Posts Tagged ‘MFA’

I Don’t Want to Teach!

September 24, 2011 4 comments

Writers complain on occasion about not being taken seriously by those close to them. There are lines like “My parents just don’t get it. This is what I intend to do with my life!” Or, “Why can’t people just accept that I’m a writer and leave off trying to get me into another kind of work? I don’t want to teach!”

If you’ve ever made a complaint like either of those above, you’re not alone. One of the problems with becoming a writer in this country is that creative expression isn’t seriously encouraged.

Those who want to pursue such fields and careers aren’t cheered on as they struggle to gain the necessary skills to “make it” in an ever-increasingly competitive arena.

Comparably, those who pursue sports of any kind get so much encouragement and financial help along the way that milk on the table of a would-be writer would curdle from the mere thought of said athletic enthusiasm. You don’t see business sponsors lining up at the high school or college to grant financial aid to those who excel in literature.

When was the last time you saw a poet praised in the local paper? You don’t see entire newspaper sections devoted to academic achievement or creative honors, either.

With an MFA a person can legitimize their calling, but only up to a point. Unless they’re uniquely talented and begin the publishing process early in life, that degree may get them a teaching position, but it won’t guarantee success as a writer.

Perhaps it would help if the public knew what the writing process is, what work is involved, and how long the publishing phase can be. Not many consider how much effort and man hours go into a simple news story. They don’t see all the time spent in research to verify sources and information.

After all, it isn’t a regular feature on television. In fact, the creative arts list will be a short one when you count TV channels. On national channels other than PBS—which has lost most of its federal funding—you won’t find much that smacks of the arts or creativity. Given some of the series remakes in the past few years, you won’t find much creativity in prime-time programing either.

That leaves one impression. Writers seem to have little value to American society— sad commentary, to be sure. If you look at all the written material out there, you begin to get a taste of how many writers of different types there are putting words to paper every day.

That doesn’t insure that the reader will notice. The truth is, one of the biggest uses of writers in this country is bulk mailings—junk mail. Not even other writers like getting a mailbox exploding with unwanted print material. The writer isn’t to blame. The business using the writer is the one sending everything out. Still…

But what about the little newbie just starting out, you ask. Having the wish to make a career of writing can only take the person to the foot of the working staircase. With constant and consistent hard work to learn everything possible she/he can move up that staircase. A strong sense of purpose will keep the newbie working.

Talent and “breaks” also play a role in how far someone will rise in their pursuits. Those two factors can’t be negated. Desire alone won’t move someone into prominence without the necessary abilities. There are always exceptions, but they usually don’t last long.

Whether a lack of appreciation comes from ignorance or concern doesn’t change the impact on the ones striving to make the top in the literature field. In this age of technology and faster-is-better, changes dominate each day. No one can say with impunity what the status of writing will be next year or in a decade.

Time and patience, strength of purpose and hard work, must act as champions for those who wish to achieve as an artist of any form. Passion for the art form—writing is art, after all–has more power than discouragement.

And for those pursuing that career, a day job is almost certainly a necessity. Whether the writer began with the desire to write full-time or not, today’s work environment is a challenge that is eased by a steady income from another source. The alternative to writing full-time fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction is to become a working copywriter with regular clients or enter other such writing venues.

The glossy surface of the dream may be dimmed by the daily reality, but that doesn’t take away from it. Sometimes it makes the dream stronger for being so hard to grasp. It depends on the writer, as always.

A bientot,