I received my first MA, in English Literature and Critical Theory, immediately after college graduation. Post-MA, I spent about 15 years writing in nonprofit and corporate environments, including proposal writing, marketing and advertising, and copywriting. I applied to, and was accepted into my MFA program in 2010 after I was downsized from my last corporate position.
I mention all this for the following reason: Assessing what I had when I entered this new stage of my life helps me assess realistically what I have now that will help me move forward. It’s part of the whole managing anxiety strategy: When I freak about my life going nowhere and being a loser, it is helpful to consider if these fears are actually founded in reality.
So I entered the MFA program with:
- Academic, professional, and personal life experience that helped me focus and take full advantage of this second grad school opportunity.
- Marketable skills that I can use to “pay the bills” and “fall back on” as I continue to create a life that works around my first priority, i.e., writing.
- Previous graduate academic credit that allowed me to complete my MFA in less time and for less money.
- Teaching experience from my first and second grad school stints that help me in my pursuit of academic work.
I’m leaving the MFA program with:
- An MFA degree that enables me to pursue college teaching positions, and looks snazzy when applying to non-college level academic positions.
- Strong writing skills that help me pursue my own fiction goals and make me more marketable if I need to dip back into the corporate pool temporarily to pay my mortgage.
- A strong body of work that I am submitting EVERYWHERE applicable because publication is key to my goals.
- A strong network of classmates who are familiar with my work, and on whom I can call to be trusted readers and colleagues; and teachers who can provide references and guidance.
- Knowledge gained from speaking with established writers on how they’ve honed their craft and pursued their writing goals without starving.
Assessing all this makes me feel a little better because I know that I am not leaving my program empty-handed and unprepared to face the future. However, there are still things I fear.
Next post: I will never find a job. Never.