Aug 25, 2005, 11:31 AM
Post #5 of 7
Re: [rutha] Four years or two?
Don't be discouraged by a lengthy job search. Publishing, whether it's books, magazines, web sites, or newspapers, is a very difficult business to enter. It's not at all uncommon for a job search like yours to last up to a year or longer.
If you're determined to be a writer, though, you can definitely accomplish your goal. If you're not having any luck with full-time job prospects, there are a number of things you can do to improve your clips and add to your experience, thereby making you a more attractive candidate.
Every town has a local paper that needs freelance "stringers" to report things like high school sporting events, school board meetings, and the like. Start small. Call the local weekly and see if you can talk with an editor about such possiblities. Most likely, you can get a small assignment. If you work out well, you may find yourself writing another story the following week. Once you build up a few clips, you immediately become more attractive to other employers, and the chances of you landing a full time entry-level job increases accordiningly.
Similarly, there are hundreds of websites out there that need editorial content. If you're a book, movie, or video game fan, in particular, you could easily find a few sites that will accept your reviews (you'll be writing for free here most of the time)--a great way to add to your clips.
Anyway, the point is, I think you're much better off at this stage of your writing career to be looking for full-time employment. I say this for two reasons.
1. Getting an MFA does not make you any more employable that you already are. In fact, in your case, it can hurt you (maybe not hurt as much as hinder). I'm not saying it's right, but I've seen my share of MFA holders' resumes in the garbage can. Basically, as far as most entry-level publishing jobs are concered, an editor wants someone who will work hard for cheap and with no attitude. In the battle of undergrad with no job experience and MFA holder with no job experience, the undergrad always wins.
All of us MFA applicants fantasize about writing a best-selling, earth-shaking novel during the thesis year that will enable us to live a life of literary leisure for the rest of our days, but the fact is, that nearly never happens. For every MFA thesis "homerun," there are 500 pop fouls. You might be the guy who hits the homerun, but it would be awfully foolish of you to bank on that chance. The bottom line is, you need to be prepared for a real job when you come out the other end of this degree program.
2. Working will actually help you with your creative writing. If you're working in publishing, you're learning about the nuts and bolts of the craft you want to perfect. I promise you, a few years at a newspaper or magazine will galvanize your mechanics beyond belief. You won't even be able to read a restaraunt menu without noticing some bit of sloppy writing that you could fix.
Also, this experience will teach you more about the venues in which you hope to one day see your creative work. I'm always surprised to meet writers who couldn't tell a galley proof from a salad fork; a folio from fois gras.
I should say, JWM, that this won't be an easy task. Sitting down to write after a long day of real-world bullshit is sometimes the last thing you want to do. You have to be truly motivated. If you stick to it, though, you'll get more out of that MFA program that you want to attend.
Hope that's helpful.
(This post was edited by bighark on Aug 25, 2005, 11:42 AM)