Monday, April 17, 2006

Time to Write

Mountain Heaven, Mountain Hell writes in...

I'm a 30 yr old attorney (ok please don't stop reading!) in NYC. I've been accepted into West Virginia University's MFA program in creative writing (fiction), tuition paid, along with a teaching assistantship.

My question: With the teaching assitantship, and the 3 English courses I'll be taking, and the MERE ONE creative writing workshop, might I be better off staying in NYC, writing and taking classes (not part of a school, though, or towards a degree), than going to WVU and becoming ensconced (I can't spell, sorry) in their world?

That is: stay and write in NYC (as I do now) or go away to school, (that school- any insight on WVU would be very, very much appreciated as well). I'm going a bit stir crazy trying to decide what to do. So, thanks in advance for any words of advice...

This is my favorite question of the week. Why? Because it illustrates a point I was discussing with my bud Chellis Ying just this weekend.

Now that Chellis and I are working out in "the real world," we don't have the time we once did to write, write, write, write. Ah, the days of graduate school. Yes, you've got classes, yes, you've got teaching, but you're around writing, you talk about writing, you get home and you write. I guess I am being over-nostalgic here, but that greatest gift -- time -- is not to be underestimated.

That said, it sounds like the WV program is a busy one. Four classes a semester, plus teaching? That sounds like a bit much. I did that for one semester at UMass and I almost had a nervous breakdown. You really want to shoot for two-three classes plus teaching. It's more manageable and it allows you to write.

Update: I visited the WV website. Seems to me that it will basically be three classes a semester, with maybe four one semester. Some of those classes are teaching pedagogy or 'flexible' hours, which don't take up as much time as literature classes.

So MHMH, my sense is this: I don't know much about the WV program, but if those are indeed the requirements, I'd encourage you to rethink whether you can handle that load and still write all the time. Per my added note above: I think this program-of-study is manageable. Either way, I'd still encourage you to go to graduate school if you want to write, if not this year then next. I know that there are plenty of examples of attorney/writers, but I also know a lot of lawyers and they seem to have zero free time on their hands. You want to carve out that time in some way. My overall advice, MHMH. If you really want to write, you have to figure a way (grad school or not, maybe working half-time?) to carve out that time.

And of course there are plenty of great places to take classes in the Big Apple, including Gotham Writers. I hope this was helpful. Rock on.


Anonymous said...

I slashed my hours (and my income) by 2/3rds this year and took writing classes. I wrote on average of four days per week, 3+ hours per day. It's an option - if you can live on a part time income and don't need the discipline of deadlines. There are many fine writing teachers outside the university system.

Anonymous said...

It sounds to me like what you're realistically looking at is a 3 year program. Can you live with that?

Or, if you are really drawn to the WVU program, can you afford to do it without accepting their funding/TA package? I'm saying this because you have a law degree and, thus, have a decent income potential that you can draw upon in order to finance your current MFA dreams.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Tom. I wish I had your blog back when I was looking at MFA programs. Cy