Post-MFA Life

I swore it wasn’t going to happen to me. I wouldn’t be one of “those” writers who graduate after having worked hard for two years to earn an MFA only to return to their pre-MFA life complete with some of the same woes and insecurities intact. Surely, after two years of rising at 5:00 am to complete assignments before heading out to the workaday world, there was no chance I would fall back into old habits! But as in any story, transitions are one of the hardest parts to smooth out.

The world loves students. When you’re in graduate school, you’re proving to the world (and to yourself) that you’re no slouch. If you live with someone, you might notice them starting to pick up after themselves more than they usually do; your kids might volunteer to make dinner one night a week; at the very least the dog will be willing to get up as early as you do to keep you company.

But once you graduate, you’re just plain old “you” again. Sure, you might have a graduate degree…you might even have a story or two published, but now everyone (somewhat justifiably) expects you to get on back to your “real” life. Especially when your degree is in creative writing and your day job pays way more. So what to do?

For the first month I organized my new office space, the one I hoped to carve time out to work in daily. Next, I made lists. List making is the best. It lets you feel as if you’re accomplishing something even as you’re not. Finally, with everything neat and settled, reality set in and it took me one more month to figure out why I was so bereft.

I had lost my daily connection to a community of like-minded people, writers like me who were carving tine out of their hectic lives to pursue a greater dream. I hadn’t realized just how strong and supportive that community had been until it was gone, or at least, diminished. After the realization, things became easier. I’m slowly finding a new routine, a new pattern of mixing work and writing and home. What still remains to be “re-found” is a way to keep old connection alive. We’ve heard it again and again—writers need to connect with other writers—but this was a reality check if ever there was one.

I guess I’m a “real” writer now.

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2 thoughts on “Post-MFA Life

  1. I ended up on this page after a random nostalgia search on “MFA” and yes yes yes. I hear you. Recently graduated from an MFA program myself (poetry, Univ of Minnesota in Mpls) and moved back to Seattle. It’s been stupidly hard to find community like that again. I almost feel like it wasn’t just finishing grad school, it was a breakup – sloppy, going on too long, eerily stalker-esque at times, seriously in need of a rebounder or at least am expensive breakup-haircut. Grad school what have you done to me?!

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  2. Hi Arlene; You are definitely not alone. Even just the fact that you were randomly searching “MFA” says a lot! Do you have a website or anywhere I can learn more about your work? Maybe we can somehow support each other in the future! Thanks for writing.

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