Post-MFA Fear #1: I will never find a job. Never.




Real or unfounded? Of course I can find a job. I always have. My fear is that I will not find the job(s) I want, i.e., a position outside of corporate America, likely academic or with some literary connection, that sustains me financially, and provides flexibility to pursue my fiction.

I have consulted with established writers, self-employed artists and professionals, and teachers, and have identified the direction toward which I’m working: I want to pursue employment in academics because I find it satisfying, I enjoy it, I’m good at it, and it can provide the flexibility and intellectual support I seek.

What can I control? I need experience and publication to attain full-time, college-level positions. My main priorities toward this are:

  • Submitting my work. I identify publications that might be interested in the stories from my manuscript that are finished, and then send, send, send. If I know anyone connected to a publication of interest, I ask them for guidance on whom and how to contact.
  • Completing my manuscript. More than one person has told me that eventually I will need an agent, and no agent is interested in a half-complete manuscript. A completed manuscript is my ticket into the game; so though I’m nervous about finding a job, my many advisers are right: My job right now is to finish that manuscript.
  • Contacting schools about teaching opportunities. There are a lot of schools in the metro New York and New Jersey area, and I am on track to contacting all of them. A family friend on the faculty of a local school gave me a useful piece of advice: Don’t overlook local community colleges. They often have a great need for adjunct and part-time instructors. The courses may not be the sexiest, but these are opportunities to gain experience, and may be easier to land without a PhD or extensive publication.

What do I have to accept as out of my control? It is within my control to take action on the things I can influence, e.g., submitting my work, applying for teaching positions. The time it will take for these actions to yield results is not wholly within my control. It is important to follow up with people because my future is no one else’s top-most daily priority; however, relentless reminders will not further my cause either. So I have to accept that while it is up to me to sow and nurture the seeds, beyond that, I have to be patient.

Post-note: The NYT Sunday Styles section printed an interesting article about Gloria Steinem yesterday. Of particular interest to me was an accompanying article about Shelby Knox, a young feminist organizer who became Gloria Steinem’s mentee. I’ve had similar conversations about what I really, really want to do — however, I do not have a Gloria Steinem willing to house and feed me, and provide connections while I make my dreams come true. What do you think: Is the following example inspirational or delusional?

“Gloria asked me what I really, really wanted to do,” she said. “And I said, ‘Well, if I could do anything, I would just go back to doing what I was doing: writing and traveling and speaking.’ And she was like, ‘Why don’t you do that?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve got to pay rent.’ ”

At that point, she said, Ms. Steinem suggested, “Well, why don’t you live with me for a while until you get on your feet?”

So, for the next two and a half years, Ms. Knox lived in Ms. Steinem’s guest room. During that time, she traveled around the country speaking; tried and, in her words, failed to be a blogger; and started a book about fourth-wave feminism, which she said was more diverse as a movement than second- or third-wave feminism, largely because of the Internet.

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