As I write this, I’m trying to figure out the poems I will read tonight for the Creative Writing Manifest Showcase, thinking about where to go to dinner with my mom tomorrow night, and trying to guess what outfit goes best with the Columbia College Chicago graduation gown I’ll be wearing in two days. The waveforms haven’t collapsed on those yet, I’ve got possibilities on possibilities but no solution to them; I get the feeling that’s what most things will be like post-graduation, to be honest.
We’re supposed to give readers a farewell blog, though I’m not sure I know how to do that. Maybe I’ll just give you some A’s to Q’s that have come up pretty regularly in my time as Graduate Ambassador:
- Is an MFA worth it? — It depends. Do you have undergrad debt? How many loans will you need to take out to pursue your advanced degree? Do you have a scholarship (or two)? How important is it that you become a better writer? How important is it that you be a part of a community of writers? Can you attach a dollar value to those last two questions?
- What are the job prospects? — This question often gets asked because it was carefully dodged in “Is an MFA worth it?” First: you probably shouldn’t pursue an MFA of any kind for the job prospects. The doors the degree opens on its own are few. Second: the connections you make and the skills you build in your MFA can help you land all manner of jobs. We have graduates working in publishing, nonprofit, and marketing sectors.
- Are workshops difficult? — They can be! I tend to bring pieces to workshop that I think need more work, but if you’ve finished a poem you’re particularly happy with and want feedback, it can be tough to hear the ways in which it fails listed out for you, by your peers, in public. At the end of the day, though, it’s your work. You can take or leave what they said; the whole point of workshop is to get another perspective on things.
- Is it hard to write a thesis? — Your mileage will vary. Some writers end up writing toward their thesis from day one of the program, intentionally or unintentionally. I started a project last fall that became my thesis, writing the 48 pages over the last 8 months or so. I wouldn’t say it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was an intense process, to the point that I am intentionally taking a couple of months off from thinking about that manuscript.
- You publish your thesis though, right? It’s a book! — It’s rare that students with an MFA in poetry publish their thesis in its entirety. Everyone I know of in the program has looked at their thesis like the first draft of a book, and while some of us might make just a few light edits, I could see myself tearing down as much as half of my thesis and rebuilding from a new core of poems. Remembering that your thesis is a first draft, though, takes a level of pressure off that honestly made it much easier for me to just get it done.
That’s all I’ve got, folks. Do as much as you can with the time you have in your MFA, work hard to keep in touch with as many people as you can, and don’t ever forget to take time for yourself too.