Writing Life (or Death) Post-MFA

paper-1100254_1920Eleven years ago, I graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing. I was pregnant with my first daughter, and while she was just a developing fetus, I remember interviewing my mom for this story, which appeared on This American Life.

My daughter is eleven now, and I have published a few pieces here and there, but my relationship with writing has changed over time. Post-MFA, I was burned out on writing, and I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to write again. To my writing group, I said more than once about writing, “I don’t know. I think I am done!”

Before grad school, I felt an urgency to write. I would stay up late writing, and I spun circles around myself trying to put together a coherent narrative. In hindsight, I can see my nerves getting the better of me each time I sat down to write. The voice of doubt in my head would tell me my writing was garbage, and then I’d feel like an impostor who was trying to write, not a writer. I didn’t take myself seriously.

Despite the self-doubt, I would always return to writing. I had a job and kids, and for years I would sneak in writing time, always treating my writing as a hobby instead of a job. In the past year or so have I realized the work that I would need to do in order to become a published writer. I had to set aside longer periods of time to write, and I needed to return to writing, at least a couple of times a week, but if I fell of the wagon, I had to be kind to myself, so I could hop back on. Five weeks flies by when you are busy with a writing deadline at work, but as long as I returned to my art, I was still a writer.

Last year, as I worked on revising an essay, the one that will now be appearing in Creative Nonfiction issue 69, I experienced a shift in my relationship to writing. I had been married to my husband for fifteen years, and through my marriage I learned ever-so-slowly how to nurture my relationship with him through kindness, patience, creativity, and love (Strange how that works, and it’s a reciprocal process–who would’ve known?). I realized that I had to treat writing in the same way. I would never scream out negatively about my husband, “I don’t know. I think I am done!”

I realized that even though I fell out of love with writing, I could fall back in love. And so I willed myself to love writing, to trust that I could do this job of mine, a job I return to, a job that nourishes me, as I nourish my craft. I realized I was in a long term relationship with writing, and we would have our ups and downs but writing would always be there, even if sometimes writing and I went through a trial separation; even if sometimes I yelled at writing and said, “Stupid words! I hate you. Get out of my bed!”

Writing would forgive me. I took writing back; writing took me back. We are a couple of suckers. 

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I realize now that cultivating a writing life is more than just setting time aside to write; cultivating a writing life includes giving myself the time and space to not only enjoy writing but to also feel inspired and to love my craft and art.

2 thoughts on “Writing Life (or Death) Post-MFA

  1. Hi Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by my blog a couple of weeks ago. I was just checking out your posts, and I wanted to invite you, if you’re interested, to join my monthly author blog hop. I think it would be right up your alley, because the theme is learning and resources for authors. We “hop” the third Wednesday of every month. It guarantees you’ll get engagement with your posts (likes/comments) from other authors. Here’s a link to the rules/signup page: https://raimeygallant.com/2017/03/22/authortoolboxbloghop/ Whether you join or not, I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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