My Post-MFA Malaise

22 Nov

Hello there blog-reading world! I’m back— but this time, I’m making no apologies and I’m making no promises.

Why?

Well, I’m trying to be realistic. In the six months since finishing my MFA, I have been on a roller-coaster of emotions and expectations that has left me confused and excited, determined and depressed, and all of this at once.

malaise

Because identifying the problem is the first step...

I had this idea that Grad. School would give me the tools to achieve all my goals but not just that, that it would help me understand what those goals were and how to achieve them. In some ways, it did and others it didn’t. I understand the academic world, and really the adult world, more than I did and got to know myself as a writer but I was always able to step away when I wanted to because, I was a student after all.

I had my heart broken a few times, by friends and colleagues, by the business, bureaucracy and bullshit that comes along with it all. I realize every day a little more how much of an idealistic I am.

It wasn’t until I had the experience of getting my first “real-world” job (and then a second) and was caught up in its own milieu of problems, that I’ve had the distance to really recognize this.

But what I think I’ve really learned is that as a writer, as an idealist, as a human being, it is our job every day to fight for ourselves.

And as if every day wasn’t enough, the most recent episode of “The Simpsons,” titled “The Book Job,” discussed over here, was a handy reminder of this fact.  The story itself was fun and Neil Gaiman’s guest role was funny but what caught my attention and tugged at my heart, as always, was Lisa’s shining moment of addressing her own disillusionment.

Lisa Simpson is often held up as an avatar of what it is to be the idealistic woman of our generation and, in this episode, also what it is to be a writer. We watch as she scorns those who write for *gasp* profit and sets off to write on her own, for the sheer love of it, and fails.

Which brings me back to where I am. Because of all the things that the MFA program did teach me, it didn’t prepare me to be my own business. Which, in the long run, is part of being a writer. Promoting oneself, sending out to get published, finding others to collaborate with, and any other aspect of writing is a full-time job. One that can feel impossible to maintain on top of those jobs you must keep to pay the bills.

On top of that, there is a strong sense of isolation. My years in Michigan have left me feeling profoundly isolated, even more-so than the semester I spent in China the year after my mom died. It might be because of the ridiculous weather here. It might be because I am, for the first time, confronting the realities of things like “adulthood” and “career”. But it might also be that artistic notion of finding my voice and myself that, once you think you’ve found the answer, that answer immediately becomes less and less satisfying.

So, I’m trying to identify myself as a writer again and, for the first time, it’s up to me. Maybe this anxiety I feel is what people criticize as the phenomena of people not knowing how to write outside of the workshop. Or maybe I should trust everyone that says it’s okay to take some time and I shouldn’t be pressurig myself but really? There’s so much I want to do and so much I want to write that I don’t know where to begin.

Today, I’m choosing to begin here. And hopefully, I’ll keep to it this time.

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2 Responses to “My Post-MFA Malaise”

  1. Angela Word November 23, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    That’s right. You did it, it is done. You’ve satisfied your itch for writing for now…maybe in some way it is the ability to recognize WHEN you want to write and allowing yourself the time to do it. Easier said than done, but not impossible.

  2. enicolepickle November 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    I’m right along with you, though i haven’t finished yet 😦 and honestly at the moment, not finding much motivation too other than just that i’m so damn close. Good luck!

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