Back to School Again

5 years ago

girl studying

{Photo above: Not me}

As I mentioned yesterday, I'll be going back to school again this semester. I'm going to take a few required courses and then be done with that chapter of my life. Thankfully, an awesome professor was really sweet and worked with me to get enrolled despite how late it is, and some other challenges I've faced. I also was able to add a class from UCLA but only one. As it turns out the other one conflicted with a required course, so I had to say goodbye. It's okay, though. The one I'm enrolled in will be perfect for where I am with my memoir writing and the instructor's syllabus made me excited. Yes, excited. She has very good taste in memoirs and we're reading one of my favorite memoirs, The Kiss. I'm obviously excited to study it with the class and the professor, though, because even though I've read it twice, professors always frame the study of a passage or a book in an entirely different way than what you may have seen. Classmates are good at that, too.

I had to submit some nonfiction writing samples to get permission to take the class, though, so now that I jumped over that hurdle, I can relax until next week when I start the juggling act--work, school, homework, book...sleep?

In the meantime, I'm preparing the materials I need for applying to MFA programs (a graduate degree in Creative Writing). Some of you know, there's a lot of work that goes into applying to grad school. The application is one tedious part, the fees, getting your transcripts mailed to the school and processed, then your personal statement and test scores. For writing programs, it's a bit different. Besides submitting all of this, a student also submits up to 25 pages of (really great) writing, and a critical essay on books you've read in the past (this is a breakdown of themes within the novel, outside research, and study of the characters or the diction). Reading is a major part of writing, so they want to make sure you are a good reader and know your shit. They are also making sure you're fit to be in a graduate level literature class, since most programs have so many of them. The reason? Many people who receive MFA's go on to teach English at the college level.

I actually wouldn't mind teaching, but teaching is something you have to practice doing and many times you practice by working for little to nothing initially. For the first few years it's a challenge financially while you establish your teaching experience, at least for the young professors I know. I do have a job, although I'm not entirely certain it will be a long-term career, so I think it's great timing for me to consider other options.

Don't you get a graduate degree in writing to be a writer, Lisa? If only it were that simple. To become a professional writer, one must write--often and well. Although the purpose of your graduate degree is to complete your work on a thesis (a book-length manuscript in this case), that's just one manuscript. It usually takes many, many, many more to become self-sustaining on residuals (and many writers don't ever reach that stage). There are, of course, the very lucky few who "make it big" but writing is like acting--success is possible, but it's a long shot.

That's reality, but of course we're all dreamers. We imagine we will be the one to make it big; have success; land on the New York Times best sellers list with our first book.

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