It says something that one of the most popular posts on this blog is What Are You Going To Do With An MFA? Namely, that there are a lot of people out there who are looking for answers to that question… So in need of answers are they that they google the question, which lands (at least some of them) here on a regular basis.
It should be said that I don’t have the answers, I was only musing about my possibilities and letting off some steam about the incessant questions I was getting about my future. And here I am, a year and a half later, still musing. (And still getting questions about my future.)
Earning an MFA was a great experience, but for me (and I think for a lot of others), finishing the degree brought about an instant personal conflict that had been held off, with the help of student loans, for two or three years. The conflict comes down to this:
I have to make a living.
I want to keep writing and get published.
As most MFA grads know, it can be difficult to balance those two needs, because of lack of time (due to working full-time), or lack of creative energy (due to the demands of working full-time), or both.
Since earning my MFA I’ve tried freelance writing and I’ve tried a full-time reporting job. The full-time gig, while it paid better than the freelance, filled me with panic over my lack of time to write. I felt all that creativity I had rediscovered during my MFA program slipping away, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to end up back where I’d begun before I started the program in the first place. So I quit. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about what do next.
I’m still taking the patchwork approach that I thought I might a year and a half ago. A little freelance writing here, a little freelance editing there. And now, I’ve begun looking into teaching.
I did not teach during my MFA program, for a variety of mostly logistical reasons, and now I feel ill-prepared to do so. There’s this idea that teaching writing is the prescribed career path for MFAs, but a lot of MFA students don’t have the opportunity to gain this experience during the course of their programs. Without decent, or enough, publication credits and no experience it can be tough to swing a job teaching writing at the college level. Most job ads ask for several years of teaching experience… but how to get this experience?
There are a few other resources I’ve found on the web for MFA grads looking into teaching, but not as many as I would have thought.
I’m iffy about the continuing-with-school options. On the one hand, usually more school = more debt. And that’s the last thing MFA grads need. On the other … maybe it helps, I don’t know. There are also shorter post-MFA teaching certificate programs out there (for example), which again, seem like a good way to acquire more debt … Do they work? Do they help when looking for teaching jobs? Are they worth it? I’d be curious to know.
I am, in fact, looking into taking a couple of classes locally in order to gain some experience/preparation for teaching, but also to potentially get my foot in the door at the school where those classes are offered. It seems like this path is all about persistence and connections, just like most others that MFA grads walk.