Monday, June 27, 2011

Life after an MA in Writing

Thursday night I snuck into a reading organized by Bath Spa University's MA in Creative Writing programs. Not only was it a pleasure to hear some great work, but I got to catch up with some old writing friends, including my beloved tutor Julia, and meet some new students fighting to finish their novels by September (oh, do I remember that!). Plus I got to spend a whole evening talking writing!

Though I believe every student I met asked me the same question: "What is it like not having workshop anymore?"

I should have taunted them with how much free time I have, how many books I've read for pleasure lately, how I just signed a six-figure publishing contract... but instead I tried to answer their question honestly! And it got me to thinking, too. What is life after an MA in Writing like?

The hard part, of course, is to keep motivated. Many of my former classmates have struggled to fit writing into their regular lives. I've been lucky enough to not have to work, but the solitude of sitting at home working full-time on writing has been a challenge, too. It's been a struggle to keep believing my characters are sympathetic enough, that Project Demo is anything anyone would want to read, and that I'm a good enough writer to pull it off.

"But haven't you kept in touch with the students you graduated with?" one person asked me.

Yes. But keeping in touch, and critiquing each other's work now and then, isn't the same as two three hour workshops a week, strict deadlines, and dedicated tutors.

The good news is that since finishing the MA program, I feel much more capable of critiquing my own work. I also know I've written one good novel, so intellectually (if not emotionally) the second seems feasible.

And that's the current challenge, isn't it? Figuring out how to write a novel without constant feedback, strict deadlines, and dedicated tutors. Speaking of which, I better get back to work on Project Demo, which I'm determined to finish by the end of this summer!

What are your summer writing goals? And for those of you who have done a course in writing, what has the "after" been like for you?


  1. I've never done such a course but have always longed to. My aunt, who was a children's writer and a wonderful one, formed a writers group with the women she met at her course and they supported each other through all sorts of literary adventures. She took me along once and its a treasured memory now. Congratulations, by the way, on such a wonderful contract!

  2. Why couldn't you form a crit group with a couple of the students you graduated with? There would be more of a consistent feedback and support. And if you work well with deadlines, having the next group date set up will help you focus.

  3. Anna: Yes, it really was a wonderful experience and I've formed some wonderful friendships through it. Eek, sorry for the confusion, was joking about the six figure contract!

    Andrea: I've formed individual crit partnerships with several students, but unfortunately a group just isn't feasible (though I have another lovely writing group that meets monthly!). It would definitely be helpful to get more regular feedback, but I imagine it still wouldn't be quite the same as 6 hours a week and feedback from a variety of writers.

  4. I went through this, too, after I finished my MFA program. It was kind of a shock to go from having constant writing deadlines to having none. Like you, I relied on some friends from my program to help keep me going. It's a hard transition, which is why it's important to find the things that motivate you to continue writing.

  5. I'm afraid to set any goals because our summer hectic-ness starts in earnest soon. The school break is short (only 5 weeks) so it always gets packed pretty full with holidays and family visits.

    Currently I'm doing a lot of reading to make sure that when I do dive into the writing again, I'll be 100% confident of the strength of my premise and the potential of my story.


  6. Anna: Nice to hear from someone else who's gone through this! I knew it would be a transition, but didn't anticipate how tough! I have been very luckily to have so many friends from the program, though.

    Elisabeth: Eek! A shame that summer can't be more of a break for you, too. Sounds like a nice research time for you, though.

  7. I was in a writing class with a mentor for years and I really miss those Saturday mornings. Plus it really helped me get motivated to get new stuff written.

    I'm still hanging in there writing without a group but I do miss it terribly.

    Maybe we'll get the band back together again one day! :)

  8. Karen: Yes! Every time I go to Bath, and pass the stop for Bath Spa University, I get homesick for it! It's such a treat to have those opportunities with other people who really get what we're doing.

  9. Interesting, Anne. I've never thought about what happens AFTER the workshop. I've just longed to be IN the workshop. :)

    It sounds as if you gave the students some good insights.
    Have a happy 4th weekend to you -- even if you are "over there".

  10. Happy 4th to you, too Bridgette! Thanks!


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