May 14, 2006, 8:24 AM
Post #167 of 184
Re: [Taliesin2] Full-time job and residency
[In reply to]
All in all, a low-res MFA program is pretty demanding. But only as demanding as being a writer.
In your opinion, is a low-res MFA program more demanding than afull time MFA program? Thanks. :-)
No. A low-res MFA is lots of work, but it's still part-time. It doesn't require you to move away. And it squeezes all the extras like readings and workshops and lectures and drinking heavily with your classmates into 22 days a year. The low-res MFA simulates the writer's life. The residential MFA *is* your life.
You can work a full-time job around a low-res MFA. Just not a real demanding or inflexible one. If you're working more than 40 hours a week and getting only two weeks of vacation with no ability to fudge with unpaid leave or comp time or something like that, it's going to be tough. The point is, if you're working that kind of job, being a writer is going to be tough. Once you're getting an MFA, it's not a hobby anymore.
That being said, we have very few dropouts. People find a way. A fair number of people, I'd say maybe 20 percent, take a term off at some point to catch up with work. Others are working reduced hours - I work for myself and I've cut my billing down to about 30 hours a week while I'm in the program. Some people have employers who value the MFA and are allowing some of the program time to count as work time; a few employers are even picking up part of the tuition. Some people are blatantly cheating, doing their classwork on the job and hiding it. Some people are leaning on their extremely generous spouses to pick up some slack for a couple of years. Then there are the people who are simply tireless - the people who are able to do it the way the writing magazines tell you, setting aside several hours each day, waking early, going to bed late, doing it all. That's not many people.
People talk about finding time to write, but I think time isn't really the problem. You need only three free hours a day to be a writer, and slightly more for a low-res MFA to accommodate the academic work. Most Americans devote more time than that to watching television. The problem is energy. Americans hate to admit it, but a brain needs rest. That goes double for a writing brain. It's not like pushing a broom where you force yourself and try not to fall asleep. Essentially, you're a performer. There's no such thing as sliding by. So the writing somehow has to come first, and the day job is where you slide by, until you die or you reach that beautiful day when the writing is your day job.