I had no real intention of studying creative writing in college. In high school, I enjoyed writing and idly dreamed (as book lovers do) of writing a novel someday, but writing didn't seem like the kind of craft that could be honed in a classroom. Authors, in my idealistic teenage imagination, were born with great stories and witty prose in their veins, scribbling out masterpieces in dingy urban cafes or lakeside cabins. I felt far too conventional and practical a person to Be a Writer but, at the beginning of my sophomore year of college, signed up for Intro to Creative Writing because 1) it fulfilled a requirement for my English major and 2) I wanted to conquer my fear of letting things I wrote be seen (and critiqued) by others.
Long story short, I learned that writing, like dance, was something that (duh) improved with practice. Studying writing meant studying books, figuring out what made good stories good and dull stories dull. To my great surprise, I didn't recoil at criticism when it came to my work--I relished it. I also stopped making fun of the term "creative nonfiction", learned that I have no talent for penning poetry, and that writing good fiction is stupidly difficult. But I got better. I submitted some creative nonfiction pieces to national contests and magazines and had a bit of success.
I took more creative writing courses over the next two years and accidentally added a creative writing minor to my double-major. I started thinking about pursuing an MFA in writing after graduation. When Graham was accepted to a small liberal arts college in rural upstate NY (far, far away from any university offering an MFA in writing), I put that idea on the back burner. It was his turn to earn his bachelor's degree and my turn to support our family.
Ultimately, I'm glad I didn't pursue a master's degree right out of undergrad. I needed some time off from being a student to write freelance for a while, start a business, have a child and do other Responsible Adult
Things. Still, there's been this little nagging voice in my head since I walked the stage and got my bachelor's degree telling me that I really haven't learned enough, that I ought to be studying writing. I call it my MFA Monster. Every few months the MFA Monster has me spend sleepless nights browsing the websites of low-residency MFA programs, calculating the amount of student loans I'd need to take out, agonizing over whether or not I had it in me to pursue another degree. Then, just as I'd begin an application, I'd discover some road block I didn't have the energy to overcome--an exorbitant application fee, extreme anxiety, a big business decision. The MFA Monster would retreat and I'd put aside that dream for another few months.
Now's the time. This is the year. I'm letting my MFA Monster out and setting him loose on sample submissions and personal essays, narrowing down lists of schools, and marking application deadlines on my calendar. I've been working on numerous creative writing projects but really crave the support system and mentoring involved in an academic program. My whole life I've had a tendency toward overestimating my own maturity and jumping the gun (moving away from home permanently at 17, getting married at 19 etc.) I suppose I'm realizing now that I'm not as mature and capable a writer as I want to be and that I need more training and practice.
I'm not entirely sure why I felt the need to blog about this before even being accepted into any programs. There's a significant chance that I won't even be accepted anywhere and will be walking away from this dream with my tail between my legs and will spend the rest of my days writing fan fiction and drinking boxed wine out of a plastic cup while whining to the pizza delivery boy about how how "I could have been great if they'd given me a chance!" but that's a risk I'm willing to take.