Ten Years

About ten years ago I started this blog with the intention of archiving my writerly pursuits. At the time, I had decided to go for a master’s degree in creative writing, a decision I came to after several years of writing and studying on my own. My first blog posts were a review of Haruki Murakami and some thoughts on Mark Twain’s anti-war writing. My interests have not changed much since then. I still post responses to books I’ve enjoyed and my thoughts on literary topics. But as a writer, I have changed. Writing means more to me now than ever before.

In this blog, I documented my years as an MFA student at Naropa University. Having an MFA now seems ordinary to me because I know so many people with the same degree. But ten years ago I was anxious, scared of failure, and unsure if I was capable or worthy of an advanced degree. Apparently I was.

As a practical consideration, the MFA has provided little benefit. No editors or agents called me after I submitted my thesis. No employment opportunities have opened up to me that even take into consideration the degree. In fact, the only ones who seem to care that I have an MFA are the debt collectors who want my their money.

The summer I applied to Naropa I asked my teacher Jim Hall to write a recommendation letter. Graciously, he did. And he gave me some advice—I have continually returned to Jim’s advice on so many things over the years—he said the only good reasons to do an MFA is to become a better writer and, perhaps, to find a sangha (community), because an MFA can’t offer much else. He was right.

I have become a better writer than I was ten years ago, and my teachers and classmates at Naropa were tremendously helpful. I didn’t find a sangha, no network of supportive friends and acquaintances, but the fault in that rests solely on myself. I lack the personality or temperament to maintain any such network. I did make one or two very good friends that have become so close I call them family. Going by Jim’s criteria, I consider the MFA mission accomplished.

The frequency of my posts to this blog has changed over these last ten years, partly due to demands on my time and partly due to my own demand for more thoughtful writing and research. During the years I was studying at Naropa I often posted several times a week. I was immersed in writing and could devote to it as much of my time as I wanted. Other than serving chai at the student café, writing was my only job.

I took a year off from the blog entirely in 2008 to earn a second master’s degree, this time in teaching mathematics. Working as a full time teacher and taking a full load of graduate courses pushed writing to the periphery of my daily life, a situation I found untenable. By the second year, even though I was still working full time and taking a full load of graduate classes, I had returned to writing and to this blog. I wrote whenever I could. I wrote in the evenings. I wrote on the weekends. I joined a writing circle in the neighborhood for support. I was able to post a blog and bring a story to the circle about once a month.

Last year I started a new job that once again impinged on the time I had available for writing. Having learned my lesson from 2008, I aimed to reduce the frequency of my blog posts rather than take a hiatus. Posting every other month was manageable. I was able to do the research I wanted and take my time with the writing, while still performing well enough at my day job that they asked me to come back for another year.

This summer I reclaimed more space in my life for writing with a couple of retreats and writing projects. I began work on a novel and now have an outline and first draft. I’ve made preparations for maintaining this writing space during the fall and winter months. I will continue working on the novel while I am also working to pay bills. My writing pace will slacken but not still. I will continue posting to this blog once every other month. The research and writing I do here is essential for my continued growth as a writer. My work on the novel will continue also with concentrated efforts during long weekends and holidays.

This blog continues to be an archive of my writing life, a record of my endeavor to become the best I can be at something. Embedded in this record of my avocation for writing are the distractions such as school and work that pull me away from my life’s passion. But these distractions also enrich my language, provide fodder for my stories, and engender in me a discipline that sharpens my writing.

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