Friday, November 14, 2008

Notes from MFA-land

For my friends who miss being in a graduate program, the highlights of a week at school:

Monday: final "project" due (as project-y as a short story can be), comp student comes to office hours to announce that she's apathetic about writing and will no longer be putting effort into her papers, final project handed in on time, moping/depression about frustrated student ensues.

Tuesday: since project is in, time to catch up on reading. Distracted from others' workshop submissions by the excellence of a published story collection, still hung up on frustrated comp student.

Wednesday: Help frustrated student research, feel better, more reading, fall asleep over classmates' stories again.

Thursday: Finish reading workshop submissions, finish pleasure-reading story collection, take new book out of library, attend reading in Berkeley, workshop, cocktails with classmates.

Friday: no classes, lay around, clean apartment, hopefully post on blog for LEW's birthday.

The MFA life, almost a life of luxury (except on a budget and that budget on loan). Earlier today, I was ready to whine: that student depressed me; I could have done something more with my final project; I have a headache, which must be the result of a rough week (except written out it doesn't look bad at all). I got to spend hours and hours in the library (my favorite place). I saw friends, who share my interests and commiserate with me, every day. What's so bad about the MFA life? Nothing, I suppose. However, with commencement a semester away and the economy needing jump-start after jump-start, current satisfaction seems impossible (perhaps the underlying cause of my orneriness). If I can't help this one student, how can I hope to teach for a living? If I can't get this story right now, how will I ever write a successful story in the future? If I don't have Fridays off, will my living quarters ever be clean again? MFA-land is a happy enough place when experienced in the moment, but I worry about my departure from it. Next project: MFA weaning. (Although worry about the future prepares me for all the worrying that I'll have outside of school, so I may be on the right track already.)


Anonymous said...

Just curious...if a student comes in and announces that s/he is apathetic about writing, why is that your problem? I would have just said, "Whom do you think you're punishing here? Not me..." But maybe I don't understand the full context.

Laura said...

As a writing teacher, I can vouch that student apathy does depress. Ideally, we would have boundaries. We would recognize that a student's apathy could stem from any number of sources. But really, we want to be that inspiring teacher. And it's bummer when you've put a lot into selecting a writing assignment only to be received by groans, stares, and sighs.

On the plus side, with time we learn that one less paper turned in is one less paper to grade!