To MFA or not to MFA. That has been the question for me as of late. I was leaning toward the MFA. Here’s why: I wanted more time to write and I wanted the potential networking opportunities. Well after explaining this to a friend, who helped me get down to the nitty-gritty, he wondered couldn’t I make time and network in other ways that didn’t require me to quit my job (yet) and fork over tens of thousands of dollars?
The answer, of course, was yes. So, I decided to retreat from the idea of getting an MFA and move ahead with the idea of a writing retreat. I figured that once a month would go away for the weekend to a quiet place and write.
This past weekend was the first of my writing retreats. I rented a little studio in Gloucester, an hour’s train ride north of Boston, went up Friday night and returned Sunday afternoon. The experience was amazing. I started right in on revising a piece as soon as I arrived late Friday afternoon. The next morning, I revised a second piece. And by that afternoon, I was ready to tackle a new story that I’ve been avoiding because I already know it will be complex. The quiet, the solitude, the distraction-free space allowed me to dig into that piece in a way I’m not sure I would have done at home.
Right before leaving, I had a feeling I was doing exactly the right thing. A friend had pointed me to author Sarah Selecky’s website. Among doling out advice, she runs online writing courses. I signed up to receive some of that advice and her daily writing prompts and wouldn’t you know it, this is one of the pieces of advice:
Don’t go to university for your writing – go on silent retreats instead. Meditate. People will think you are crazy or weird for doing this. Do it anyway. — Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones & Old Friend From Far Away
As for the networking, my plan is to attend conferences, especially those where I can talk directly to agents and editors who can give me direct feedback on my writing. Next one on the calendar: October.
Photo: Looking east from Good Harbor Beach. Credit: Tracy Staedter