Sunday, November 8, 2009

In answer to a question: Balancing work and art

I just plagiarized an email to a full-time teacher who is contemplating taking the plunge into an MFA. In my defense, I told the recipient I was doing it. Here's the meat of it:

So, balance? Well, I'll be honest and say I think I did a rather poor job of it, but everything that needed to be done got done. I didn't try too many new things on the job, and I got lucky my last semester a had a wonderful, capable student teacher. But basically, I made the MFA my life. Went to bed ridiculously early so I could get up at 4am and write before work (found that after work, I was too spent to do anything but read.) Weekends were totally dedicated. I am fortunate that I have nobody to take care of or cater to except my dogs, but if you have a family, and they support you in this, it can still be done. I can hook you up with a couple of married high school English teachers, both with children, who also got through the program.

The bottom line: most of the time, the sacrifices stopped feeling like sacrifices. I finally had what felt like the perfect excuse to decline invitations-- I didn't just want to write, I had to write. It got me into a practice that I now no longer feel I have to make excuses for. It felt like an amazing gift I'd been waiting all my life to give myself. Bad sentence, but you get my meaning. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

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LG Burroughs said...

I would add that if you are beholden to those that walk on two legs (not that they count more - my love for my dog is borderline obsessive), the sacrfifice generally becomes more theirs than yours - because our dear radiant shred is right: it stops feeling like a sacrifice. One very important thing it did for me was allow me to/teach me to call my writing what it is: work. Now I can treat it like work - as in, "Not now, I'm working." Priceless.

stephanie said...

That's it, exactly. It isn't just a hobby anymore. It isn't just something you're kind of puttering around with when you get five minutes on a Saturday morning. It is work and there's a payoff.