Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What The Heck Does One Do with an MFA?

I get asked this all the time. In various forms. Sometimes it's just as simple as, "What are you going to do when you get your degree?"

The answer is, I have no idea.

The obvious path is writing and publication, but while this program has definitely made me a better writer, we all know a writing career isn't as simple as just writing well. There's a little luck, a little timing, a little connections, a ton of perseverance, some creative magic.... it's just much more complicated than writing a book, even if the words on the page are good ones.

I could teach, of course. That seems to be the other obvious way to go. I think people assume that the only good any liberal artsy masters does is open the opportunity to teach at the college level. And I've considered this. A lot. I taught for years before having kids, and always thought teaching college would be a great challenge that I'd like. But I don't know that teaching positions open up that often, and within commuting distance of where I live, and in writing specifically. It might be easier if I got that degree in English, and then I'd be qualified to teach Chaucer and American Lit and all those classes that are considered English but not creative writing. But I didn't. Because I don't love that. I love writing.

I could edit for a publisher or a magazine. I could tutor.

After that, I start coming up with ideas like Walmart Greeter and McDonald Fry Technician.

And actually, I do know people who got their MFA in writing and kept working at Walmart or kept driving public transit... because they said those jobs offered not only a decent reliable salary and benefits, but also gave them tons of material to write about at night. Maybe the best jobs for writers put us in contact with real people who are characters.

I don't know what I'm going to do once I move my tassel from one side to the other. I hope I'll write. Preferably books. And get paid to do that. Isn't that the dream?

But if a great book deal doesn't fall in my lap (ya know - after lots of blood sweat and queries) and pay off student loans for the next ten years, I'm okay with working a different job, even if that something else isn't related to my degree.

I will keep writing, because I can't imagine not writing. I hope I keep getting better. I will never regret the two years and pocket full of money I spent on this degree. I have loved every minute of it. I am a better writer and a better person for it. I am blessed to have had this opportunity to do it.

But my happiness doesn't depend on following a certain path. Whatever God has planned for me, wherever he places me, I will find peace and joy in knowing I am where he wants me. Right now, that's in grad school. In two years, who knows?

For now I'm content to take one day at a time and cherish it.


  1. Such great advice, take one day at a time and cherish it. I know I don't do this enough.

    Regardless of what you end up doing with your MFA, I think it's a great accomplish and something your should be proud of.

  2. Great words--and a great outlook on where you are in life. If only we could always see the blessings we have right at this moment then we'd all be much happier people.

  3. I liked reading this post. Those are certainly words to live by.

  4. Well, that's a whole lot of happy :D

    I'd LOVE to get my MFA.

    You'll write more, and you'll get published more if that's what you set out to do. I have no doubt.

  5. I envy you that you have been able to take this step to learn all you can about writing. I imagine you will follow your heart and find next what you should do:)