Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Do I Fit In?

"I also don't understand, even without the studying of creative writing, why some cannot make the leap between what the creative writing students are doing and what the great geniuses of literature did. It's writing."
-Jenny

Here I am, right in the thick of academia, ready to dig into writing a thesis, and I'm beginning to wonder where I fit in the greater scheme of things. Last spring, I applied for a position as a TA, which would've meant teaching comp. 101 & 102 this year. I didn't get it. At the time, I was real bummed out. Now, a few months later, I'm reassessing.

You see, when it gets right down to it, I don't think I have that much interest in teaching comp. anyway. Not just in terms of how no one wants to teach comp. because it tends to be filled with nutty freshman, but because I've never gotten excited about academic writing. Yes, I've done quite a bit of it, but that was all because I had to. This semester, in Research Methods, our professor is talking a lot about publication. She means academic journals, but I can't imagine writing an academic paper for publication. I just don't care enough.

Then, we get back to doing a creative thesis. What then? MFA? Ph.D? I could technically go either way, though a creative thesis sets me up for an MFA rather than Ph.D. Then again, a few schools have begun to offer Ph.Ds in creative writing. (What's the difference? Marketability.) My mom likes the idea of having a "Doctor" in the family. But, I'm not doing this for her, am I? Add into that the question of whether or not I'm even going to continue on right now.

It comes down to a question of what I want to do with the rest of my life. If my priority is writing fiction, I need go no further. There are even those who say that MFA programs are counterproductive to becomming a writer. If I want to teach creative writing, then an MFA is necessary. But, do I want to?

I keep coming back to this question: Do I want to be in academia for the rest of my life? If so, I'm on the losing side of the academic-creative writer war, and I face the challenge of having minimal "marketability" when I look for a job. If not, what are my other options? The kicker is, I don't think I can make this decision yet. Even though I've gotten this far, I'm still not far enough. At least I know I can always get a job waiting tables. The same cannot be said for teaching creative writing. So, in the end, will the student loans be worth it in terms of career?

6 comments:

Debbie said...

That's a tough one. Not whether or not you fit in. You'll always have the Rogue Pirates. Funnily enough, Shane and I were discussing this Monday evening before the meeting. At this point, I think going back to get a degree in this would just be one more thing to distract myself from actually writing. Or it could be just what I need to focus myself.

Only you can answer it for yourself. You don't have to decide right now. Let it ferment, or stew, a while.

And there's always the pro/con list. ;-)

Jenny said...

I agree with Deb. You don't have to make your decision now. (It may feel like it, but trust me, you don't have to make it now.)

Really, I was quite torn too. In every class I took, I reworked the syllabus in my head. Development of the Novel became *really* focused--like all deserted island stories from Robinson Crusoe to Alex Garland's The Beach. Then I sat back and said that I didn't want to teach these people, I wanted to be these people. In the end I took the classes that I thought would help and kinda said "F---" the rest. (Umm, I think Katherine's mad at me for that.)

But it took a lot of searching and mentally convincing myself that I had what it took to become a writer. Another thing to consider is whether or not you need school to focus your writing. Will you write regardless of class assignments? Does that dedicated time to writing (a la MFA) seem to be a benefit to you?

In the end, it's what you want. Not your parents. Not your teachers. Not your significant other. It's your life. Those that love you will love you anyway.

Whittaker Luckless said...

My dad always says to me: don't eat yellow snow. I don't know how much that'll help you, though.

I plan to always say to my kids: wherever you go, there you are. And then watch them squirm, trying to figure out if that's good advice or bad advice or not advice at all, but a subtle hint that their puny lives will never amount to anything more than power for the machines. Insects! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Okay, done now. I feel croowul. *evil grin*

-John said...

Whittaker, you need to be smacked, with a full-grown oak tree, that has bee-hives in the branches, along with carnivorous squirrels with a taste for bee-stung smartasses.

Ali, it is good advice that you shouldn't hastily make a decision. However, I will add a caveat that you need to eventually make an informed decision, and once you do, pursue it like a starving wolf going after a deer. Being unsure of where your life is headed really sucks, but it sucks worse if you spend your time not listening to yourself.

I think you know what you want, you just aren't sure you know. This is normal. There is no magic eight ball for this, no guru to consult on a mountaintop. It's better that way because one day you can look back and know it was all you. Keep in mind what you feel is right for you, then you will have no reason for regrets.

Ali said...

In the end, I've decided that I'm not going to worry about it this semester. I've got to wait and see what happens between now and spring when, in theory, I'll have my MA. It'll make sense later, I think.

Either way, though, I'm not too worried. If anything, I know there are a lot of other things I can do than teach. A lot of other things I would enjoy, too.

Mishell said...

As you know, Ali, I suffer from the same dilema of continuing my education after my M.A., so I totally sympathize. Interestingly, it was my decision after my B.A. that has informed my current decision more than anything.

After I got my B.A., I felt like I hadn't yet learned enough about English and literature (not to mention creative writing,) so I decided to keep plugging along with the professors I have grown to love. Now that I'm almost done with the M.A., I feel that though I still haven't learned all I want, I'm more prepared to learn (I won't say "the rest" but instead will say "other stuff") on my own--read and write what I want to instead of what's on the syllabus.

Maybe I will eventually go for that PhD in creative writing (that's what it'll be because I, too, have no interest in academic publishing,) but for now, I'm ready to begin my solo exploration of all things literature and writing.