When You’re Suffering, Make Good Art

These are some of the words spoken by Neil Gaiman in his speech for the 2012 graduating class at The University of Arts. And with all the frustrating I’ve been suffering from my graduate courses, this feels very fitting for my current situation. Honestly, I hate my graduate courses and I haven’t been too fond of my professors (except for one). So suffering has become very common during the pursuit of this degree. I know I’m not the only one feeling the way, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.

I’ve gotten vocal with my frustrations with this degree and it feels un-noticed by those in power. So what have I done? Found other ways to “give the middle finger” and “protest the bullshittery of my degree.” For starters, two classes ago we had to do a rewrite of a scene from a movie. In the scene was a religious hymn, a Christian hymn. So me being me and not liking the assignment, I chose to use some lyrics from We All Come From the Goddess instead and make the scene Wiccan. Technically I followed the rules of the assignment, but in truth I know I did what I wanted. I wasn’t expecting a good grade, so imagine my surprise when I got praise and a perfect grade on the assignment! A very wise person told me it was because of my passion for the topic that I got the good grade because that passion showed in my writing So apparently, giving the middle finger makes me more passionate!

But then I gave it some real thought and I’ve realized when that when I do my most passionate writing, it’s during times of suffering or frustration. The more emotion I’m feeling, the more passionate my work becomes. Some of my best blog posts, best in class creative writing pieces, best parts of my novel, etc all come from when I’m suffering or feeling emotional. That isn’t to say my other, not so emotional writing isn’t good, but there is a difference. Whether it’s a noticeable difference or not, I don’t know.

What I do know is that there is something to writing while feeling strong emotion. So all the suffering, frustration, unhappiness, and every other negative emotion I’m feeling because of this degree I can channel into good writing that will make me happy. And at the end of the day, what really matters to me is the writing and becoming the best writer possible. Unfortunately, I don’t feel I am gaining the tools I want/need from this degree and right now, my pursuit of this degree is just for the piece of paper and the connections, nothing more.

And that’s sad. Though my undergraduate degree was difficult and I thought about quitting several times, it wasn’t because I felt like I wasn’t learning anything useful or because I didn’t like my professors (though I definitely had a few I didn’t like) like it is with this degree. Honestly, if it wasn’t for becoming friends with four women who are pursuing the same degree and have the same feelings I do, I would have given up on this degree. But with them, I have found a supportive group who offers constructive critiques and who I can laugh with. I never saw friendship as an important part of education, but now thanks to them, I see the importance of making friends while in college/university. And as a selectively social introvert who isn’t the biggest fan of people, it’s weird to say that! So I guess I’m just not growing as a writer, but also as a person!

I still have quite a ways to go with this degree, so I know I have to push through it as best as I can and hope I get more out of it than just the piece of paper… Because I’ve never wanted a degree just for the piece of paper, I’ve always wanted to get the most out of my education and feel like I earned it and really learned from it. But sadly, I don’t think this degree will give me that, so I will have to seek my educational nourishment from other places. I’ve noticed that when I feel like my time is being wasted, it makes me restless and makes me seek our whatever I feel like I’m missing. That is exactly what I’m going through right now, so all I want to do is branch out more creatively and start pushing more boundaries with my writing. I will always try to make good art. I don’t want to be just one thing… But that’s a future post, so stay tuned for that!

For anyone else who has pursued an MFA degree, did you struggle as much as I am? Do you feel like you got the most out of your money? Let me know your experiences and any tips/advice you might have for in getting through this degree without going insane! I hope everyone has an inspiring and stimulating week!

16 comments

  1. I’m sorry to hear that your MFA isn’t the experience you had hoped for. Do you have any insights about what the problem is with the program you’re in? I did an MA in creative writing, and I found what I learned was useful for teaching later on, but not so much for writing. I learned much more in my undergrad program. For the MA, my creative writing professors had reached the point in their careers where they were just phoning it in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t have any confirmed insights, just speculation. Personally, I see issues and I’ve made them known in my student evaluations, but I don’t even know if they read them thoroughly.

      My undergraduate degree gave me so much more than this degree has. I know with the MFA I could teach, but teaching has never been something I’ve considered… It doesn’t feel like the right path for me, ya know? But the future is uncertain, so maybe one day I’ll change my mind. But for now, this degree just feels like an albatross around my neck.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just reading your post confirms what a good writer you are, Michelle. Really. I don’t think your degree pursuit experience is unlike that of others. It’s frustrating when you’re not getting all you feel you should be. I have no magic answers, just support for you. Keep writing, and know there are people who are there for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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