoughts on “Scared Gradless

  1. Thad says:

    I’m a few days behind, but catching up and wanted to comment on this.

    Why do you need grad school at all? What is it that further classroom education (especially in writing) would provide that you: (a) need, and (b) can’t find in non-classroom education (eg. by writing and thinking about how others write)?

    Grad-school programs tend to be very narrowly focused, and the vibe I’ve gotten is that you’re more interested in synthesis — pulling different themes and textures together. Are you sure grad-school would be a going-towards something necessary? The other, rather more shadowy possibility, is that grad-school might be a moving away from something…

    Just thoughts; feel free to tell me I’m crazy.

    • It has taken me a while to respond to this, because I was not immediately sure of the answer. You are right that I am mostly interested in synthesis, and although grad-school is not a necessity, I think I actually want to go.
      What would an MFA program provide me? Structure more than anything else, which more than anything else pushes me.
      I might want to teach in the future, and sense I have no interest in teaching k-12, that means college and college means graduate school.
      Anyway, the real answer is I am not sure yet. I have been so vocally opposed to the university’s monopoly on education that I am also a little surprised that I would be willing to jump back into it.
      Maybe I will write a post about it?

      • Thad says:

        Wanting to go is definitely a good sign; but push further — what is it about going that you want, and what makes you think that going there is the way to get it?

        Structure is good; but depending on a finite system to provide it means it’s a stop-gap solution at best. If you can’t generate the structure you need yourself, what will you do when you graduate? It may be that grad-school could show you some ways to do that self-generation; but it might simply foster a dependence instead.

        It is true that most college positions require (at least on paper) an advance degree. However, on-paper requirements can frequently be worked around if the applicant is otherwise outstanding (which, in my own humble opinion, you would be). It still might be worth doing — I had to have a master’s for my current career — but if that is your reason, then knowing it may change what kind of program you’re looking for.

        I definitely support writing more posts about it.

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