Friday, November 9, 2007

Why Grad School?

Lately, many of my friends have been squealing out their good news, they will be returning to grad school! Part of me is delighted that they have decided to pursue higher education, part of me is vaguely jealous, and the other part wants to scream: WHY?

Sure, I can see the obvious draws of higher learning—I’d love to get a MA or PhD in Creative Writing or Writing for Children (my two passions), but I’m not ready to put myself into anymore debt to go back to school. I’m still paying off far more student loan debt than I’d care to discuss. I would love nothing more than to go back to school and spend my days with people pursuing a similar creative dream and impassioned about their studies, but the practical side of me reminds me that for every bestselling novelist who went to grad school for writing (Jodi Picoult, Alice Sebold, Robyn Young) there are another ten (Stephen King, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwall, John Grisham) who didn’t. As my compatriot Maverick so often reminds me, if you want to write, then write.

I hate to admit it (actually, I’m proud to admit it—but it makes me sound lamer then I am, doesn’t it?) but she’s right. It you want to be a writer, then it’s that simple. You don’t need higher education. I’m not saying that an MA in Writing isn’t a good thing—it is, from all the professional writers I’ve talked to who’ve gone through an MA program in writing; it’s a rewarding and worthwhile experience. I’ve been thinking a lot about taking some writing classes—I feel like I’m out of practice and since starting this blog, I’ve been reminded of how much I love to write. I’ve been trying to decide if I need to take the plunge back to school….

I’m terrified to admit this—but most of the time I fear applying to grad school because I refuse to settle. I want to go to a school of my choice, that has an exemplarily program, and will help me become a published writer. I also know that Creative Writing MAs are pricey, in demand, and very choosey. I am afraid I wouldn’t get into the schools I would want to go to and have to settle—which at this point in my life is unacceptable. Here’s the other tricky matter—I don’t want to pay to go to grad school. I want a free ride.

So, I go back to the lesson about writing success that I see everyday in my job—if you want to write a novel, write it. Be possessed by the writing demons and just get your stories out on paper. Make time for your writing, Revise you writing. Create a writing habit. Write a lot of crap and pare it down to something really good. In other words, write.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grad school—and the obvious solution for me is to try to WRITE on my own, with the support of friends, for a few years and see where it takes me. I think going back to grad school at this time for an MA in Writing would be a waste of money (and time) for me. I’m not convinced that I won’t eventually go back for an MFA—I just think it would be well into the future, if ever.

So, while I’m happy to congratulate my friends who are returning to school to become professors (yay), nurses (ohmigod—these friends truly amaze me, I am SO proud of them), doctors (see the preceding comment), designers (I wish I had their courage), publishing MAs (why? I don’t understand this one at all—you can get this for FREE its called experience in your FIELD!). I will wait on my return to grad school (if ever), I firmly believe that I want to be a writer—not a professor, and a working writer at that. Someone who lives by her craft and I’m not yet convinced I need an MFA to do that.

1 comment:

Kirsty said...

I have often wondered why a friend of mine choose, directly after a Creative Writing BA, to do a Novel Writing MA. During that year, he attended one (evening) seminar a week whilst working nearly full-time and paid £3k for the pleasure. True, there was a support network of writers, but that could be gained from a writing group. There was also less guilt attached to writing, because he was doing it for a reason - his MA - but there were the sneering glances of the general population when he explained his choice of post-grad degree.

He did finish his novel. He's still editing it two years later.