Closer

I am feeling far away from myself right now. Far away, at least, from what I wanted out of myself, if that makes any sense. Clocks ticking, time wasted, what-was-I-doing?, why-ever-did-I-do-that?—this sort of thing.

This article got me thinking of all my aspirations—nameless, in the beginning, when I didn’t know what exactly to aspire to. (Thanks to Koreanish for posting about the article.) It got me thinking about all the trouble I’ve gotten myself into:

And here is what seems most insane—young and not-so-young writers take out student loans to get M.F.A.’s in creative writing. This does not add up. I once taught in the M.F.A. program at Columbia, and so I know the extraordinary gifts that student debt can confer. But the Marshian in me says it’s impossible to start a life committed to literary fiction when you are $60,000 in debt. The very size of the loan assumes there is a market, a business to go into, a living to make. But the hard truth is that only a sucker writes literature with the intention of making money. This was so obvious in Australia in 1961, you never needed to say it. Today, when people seem to be breaking through all around you, it might be good to bear in mind that the only reward you can rely on is in the work itself.

Guess where I went to school?

My choices, when I was applying at age 21, weren’t exactly smart. I didn’t realize there are schools that pay you to come.

But stop. What’s done is done. Is done. Is done.

And for me, it’s not about writing to make money, it was never about writing to make money, it was about writing only, because I love it, though now I guess it’s about making money however I can to pay back the loans, and to live, to simply live in New York City, and sometimes I forget why I wanted all of this in the first place. The working has me sidetracked. The freelance on top of the working, worse. (Hence the manuscript I am turning in Monday, the horror of it, though it paid the rent for two months.) This is why I am far away. What was meant to get me closer has only worked to get me farther away.

I don’t think I’d recommend my MFA, though you should know I did love it. When my baby sister was thinking of applying, I discouraged her from my own school. I told her she was not allowed to apply there. Now what does that say?

What, now, is the solution except to work at it, to find the moments in the day where my real work (i.e., writing) can be inserted, and do what I love, because that was the whole point in the first place. It may be that I made a mistake, maybe, but I can’t let that ruin everything. I realize I’ve been saying this for a long time, and I haven’t been so good with the follow-through. It’s time to get a step closer. It’s time to return to the (to a) (to any) novel. To give it another go. Time—yes, really—to dive back in.

5 Comments

  1. i agree and feel the same way about mine, as you know. however i’m still operating under the (delusional) idea that for a large number of un-wealthy individuals — thrown into the world, with no other options at affording those incredible years we spent focusing on what we love and want to do with our lives — there was no alternative.
    .
    i think it’s kind of a “grass is always greener” type of thing. imagine being one of the many people who balked at the idea and stayed in the same city/town that they were born and gave up on their dream of being the person they wanted to be because of something as silly as fear (of consequences).
    .
    sure they’re (possibly) not overloaded with an insane amount of debt and can spend their time playing x-box and accumulating more unnecessary things and go through the motions of living, but i bet just as many of them are kicking themselves just as much as we are ourselves. still laying there night-after-night asking, “what if,” “if only,” “i should have…”
    .
    the weight is going to be there no matter which route you take. however, i think the point (if there is one) is trying. in being authentic to yourself and taking ahold of each and every opportunity that helps you inch a little closer to being who you are/want to be.
    .
    would i do it differently given the chance? absolutely!
    .
    just like my friend Albert always said: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
    .
    it will happen. and if it doesn’t? imagine how equally absurd the alternative would be.

  2. Thanks Nova. I enjoyed Carey’s article. I don’t have an MFA, and have always been envious of those who do. Maybe living in The Burg, Germany is good place for me to get on quietly with my writing, but there is a part of me that envies your life – that of a young writer in New York. It’s clear that you love it.

  3. As another MFA, I know how worthless the degree can seem, but you might be someone else without it. Maybe your best work–your most satisfying work–arises from what you read and wrote then and the people you met. That’s the way I prefer to see it, anyway.

  4. I never meant to add to your sense of struggle. Also, he does end on a note of hope at the end–his belief in fiction is moving.

  5. Oh not at all! It’s a great article and I do love the note at the end. Guess I’m just feeling a little (a little?! understatement?) contemplative about my choices these days. Thanks again for the great link.

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