Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Sunday Morning

Nothing builds confidence like seeing your picture under a headline in Galleycat (the Media Bistro blog) that reads “Bad Year for MFA Graduates.”

Dude, ouch!

The blogger goes on to relate the sorrowful tale of ’08 MFAers in a flagging economy. Oh no, wait. That’s what he says we are doing.

Then there’s the comment from a “DorothyP:”

Why not combine poetry with a helping profession, such as medicine? Or banking? Or working in a customs house? I'd amazed at the number of recent MFAs who seem think that their art will sustain them body and soul, when in fact, the concept of a full-time poet or writer (without family money) is pretty recent. Maybe emptying some bedpans would make the world a better place than teaching some dreary undergrads.

Excuse me while I bolt posthaste to the St. Ignatius Home for the Infirm.

It’s true, though. I often wonder if I am doing anything for the world by writing. Maybe I have confused myself with Leo Tolstoy. What is the difference between an artist and a sad sack MFA grad? Who decides? When should I give up? After the twentieth lit mag rejection? After the 100th? How many times do I send out my book proposal before I go join a “helping profession?”

What, I’m not helping?

The problem is no one knows while they are writing if their work is a legitimate contribution to society or the indulgent musings of a selfish jerk. Maybe a tribunal should be set up to sort everyone out. You, novelist! You, go dump some poo!

I know that we don’t remember and love Wallace Stevens because he was a kickass investment banker. I also know you don’t want me anywhere near medical equipment.

To end on an up note, right before I posted I found this comment from The Wandering Reader.

I have no doubt that these three young ladies will be successful; while people always hope to have a career in writing or teaching after receiving their MFA, there are other things that can be done with a MFA in the meantime.

And then...

…it’s at times like these that writers need to band together. Good to see that the three young ladies featured in your post have started that process already.

Thanks, Wandering Reader! And I do have a teaching job. That requires a Master’s no less! (More on this later).


Jason Michael MacLeod said...

Actually, the present economy should have no negative effect on the availability of teaching jobs. As the stock market tanks and people are laid off, they tend to go back to school to brush up on skills to get more competitive in the shrunken job market. This leads to a demand for more university instructors. True, we're not talking about classes in advanced poetic form at Yale or even anything with benefits, but if one can handle teaching composition or business communication then there will remain plenty enough work to pay for rent, food and Bushmills.

If the financial situation gets so bad that the government starts scrapping student loans then, yes, it would be time to brush up on hunting and looting skills.

Luke said...

Found y'alls (I feel as though I'm misusing the apostrophe there...) site through the MFA blog and I've really been enjoying what I've read. As a current MFAer, it's great to have an intelligent and realistic picture painted of the post-MFA scene, and even better to have it delivered with a sense of humor. Plus, I can write off reading these posts as research for the future as opposed to most of my internet perusing (40% wikipedia, 40% youtube videos of animals doing things you wouldn't expect them to do right when you wouldn't expect them to do it, and 20% auctions). But I've said too much. Keep on keepin' on.

Anonymous said...

Bedpans, schmedpans. I did exactly what she prescribed, fifteen years ago. I had a BA in English Lit and encouragement from 2 professors, but I was chicken-s@#$% and went back for a nursing degree. I have done bedpans and worse, but I have always felt like a gay person must feel, who decided not to come out. Like I betrayed myself. Now I've got to "come out" as a 40year old soccer mom/nurse; it's much harder. Yes, I'll always have a way to earn income and feed my family and "help" people, but I feel like art and poetry "help" people too. God knows I've been "helped" by Mary Oliver and George Eliot and Tim O'Brien. I like what St. Augustine said...'Dilige, et quod vis, fac." Love, and what you will, do that.
Keep the faith.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe it's translated..."Love, and then do what you will." I suck at Latin.

CVMoore said...

Oh Laura, you're too much. Seriously, this made me laugh. Thank go clean some poo!

(MFA workin' 29-hours-a-week-cuz-30-means-they-have-to-give-me-insurance)

Anonymous said...

When I received the rejection letter that broke the camel's back I became a textbook buyer at a university bookstore. That's a helping profession, right? I haven't written a single story since.

jeannine said...

I agree with Jason; this is really no worse a year for MFA grads than any other year. In fact, on the Cwropps list, there seem to be more teaching positions open, not less!
Recessions generally result in an influx of students to universities, which ups their funding, even as state and federal money dwindles. So my guess is, universities will still be hiring.
Also, there's no law against "fun" side work like freelance writing and editing to make some money on the side. Tech writing and ad copy writing are lucrative side-gigs too.