Every few months I have this conversation with myself:
Self: When are you going to get a real job? You know longer have a baby at home–she’s starting Kindergarten in 2 years. You haven’t worked at a “real” job for 7 years. When are you going to get out and make something of yourself.
Other Self: But I’ve written 2 picture books! I wrote a 100-page proposal with my writing partner for an anthology and we got an agent. (Didn’t sell the book, but WE GOT AN AGENT.) And I’ve gotten essays published and written a novel and I’m actively involved in the Atlanta Writers Club…and…wait a minute, what was the question?
Self: You need to bring in an income. Get yourself out there. Develop a professional network.
Other Self: But I’m on Facebook. (winces)
This cyclical conversation gets me nowhere, except to an internal debate about whether I should apply for an MFA program in Creative Writing, i.e., whether I should go back to get a degree in something I won’t find a job in. Didn’t I recently attempt to dissuade my young relative from going to law school because there are no jobs? Then why on earth would I go back for an M.F.A.?
The MFA is, at base, a non-professional, largely-unmarketable art-school degree that can’t get anyone a full-time teaching job (at least not in the absence of significant in-genre publications) and is not designed to “network” graduates into magazine or book publications. The myth that poets and writers attend MFA programs to “professionalize” themselves — to get “credentialed” — has been proven false.
If there was a fully funded MFA program nearby, by all means, I would apply for an MFA. No question. (Many residential programs are mostly or fully funded for their accepted students.) But because I need to apply to a non-residential MFA program (where I’d complete the degree mostly from home), I’d be footing the entire bill (around $35,000 for 2 years) myself. And because there are either no jobs or only part-time poorly paid jobs available, it would probably take me for the rest of my life to earn as much as my tuition cost.
The very obvious answer is– I shouldn’t bother.
But then why do I keep thinking about it? Any writers out there also weighing the pros and cons of an MFA. Any MFA grads have any advice for me?