maybe possibly

Thinking about trying to find a community here–book clubs, like maddy suggested, Stitch n’ Bitches, as Kelly mentioned, and practicing exuding the magnetism ms. michelle talks about–and I thought, oh hey, there are colleges around here. I should see if any of them have classes, seminars, readings, something. Other writers! That’s what I need. We are all of us crazy and broken. Crazy broken friends will make me feel right at home. Poking around the state college website, kind of wishing I could get my MFA all over again–that’s where I met some of my favorite people in San Francisco.

Hey, they do have an M.F.A. And a what now? Wait, really? Stopping, stuttering, when I realized that I could get a Ph.D. in creative writing, at the state university. The idea bursting full-bloom in my head holy crap, I can get a Ph.D. in creative writing and sounding completely, totally insane, ridiculous, like mad raving lunatic madness, and such a brilliant idea I could hardly stand it.

Doing some research–it’s a good school. It’s a prestigious program!
It’s–huh, way more prestigious than where I got my M.F.A. Though I knew
my school wasn’t setting the academic world on fire, and I was okay
with that, and more than okay with my professors, who were passionate,
and my classes, which were so good, and all the writing I did, which
was a lot, after I got over my breakdown. A lot of nostalgia, rushing
in, sloshing around my head. I loved graduate school. I loved reading
and writing and learning and working and being all studious and
industrious. I did not love having a nervous breakdown, writer’s
block, dropping out briefly. That wasn’t so good. Will a Ph.D. program
destroy me? Probably it will. But I could be a doctor. Of creative
writing. That is both hilarious and lovely.

Reading the website–students are supported financially throughout the
program. Assistanceships, fellowships. Medical insurance. Workshops,
plus literature classes. A creative thesis. Teaching. Oh no no,
teaching scares the living shit out of me. But doing things that scare
the hell out of me is good for me. I shrink away too much, curl up and
bow my head and show my neck too often. I give up too easily.
Sometimes, I never start at all. I need to do the things that scare me
more often. I need to shake things up.

I don’t know if I can live here for four years, minimum. I expected to
be here about a year, maybe a little longer, depending on how things
shake out. I was flexible. Good things, to those who wait. But four
years? Plus whatever time it takes me to lose my mind over my
dissertation and fall apart and put myself back together, as is likely
to happen? More than four years. It could be worth it, though. It could be. A
community of writers. Well-known faculty. A literary magazine that’s
respected, that I could be a part of, as an editor. Participating in a
reading series. A deeper, broader grounding in literature. Learning
more than I currently know about writing–which isn’t much. Getting my
ass kicked–writewritewritewrite. Thinking critically, which is good for
my brain. Being able to maybe drop the proofreading gig? Having to take
the GRE, oh god.

This isn’t what I came out here to do, to go to school. This is an
unexpected, startling, insane idea that has fallen into my lap and is
waiting to be acknowledged. I could do this–apply, anyway. Maybe not
get in. But what if I got in? What if (and this is something I hesitate
to say, because I am not this kind of person), what if this was what I
was meant to do? Why things worked out the way they did, and I headed
out here? What if that is not true at all and that there is a Ph.D. in
creative writing just a few towns away is a coincidence? I’m okay with
that too. But I like the idea of meant to bes and fate and destiny and
going back to school where maybe I am grown up enough to do it right
and not fall apart, maybe. I don’t know. It is an intriguing,
beguiling, wonderful idea. A hell of a possibility. A yes or a no? I
don’t know.

11 Replies to “maybe possibly”

  1. GO FOR IT! What’s the worst they could say, ‘no’?

    And even if you can’t stick out the entire program, what’s just as good as saying “I have a Ph.D. in creative writing”?

    That’s right, saying, “I’ve taken doctoral-level classes in creative writing”!

    Oooer, I am JEALOUS.

  2. I say the answer is absolutely unequivocally beyond a shadow of a doubt YES.
    But I don’t want to influence your decision.
    Just apply already! No definite commitment there, but a definite step in the direction of a definite YES.
    By the way, I don’t usually believe in meant-to-bes, but this actually could be just that.
    I feel it.

  3. How many well-known, published authors hold doctorates in creative writing? I’m not being sassy, I’m actually wondering. I don’t know if this is one of those things where too much education might kill the magic. Unless your aim is to be a prof and not an author.

  4. Hi Anne,
    I wrote a long comment, but it didn’t “take.”
    Basically, I think if it’s going to put you into debt, forget it. Also, four years is a long time.
    The only plus side is it will give you Structure and a Community. You can make structure (a schedule)and a community of writers for yourself–just hang around there, teach creative writing to undergrads, (you can think of ten topics right now, I’m sure) and go for it.
    Teaching’s easy. You know more than they do. I know more than they do about the library. That’s what I teach. Simple. I wsa scared of teaching, too. They aren’t looking at you, just tell them what you know about writing. That will fascinate them. Or teach them about blogging!
    You can do it.

    If the PhD means student loans and big debt, I just can’t see it…

  5. L.: You become a published author when you write a book, regardless of whether you not you have an advanced degree. And all the magic in the world isn’t going to help you write books if you don’t have time, and a degree program definitely gives you that, as well as support and drive.

    There’s a PhD program at University of Illinois at Chicago, too. I’m just saying!

  6. And you don’t have to commit to jumping all the way in before making a decision, either–there are ways you can get that environment to help you grow as a writer without jumping through all the hoops to officially become a part of the institution. See if they need any adjunct instructors, or see if you can take one doctoral level class to test the waters (and maybe get to know some faculty, too) before going through the whole process of putting a stellar application together (like taking the GRE again). One class could help you figure out if it’s really what you want to do. It’s probably too late to get fully accepted into the program for the next school year, anyway, right?

  7. Apply. Applying doesn’t mean you’re going. Find out if you get in, talk to the poeple in the department, see if it feels right. Don’t put the cart before the horse and worry about four years from now when you don’t even know if you’re in yet.

    In my opinion, when you really have nothing to lose it’s way better to regret doing something than not doing anything.

  8. I truly wish I was much younger and had a little more money in my life cause I would definitely be going for it. Send in an application, see what happens. No, you don’t need a PhD to write a great book but knowing you, and you are like me in many ways, you love learning more about your passion in life. For you it is writing, and you know what my passion is. If you can afford it and from what you say they help you financially. Is it enough? Find out. Look into it. And make sure you are ready to commit four years in Utah. Or get involve in the college community some way. But, don’t hem and haw. Find out more about it cause if I was 34 and free as thee I be doing it.

  9. Go for it! Writing is a huge talent (one I know I don’t have) and if you are good at it, persue it. My dream is to save mistreated animals, help children with mental disabilities, and teach 6th grade math. I’m going to persue my outlandish dreams and start college within the next five years, and work with a program that works with dogs and mentally disabled children. While my goals are out of reach right now, I WILL persue them. And I think that anyone with a dream (or dreams) should go after them, no matter how difficult or scary it they may seem, because the payoff of persuing your dreams is ACCOMPLISHING your dreams!!!!


  10. Most people can come up with an array of reasons for entering a program like this, but the secret reason is: i’m not writing, and I need someone to force me to do it. If that’s your secret reason, then stop right there. A program won’t force you to write. A dissertation is much harder to get through because it is a much more independent process than a master’s thesis. And if you can’t write on your own now, what makes you think you’ll be able to write on your own when the program ends?

    Also, if what you’re looking for is community, try getting together a writing group. it’s free and doesn’t tie you down for four years.

  11. Oh yes, I have been there!

    I love school, I love to write (and am more on the ball when I have an outside influence such as school) If I ever came into a lot of money and never had to worry about working again — I’d go back to school…

    When ever I have “oh shit what am I doing with my life” or “oh shit what if my job (that I don’t care much about beyond the money) disappears” crises, my immediate thought is either A) go back to school for a PhD (I too have a masters in creative writing…) or B) go back to school to get a teaching credential and be a highschool english teacher (IE go to school for the rest of my working life)

    The last time I had one of these crises was in February. Then one night in a dream (yeah I know kinda wacky) I was talking to someone about my wanting to get a teaching credential and teach — the person in my dream pointed out that, by going back to school, I’d be hiding rather than doing…

    School is a safe place for me, there is a set path: take classes a, b, and c — fulfill x,y, and z requirements to get to the end of the pathway: GRADUATION!!! — and I do really love the journey. But life outside school doesn’t generally have such a clear path and we have to rely on ourselves to figure out what our path might be and to figure out when that path might need to change… which scares the hell out of me…

    I woke up with the realization that I would most likely not be going back to school for a degree (to take fun classes, yes!) and that I just needed to get my ass in gear and write instead of mooning over it…

    NOW, this may or may not apply to you and now that I think about it, you may not even see this, since I’m commenting on an old post. But I hope that this may help you in making your decision and if you do go back to school — I’ll be jealous! (breakdowns and all!) (yeah, I know, that’s easy to say from the comfort of my dull desk job…)

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