Since graduating from my Masters program in 2008, I’ve heralded the return of September with considerable longing. Eyeing the kids with their new backpacks bulging, my brain longed for a desk, a discussion, a lecture outline in chalk, and, glory of all glories, an open-ended question. The truth is, I should be studying, but it is for an exam with absolutely zero thought-provoking questions, a test so mind bogglingly unintuitive that they change it every 6 months based on how many people passed it that season, not wanting too many folks to get their licenses. I am in the final weeks of The Artist’s Way, and it has taught me, above all, to listen to myself. And it’s good timing, too, since my priest moved away and my muse/dance teacher is out with an injury. I’m having one of those “if you want a cake, bake it yourself already” moments, and so when I asked my inner learner what she was so curious about this Fall, I found myself scouting MFA programs and writers’ residencies.
What I found was: getting an MFA or taking off for a residency program does not work with my current priority, which is showing up fully for my daughter’s early years. However, I began to ponder how I could create an MFA-style program for my own damn self. I read this post by my friend and fellow LTYM alum Maggie Wells, and my heart leapt. Could I possibly take a kick-ass writing class from my own kitchen table, working it around play dates and my part-time jobs? I read Ariel Gore‘s How to Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead, just to make sure I wanted to take a class from her. I found it so empowering that I scrounged up the cash (when you have no money and you really want something, sell some of your stuff and you’ll get there!) and joined up, my student heart awaiting what was to come. So far, so fabulous — I’m loving the community of writers I’ve entered, and I’m writing more than ever. I also set up some face-to-face meetings with writers right here in my community, to read our pages and connect about writing. Through all of it, I am jumping headlong into my own MFA: the MotherFuckingAwesome Program. Or, if you dislike cursing, you can always ask, “How’s that Masters in Fine Awesomeness going?”
We absolutely cannot wait for our goals to happen to us. Recently I was looking at my life, and wondering if it was a series of “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” decisions, which has led me to find that a lot of those bridges have snapped in the meantime, and all that’s between me and the places I want to get to are great big chasms… and a shit ton of rope, ripe for bridge-weaving. Like the character who inspired the title of this post, Billy Madison himself, I’m building my own educational program to shape my craft, based on connecting with other writers, saying yes to each opportunity that comes my way, and writing every day, no matter how shitty my first draft is.
I’m finding myself so inspired by other self-starters, people who are not waiting for official seal of approval to be who they want to be. One of those folks is my talented friend Sydney Brown, who is launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to re-vamp her visual art portfolio and commit to full-time art for three months. She’s making thirty pieces of wearable art in thirty days to jumpstart this effort, and you can learn more about her work and her endeavor here: Transition: 30 Pieces in 30 Days. It’s totally worth clicking on the link to see the charming video she’s made outlining her project, and be sure to watch ’till the end for a special performance! If you find yourself similarly inspired by what she’s trying to do, consider throwing a few bucks her way – we scrappers need your support!
So, this year, I don’t have let Autumn pass me by in a haze of classroom-longing. Instead, I’m getting my butt back to school, my own way. How are you educating yourself these days, or seeking to meet artistic goals, on your own terms?