Monday, September 22, 2008

Is this it?

When I enrolled in a creative writing MFA program three years ago, I did so with very few delusions. In response to the inane "What are you going to do with that?" question, I was clear: I'm going to devote two years to my writing. And then? See what happens.

It was the "see what happens" part that I didn’t give much thought to. While I certainly didn't anticipate a book deal post-graduation, I also didn't anticipate returning to the kind of mind-numbing cubicle life I had abandoned. Or the depression and despair that quickly followed.

Though the reasons for my foray back into cubicle land were obvious -- food, rent, health insurance -- this time my reasons for disliking it were different. I likened myself to Francesca in The Bridges of Madison County (two months in a cubicle and already my literary allusions were slipping). I had strayed from my safe, passionless marriage (first job) and had a torrid, all-encompassing affair (MFA), only to return to my boring husband (new job).

Though the program had warned me of long-term hardships as a writer, it hadn’t prepared me for the day-to-day indignities of the grad-school-to-working-world transition. And though I wasn’t alone in my strife -- many of my fellow MFA grads suffered from a similar downward spiral -- the question remained: Were our writing days numbered?

The answer, of course, is absolutely not. Whatever your MFA experience may be, it changes you. The key to post-MFA survival? Remind yourself that no matter the size or shape of your cubicle, your job is simply one stop among many along the path to your ideal writing life.

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