who the heck knows anything, anyway

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I daydream fairly regularly. The question is, what's the best way to get there? (or even remotely close to it? I don't need those things, duh, but they would be pretty rad. That's what dreams should be, right? Best Case Scenarios. But my heart would not be broken if I wrote some stories and books that never became popular but were well liked--dare I say loved?--by the people who picked them up.)

Grad School: the promise of deadlines one must keep, friends one might make, and piles of debt one will most certainly fall into.* Will it help me get to where I want to go? Probably. But will it be any more effective than my current strategy (in which I work in my living room and live off of savings)? That is tough to say.

Of all the benefits grad school claims to bestow, the two most appealing are deadlines and networking. I am the worst networker. I mean, I don't even like going to big parties to hang out. Rubbing elbows with people who could help me up the Ladder of Success is both terrifying and generally unappealing. Isn't that why people have agents? Let me stay at home and be a hermit--other people can schmooze for me. But aside from the slimy bits, grad school might actually help me meet fellow writers (because I am just bad at meeting people, in general); ones that I respect and admire. That would be pretty awesome. So, Pro: new friends. Con: high probability of dealing with people who are--I'm not even going to pussyfoot around this--not any good, or totally douchey. Or both! Sigh. It's so often both. And hemorrhaging thousands of dollars to read shoddy writing and have said-shoddy writers critique my work does not sound like something that excites my already meager Nest Egg.

That other Pro is having deadlines. Failing is not something I do**, so pumping out a manuscript in a year would probably be more likely in an MFA program than it is in my living room. But maybe I wouldn't like a piece that I had to concoct and whip out in so little time. Sure, I want to be likTéa Obreht or Karen Russell (young, awesome, young and awesome), but not everyone can do that. Heck, most people can't do that. I certainly aspire to write brilliant, beautiful things, but I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that I'm anywhere near brilliant yet (though my ridiculously rad beau says I'm as good as Russell. He scored major points with that). I've got mountains to learn, and the only way to do that is to keep writing--writing things that I want to write, that I need to write. What good will that manuscript be if it was a glorified homework assignment? Page count is something, I suppose. Quantity over quality, and all that. ...Pretty sure I'm just rambling now.

I want to do what's best for my personal growth, but I have no idea which is better. Maybe two extra years of school won't be so bad. Maybe I should apply to less prestigious programs, because I don't want to leave with an MFA and a superiority complex. Or maybe more prestigious is better because there will be more people to show/teach me how to improve. Grad school just seems like a horrible decision if you're not 100% committed. If I hated my program and dropped out, I will be at least half-a-year-of-life poorer. I don't know what to do, or what I should want to do, or even what I actually want to do at all! Some days, grad school sounds amazing. New friends, great book recommendations, fab professors, a final project that could be published... Other days, it sounds like more bureaucratic nonsense that will cost me money and sanity. I'm very bi-polar on the whole thing.

Or, heck, maybe I take out a $20,000 loan and travel instead. Perhaps life experience is the thing I need instead of more desk-learning.

In summary:

How does one know whether the discomfort caused by contemplating a Big Decision is a result of over-analyses and/or self-psyching-out (reinforced by fear, pressure, laziness, etc), or whether said-potential-decision is actually just unappealing?


*well, if you're in the liberal arts and/or pursuing an MFA at any place outside of the Top Ten list
**in the A-F sense. I totally fail at crap all the time. Coordination, for instance, is not something I possess outside of a swimming pool. I quit choir in the 6th grade, playing the flute when I was in the 7th grade, and Irish Step dance in the 8th. I don't exercise nearly enough, and I abort about 6/7ths of my short stories. The worst is that, being a perfectionist, I'm afraid to try new things because I might fail at them. Being judged by people terrifies me. Yep. Might have a touch of the neuroses.