It’s been roughly seven months since I last posted on After the MFA. That fact in itself isn’t a big deal for me. I always told myself that I would only write here if I had something to say. I can honestly say, I didn’t have much to report over these long months. A grueling east coast winter, a job change and, with it, a significant change in work-life balance all left this writer a bit tongue tied. Great — I’m thankful for having not contributed to the overbearing noise on the Internet.
But something about tonight… sitting in my backyard, puffing on a fine cigar, watching the planes descend towards JFK over my head, listening to trucks grinding their gears down Bedford Avenue. It’s all making me think about my life after the MFA now that it’s nearing the four-year mark. I officially departed the halls of academia in August 2005, when I handed in my creative project and bid farewell to workshops, creative responses, constructive feedback and the inevitable after-class beer sessions.
Since that landmark date, I’ve done the following:
- Left my home stat of California and moved from San Francisco to New York City with my wife and two small kids
- Left my job of 8 years, started a new one, and a few months later started a newer one
- Written a draft of a television pilot script
- Revised three of the nine stories I wrote for my final masters project
- Started three drafts of three different novels
- Written a total of one new story (!)
- Submitted stories to about a dozen publications
- Started this humble website and posted to it continuously for roughly two years
- Contributed a submission to “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” the six-word memoir project
- Joined a writing group, still trying to get us to meet on a regular basis
- Attempted to do the old get-up-early-in-the-morning-to-write routine a total of two different times… gave it up twice
- Pondered the idea of entering a Phd program, only to come to realize it is a big gamble of time, effort, and expense with small chance of realized gains
What I haven’t done is a shorter, but probably more significant list (to me). I have not:
- Published in a personally significant journal or publication
- Started teaching
- Felt satisfied in any meaningful way with my post MFA writing life
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a self-pitying post meant to stir up the comments in support of my wayward ways. I’m taking stock. I needed to see myself state for the record how I view my post-MFA life. And the answer is … not so wonderfully.
I entered into my MFA program with two major goals in mind: to instill a greater sense of discipline in me for the craft and process of writing and to gain the qualifications to teach writing. Four years down the road I can see that I achieved neither of those goals.
I did meet some great people, write some half-way decent stories, and read a lot of stimulating literature I might not have otherwise exposed myself to. Those two years I spent were not a complete waste. Not even close. In fact, I think my life would have been significantly worse had I not earned my MFA. But, in 20/20 hindsight, I’m pretty confident I would have done a few things differently. What those changes would have been, I’ll have to address another time. My cigar just went out, it’s late, and I think it’s time to go to bed.
If you’re listening/reading, I welcome your comments.