Mar 26, 2006, 11:32 PM
Post #56 of 74
Re: [maanprophet] On Pongo's Advice: Straight to grad school or take some time off?
Reading: In the month and a half I was unemployed, I read ten novels/books. I finally got to check out Zadie Smith and Murakami and George Plimpton and all these stories and worlds that hadn't been offerred in any classes I took. Reading for classes and being taught by professors is definitely helpful, but being free to guide youself is another.
I agree with what you mean concerning being free to guide yourself outside of class, and I hope this doesn't seem offensively critical or anything, but I have always managed to read personal novels throughout my entire undergrad in addition to the books I read for classes (I bought several novels every month or two). I also designed Independent Studies when I had a significant amount of books or an idea I wanted to explore that was not offered in a course. So while I agree that with every year a person will become better read, I do not see how this really correlates to taking time off. If you want to read something, you will make time to read it in school or out.
This might sound funny, but writing for yourself versus writing for workshops/classes/journals is a world of difference. Free of guidelines and restrictions, I set off to write a novel, got 100 pages in and realized it was a mess. I started another one that's going great though slowly. I wrote many personal essays.
I think this is a tremendously important point because--at least from my own experience--wanting to be this thing called writer and actually doing it, actually writing, or two very different animals. I know I will write the rest of my life regardless of publication or MFA acceptance or anything else. But it certainly has helped...
Again, no offense meant. I only took one creative writing course in undergrad (fiction and it was the second semester of my third year), and two required freshmen writing seminars (one was personal essay/response, the other critical writing). All the other writing in all my classes, has been academic. So most of my creative work has been free of restrictions and dependent on my own will to write. I planned, outlined, written and revised on my own hundreds of pages of a novel I'm still working on. I wrote, threw away, revised and kept, stories, essays, ideas, and other stuff that may or may not ever be anything I use again. So again, while I see your point about writing outside of undergrad workshops etc., I don't think this necessarily means taking time off. I would hope one is always writing for oneself.
My last semester in college was kind of a downer, and the first time I really wanted to be out of the academic world. Time away has helped me realize what I love and hate about campus life.
Ok, this I'm sort of in agreement. I graduated this January, and so I've had the spring out of school. While it won't be a year or years before I return to graduate school, being out has been an interesting experience (good and bad). My last semester I was happy, but mostly because I knew I had done it and was out. I had studied and worked hard to get the best grades, pushed myself and graduated early, and I was tired of where I was. However, it wasn't that I wanted to be out of the academic world so much as I wanted to be out my current undergraduate academic world. Three and a half years was enough, I wanted a change. I'm excited about finally being in an academic environment where I get to focus on writing. The break has been nice in a way, but even if I was in school this spring, I would have had the summer, and going to graduate school in the fall I think I would have basically the same attitude.
There's more than one way to get at the collective dream of being a writer, you know? We're all coming in at from different angles.
True. We're all different, and different is good. I just don't think twenty something writers, and especially writers twenty-one/two coming straight out of grad should be automatically considered not mature enough, not appreciative enough, not as able to produce and contribute because we lack depth, etc., because we haven't experienced time away (this last part isn't directed at you maanprophet, but in general). A workshop with a majority of twenty somethings can be as interesting as a workshop with a majority thirty, forty, or fifty somethings. It troubles me that people seem to think only one or two youngsters should be 'allowed,' otherwise shallowness or whatever limitedness shall occur.