Not Exactly a Path to Somewhere

3 months pregnant and in Kew Gardens--London
3 months pregnant and in Kew Gardens--London

My husband has an idea. MFA. Novels can be written without degrees, but jobs are easier with them. I have a job now, but I’ve had the same job for a long time and no change waits on the horizon. Well, no change I’ve any clue about.

The deadline is December 15th and I’ll need to take the GRE (my score from 1989 is called out-of-date–fancy that). Plenty of time (as if there is ever any of that), right? I’ve got an art show in April. Another in October. I’ve got these novels to work on (or what was the point?). Then there is that job that pays bills and comes with lesson plans to write and papers to grade.

There is the housework–which I put off as much as I can, but there’s a limit. Not to mention this child who says, “Mom, after you read me my stories, can you sit with me? You can write while I fall asleep.” Someone needs a mother.

I look at the GRE study guide and think I am mental and not up to it at all. But it feels as if my job now will never end and it isn’t what I want for the rest of my life.

I want to stay home and write and make art. Is that so spoiled of me?

How do you fit your writing life in with everything else? How do you decide what is next?

10 thoughts on “Not Exactly a Path to Somewhere

  1. Ahhh…Marta, it seems we are at the same crossroad! I know I am at a bit of an advantage (but a sad one at that) as I don’t have a 5 year old to consider, but I am to the point that mediocre jobs and crazy bosses aren’t worth the peanuts I bring home. I love reading your blog, and I absolutely love your art. I think the ideas you have for the art show are absolutely fantastic! I think you should spend a little less time on lesson plans and more time on what you love and could possibly make you money and make you happy at the same time!

  2. Oh my, I am also thinking/dreaming my way into an MFA program. The GRE is way scary. I think I lost more brain power with each child and I’ve got 4 under age 9. Yes I do. I’m thinking I can just take babysteps, try to make a game of creeping up to the whole thing, and show up and see what happens. What’s the worst that can happen? Things stay the same as they are now? Let’s go for it!

  3. That horrible juggling act between following your bliss and paying your bills is such a heart breaking dilemma. I got my MFA thinking it would bring with it the publishing success I hadn’t found yet. It has helped, and it led to a great career teaching, but it hasn’t yet allowed me to just stay home, write, and live off my writing. I wish you much success with this decision.

  4. That’s a beautiful picture.

    It’s hard work being a Mum without having to do work you don’t want to as well. And no one knows how much is involved in keeping house unless they’ve done it – even if you have a very relaxed attitude there’s still so much that can’t be avoided.

    I hope you do manage to stay home and write and make art.

  5. Aw jeez.

    I just…


    I tend to think along the same lines as Kim. I don’t have an advanced degree, but The Missus does: MA in English, emphasis in Creative Writing (the equivalent of an MFA at schools which don’t offer the latter), which she got in the 1990s after returning to school some years post-BA.

    It’s not an unmixed blessing, but it does offer some nice perks, e.g. guaranteed critiques/workshops. (Otoh, even those are not going to be all of equal caliber.) Not sure that job-worthiness or employability is one of them, though…

    You might want to wander over to the Speak Coffee to Me blog, whose proprietor is an MFA candidate. She seems to have her head screwed on very straight about doing it, both pro and con. Here’s a good example, and you might want to browse all her posts tagged “MFA,” too.

  6. Marta – I felt your longing, hopeful wishes and love in every word of this post. Love for your craft and love for your child and family. This is so tough…finding balance is tough. I got my MFA and am lucky enough to write and stay home…although right now I don’t write what I imagined and don’t make nearly what I want or need…it’s a little bit but that’s better than none. But it’s hard to find the balance between writing, creating and being a Mom. I always, always worry that someone or something is missing out. I give about 150% but it never seems to be enough….but despite all of that, what I do know is that you should pursue your dream. I don’t think you have a choice..the want will remain and grow larger….it will be challenging but anything worth anything is worth the work, right? And I think you would love it…I really do. Talk about it here, share what you are going through when you are going through it…I know you will find more than your fair share of people who are also struggling but who are still happy and loving what they are building toward…I will be one of those people beside you. I write less now than before my daughter and I create more for my shop …i do it early before she wakes, when I have some help and then when she goes to sleep….it’s worth it. If you want this degree go for it…it’s your dream and you can do it. I believe in you

  7. Your post hits me POOF. It’s such a dilemma. Follow your dreams or stay with that which is safe, but slowly killing your spirit. Or find a way to stay with the safe thing while still following your dreams? I don’t know, maybe there are many ways to achieve that thing that you want. I know there is, because it’s not really about the endpoint, it’s about the journey that gets you there, and there a million directions to go.

    I went for a Masters in teaching instead of the MFA, and I still twinge when I think about that waitlist at Columbia. If I had tried again the next year, or tried another school???? But oh well. I did learn so much from the masters I got and from the experience of teaching and it has both made me a better writer and surprisingly much more marketable as a writer, and a teacher of art, writing and creativity (although I’m not really pursuing that this instant). I’d still love an MFA, but won’t do it… now… maybe my next phase of life. 🙂

    How do I balance it now? I give up a lot. I have no social life, very little money, a very sloppy house, kids who watch way too much PBS and eat way too many chicken nuggets (not that they’d eat homecooked meals if I made them). I don’t go shopping or out to eat. I sacrifice the money that I’d get from a part time job so that I can work on getting this writing and art career going, in the hopes that when the kids go back to school, I will be able to take up my work full time, instead of going back to the public schools and teaching English. Maybe it’s a gift that my salary as a teacher wouldn’t offset the cost of childcare for two very young kids. It gives me a dead line to get my business going. It motivates me past my fear. Of course, it’s still going slowly.

    I write when I put the kids down for a nap, although basic chores keep getting in the way. I paint when they go down to bed. Sometimes I finish a painting or do some sketching while they are playing around my feet. They like to watch me draw. Sometimes they want to help me. I do internet stuff during the day while they are playing.

    Often my schedule gets out of whack and I have to figure out a way to put the stuff I need back in. Usually something is being ignored.

  8. This is the very nut of it, and there is no way to know what is next, except what is the very next. Even in spite of our schemes, the next thing arrives and usually bites us in the rump as we are setting out on another course. From where I sit, I do what truly needs done. Right now that is work that pays. Sometimes it is work that doesn’t pay. Nothing that I do anymore pays very much, except in gratification, and that is a change that occurred by itself when I clarified my own priorities. I trust that nothing is lost, overdue or impossible, and as long as I ride these waves one after the other I’ll keep moving through somewhere new.

  9. I had no long term plan for most of my life but acted in the moment Or reacted. Marriage to a self-employed contractor meant I worked in the home office several hours a day with a baby and a toddler to care for as well. Divorce meant bankruptcy and then working full-time as a dean’s assistant at a university as a single mom, broke broke broke, but I did manage to get an MA in Education during those years, going to classes at night. The job paid for the classes or I could never have afforded it. The MA lead to teaching jobs. Then re-marriage and more of a financial cushion lead to working at various online jobs from home, publishing two books along the way.Right now I don’t work, mostly because of poor health. All the while raising kids and keeping house. And all the while, writing writing writing.

    My BA is in English/creative writing. Mostly I had to unlearn what I learned in that program in order to write. Life gave me something to write about; and books on writing plus rejection letters taught me how to write.

    Of course you want to stay home and write and do art. And of course you feel guilty about it. For some reason, many of us think that raising a child, being a good partner in a marriage, keeping a home and being an artist is a selfish, lazy pursuit. I know I do, especially when I see the suffering in the world. It’s a big part of why I think art should offer meaning for others- we are so blessed to be able to create. To me guilt is just part of the struggle, not a reason to ditch the life. If I didn’t feel guilty about it, I’d find something else to feel guilty about. So my advice for what it’s worth is: work, if you have to or want to. Get an MFA if you think it would be fun and helpful or lead to a more interesting job. Or “just” raise your child and fill the world with the results of your creative gift. Whichever route you take, don’t let anything stop you from creating.

  10. I have given up hope on ever getting an MFA because I know we can’t afford it. And with the job market as it is, I’m not sure it would be a sure-fire way of getting a good job either. But it can’t hurt. It’s a step, and if you have the opportunity to go for it, I’d do it! How do we balance everything in our lives? Marta, you’re doing it. No one feels like they are doing it perfectly. You just do what you can do. You’re not going to ignore your son if you get your MFA. You love him. You’re going to take one step at a time and get through it like you get through everything else. I’ve heard good and bad things about MFA programs, but I think in the end, it will at least make you feel like you’re on the path you’re meant to be on. You may not get the perfect job or even get published and be able to stay home, but maybe you’d enjoy teaching writing more than what you’re doing now? Even if it were at a community college? Think about all your possibilities. Go for what you really want.

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