To school or not to school? MusingsPosted: April 27, 2012
Once upon a time, I completed grade 1 and learned, to my horror, that I would have to go on to complete grade 2. Why? I asked my mother, utterly perplexed. I’m perfectly happy in grade 1, why do I need to go into grade 2? This went on for a few years until I got the gist of school and realized there was no way around it: every year I would have to finish one grade, where I was content to remain in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of classroom and classmates, and go on to the next. I eventually stopped asking the question as to why I needed to go on, but the feeling of not wanting to never quite left me.
That is until I reached university where I was thoroughly happy to go on to each year and was thrilled at the prospect of all the new stuff I would learn, all the amazing writing I would get to read and all of the research papers I would get to write. In short, I looooooooooooooooooved school and was not afraid to sing it from the rooftops (much to the dismay of my friends who pretended they didn’t know me when I made such declarations). I embraced graduation after completing my degree, proud at what I had accomplished, but was also sad at the prospect of no more school. No more intellectual debates on the hidden meanings in Chaucer or the double entendres of Restoration literature; no more endless attempts at deciphering just what exactly Michael Ondaatje was talking about, or pretending to understand Middle English verse. I went on to complete my post-grad certificate in Ryerson’s Publishing Program but it was more of a mercenary effort to ensure a place in the workforce and didn’t quite feel the same.
Since then I’ve taken a writing course here and there but have not been compelled to go on to a Master’s degree, though I couldn’t tell you why, considering I love school and think it a sensible endeavour for someone who actually wants to make a life of this writing thing. Something people always say: Everything happens for a reason. I think it’s true, this thing that people say, and to highlight that point, I will tell you why I now know I was not yet compelled to do a Master’s degree: The other day while reading a Facebook friend’s post about a friend who just won the Star Short Story Writing Contest for 2012, I also came across the fact that he had won a scholarship to the prestigious Humber School for Writing Correspondence Program. Say what?! What was this prestigious school for writers and why had I never heard about it. Since then it’s been on my To-Do list to look into and after a morning spent perusing the site, I think I’m down. 30 weeks spent writing 10 pages a week that you have to send in to a much more established and experienced writing mentor who will then proceed to rip it to shreds and tell you why it sucks and how you can make it better if you ever want to get the damn thing published, all over email. At the end of the program, you’ll have 300 pages, for better or worse, and a wealth of knowledge gleaned from your mentor all for the low-low price of $2900. Faster, more efficient and more direct than any MFA in writing I’ve ever heard of. If this was not designed specifically with people like me in mind, then I don’t know what.
Initially I was thrilled at the idea of having someone not from my loving and obliging family and friends to critique my writing, help me to get the length issue sorted out (i.e., get me to write more than 5 pages a month so that I can actually have a book and not bits and pieces scattered all over the place) and teach me in a relatively short time all that they know of this craft. It seemed the perfect in-between solution to my desire for more writing work but lack of enthusiasm to do an MFA. But the questions started to pop up in little bubbles, hovering over my head, and are still floating there as I write this.
They are as follows, in no particular order:
1) What if I don’t even get accepted? If that happens, I think I will crawl under my desk and never come out, which would likely make my soon-to-be husband a little uncomfortable;
2) What if my mentor hates me and/or my writing? He/she will probably be very mean and I will cry, but I think it will be worth it…maybe…I hope;
3) Do I really need to go to school to get this thing done, or is this just another attempt to delay myself from JUST WRITING IT? Likely, it’s a bit of both. And will I feel like a cheater if I get help to do it? I’m pretty sure Margaret Mitchell didn’t enlist anyone to get Gone with the Wind done, but then again, it took her 12 years to do it.
4) When am I going to fit in everything else that I need to do, between work and taking care of the two male creatures I live with? Can I hire a personal assistant?! I’m too old for school.
5) What if I don’t do it and then I always wonder if I could have gotten it done better, sooner or at all?
So you see, I really am like that Hamlet guy, sitting on the top of his castle wondering whether he should kill himself or whatever. Finding myself in only a slightly less dire situation, I’m asking the audience: To school or not to school? I don’t know whether it’s better to risk the time and money and months of harsh criticism in order to have a viable manuscript at the end (along with the benefit of a professional mentor and the obvious upside that I get to go back to school!!!!! yay!!!!), or whether I should just do the thing myself (which thus far has been sooooo successful) even though deadlines and work and walking my dog always seem to get in the way, because in the end it will be more rewarding.
Another thing people always say: Don’t put the cart before the horse.
So, I guess I need to apply first.