Does School Ever End?

Perhaps some people are students at heart, never able to quit signing on for more learning and torture. Like me.

After earning my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, I swore I was done with school and studying. Time to enjoy some freedom. One semester later I signed on for a distance education program to earn my master’s degree in structural engineering. This time would be different. No all-nighters because I’d take things slow. Only one class at a time. Yeah, right!

Fast forward five years and I was once again graduating and swearing I was done with studying. Except I forgot about those pesky licensing exams. The professional engineering exam only monopolized my free time for one semester. Not too tough to swallow. I’d rather not admit how many years I spent carving out study time for the structural engineering exam. It didn’t kill me, and that’s about all I can say on that topic. Eventually I passed both days of that exam, and for the third time I declared myself done with studying.

Surely now I could enjoy my free time like a normal person. And I did. I’ve been traveling, painting, reading, building legos, writing, coloring, taking on home improvement projects, and volunteering for my daughter’s activities. Not to mention falling in love. It’s been wonderful, and busy, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that something was missing. There was one dream that hadn’t been fulfilled, and it had nothing to do with the lifetime of study I’ve put in to my career as a structural engineer. I still haven’t written THE book, the one to find its way into my favorite bookstore.

Writing is a craft, and there is so much to learn from the amazing published authors in the world. I’m a voracious reader, analyzing every book I devour. My critique partner and I attend regular writing conferences and workshops to glean wisdom from the published. It’s possible I’ve crossed the fine line between fan girl and stalker a time or two, all in the pursuit of knowledge. As a result, of course my writing has improved.

Recently it’s reached a plateau. Passive observers can only glean so much, even at a writing conference. At some point, if you want to excel, you need to dive in to deeper study. Find an experienced, published mentor to advise you. Expand your critique group to a larger network of serious writers. Go back to school. Yikes – did I really just say that?

When I throw out the term MFA, people gasp and cringe. Unaffordable. Unemployable. Unlikely to result in publication. The un-‘s pile up every time I mention it. Many bloggers have tackled the reality of the MFA in Creative Writing. This program will not guarantee a publication contract or a job involving writing. But it will take your quality of writing to the next level if you’re willing to commit all your free time to the pursuit of writing.

Guess it’s a good thing I’ve never had free time. Printing my MFA application even as I post.

About Jennifer Kay

Jennifer Kay is a KidLit author and Structural Engineer. She has a VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, is an SCBWI Rockford Network Rep, edits the SCBWI IL Prairie Wind, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America. Jennifer works as a writer, freelance editor, literary agency reader, and creative writing teacher.
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