Jeanne Lyet Gassman
Jul 29, 2014, 10:04 PM
Post #2631 of 2667
Re: [raintree] Low-Residency MFAs
[In reply to]
It's really hard for someone else to tell you to stay or leave the program. Only you know if it's something you want to do.
But I do think you may have identified why you feel so ambivalent. You say that you got the impression at residency that writing is not a hobby, that you had better be dead serious about this. And I think that's true.
The MFA is a long, hard slog for 2-3 years, requiring lots of hours in front of a computer, lots of reading, and lots of research. You will be expected to write pages and pages and revise those pages. This discipline isn't intended as some sort of punishment. Instead, it's a training ground, a place where you can explore your talents, experiment a bit with craft and form, and refine that craft as you go. It's also a situation that teaches you how to think like a professional writer.
When I started the program at Vermont, I had been writing sporadically. The very idea of reading and writing 25 hours a week (the expected allotment of time) was terrifying to me, but I thought I could finesse it, especially the reading. It didn't take long for me to discover that the 25-hour a week estimate was accurate. No finessing possible. I scrambled to establish a routine that would meet the needs of the program. And the result was that I suddenly began to think of myself as a "working writer." I treated my writing like a job. I showed up every day, put in the hours to get the work done, and focused on making my writing better.
For me, the goal of college teaching was secondary. I wanted the MFA because I wanted to be in an environment where I could receive one-on-one coaching/teaching from experienced writers whose work I admired. I wanted, more than anything, to become a better writer. And I was dead serious about making that happen.
I would advise you to talk about your concerns with your advisor. He or she may already sense that you aren't committed to the requirements of the program. Or, your advisor may feel that you're simply a bit overwhelmed and need a little extra space to process everything. But don't suffer in silence, and don't drive yourself crazy over this. Talk to your advisor first. Then make a decision. But remember, most people pursuing the MFA are dead serious about their writing. If they are like me, they didn't have a scholarship or funding (my low-res program didn't offer this at the time I was there; it's changed since then), and that MFA was expensive, time-consuming, and demanding. I loved my time at Vermont and wouldn't trade it for anything. But that's just me.