Surviving the MFA

My  MFA program is working on a book to help grads of similar programs cope with life after graduation. I think it’s a stellar idea. Now, we just need to come up with a book to help survive the MFA program in the first place.

Then again, it’s not the MFA that’s making me rip out my hair; no, it’s my 40-hour-a-week day job. I’d love to know how others cope with the day-to-day feeling of “yes, this pays the bills, but it’s doing nothing for the creative process.” At the end of the day, I find it hard to even think about writing anything. My work is so left-brained that tapping into my imagination is a chore. 

A big part of my process, as I’ve learned while in this program, is letting the ideas marinate for a while in my head. I usually do the first few drafts mentally before sitting down to write. But with a full-time job occupying brain space every day from 7-4, this doesn’t happen. By the time my brain recharges from the day, it’s time for bed, and I end up tossing and turning for hours while my real work figures itself out.

There’s nothing to be done, of course. Even a book on the subject of balancing the MFA and a full-time job couldn’t help me. I need this job for lots of reasons, the main one being that it pays well and gives me the time off needed for school. And with nothing else on the horizon that would offer me a greater amount of brain space, I know I’ll be here for the remainder of the program. Unless I win the lottery. So, there’s always that completely reasonable hope.

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7 thoughts on “Surviving the MFA

  1. I definitely know how you feel. And I’m glad that you wrote this, so thank you. I’m considering pursuing an MFA after I finish my B.A. degree, so any knowledge I can glean about it is extremely helpful.

    I work 40 hours a week in addition to going to school part time for my B.A. I find it to be helpful in my writing because I’m working with people constantly. But honestly, at the end of the day (after working for 8 hours, going to class, and doing homework) creative writing is often the last thing on my mind.

    • Rachel,

      Thanks for writing and following. I’m glad you found some camaraderie, if not some comfort, in my post 🙂

      The low-residency MFA is a great way to balance work and school. It might be a good thing for you to look into. It’s certainly a challenge, but totally worth it. Now, if only that pesky “work” thing didn’t get in the way…. 🙂

      • Haha, no kidding. I’m live in Minnesota & I’ve been looking at the MFA program at Hamline. It’s decently priced and a lot of the students that I’ve talked to have said that it’s designed with working adults in mind. I just have to hope that it’s the same for me, haha.

        Also, thanks for subscribing :). I’m looking forward to reading more of what you have to write too.

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