Earning my master of fine arts in creative writing didn’t go the way I envisioned. I didn’t graduate when I planned, I didn’t take all the classes I wanted to, and I didn’t study with all the professors I’d hoped to. My constant migraines upended many of my plans, but there were other factors: my university’s budget cuts, program changes, time constraints, financial considerations, and so on. Those details don’t matter now.
The thing is, I earned the degree. I’m Kelly Lynn Thomas, MFA.
A few days after my diploma arrived in December, I received a job offer for a promotion to a full-time, slightly higher paying position at the main library. The transition not only from graduate student to (more or less, considering the state of my head) functioning member of the workforce but from one library location to another turned me upside down, sideways, and inside out for awhile.
After a period of dedicated non-writing time, I tried to write, but wound up only obsessing about writing. I thought about it every spare second, but the only things that came out were aborted blog posts, lame tweets, and a failed attempt at revising a story that didn’t really need any revision, because I’d already revised it to death.
Migraines were making me miserable, and not writing was making me even more miserable.
Did I think those three letters after my name were going to suddenly give me magical powers of instant finished manuscripts? Or perhaps even better, extra hours in the day? Was I deluded enough to think that being away from the stress and pressures of graduate school would lessen my migraines, or maybe even disappear altogether?
Somewhere deep in the secret recesses of my mind, I did think those things, and those subconscious thoughts were leading to extra frustrations and blockages.
In case you were wondering, an MFA doesn’t give you superpowers. It does give you a lot of other things, depending on how much you put into it. I put a lot of work into mine, and I got a good return, even if I still have to write my novels one word at a time. I studied with talented and awesome people, I deepened my skills and writing self-awareness, and I became a part of something much bigger than myself.
Now that I realize how silly I was being, it’s not hard to answer the question, “Now what?”
Put some words down. So what if I don’t have a whole hour or more every day to write like I used to. I have fifteen minutes here, a half hour there, five or so here. I have a thirty minute bus ride twice a day to let my mind wander and create new worlds.
The migraines don’t appear to be going anywhere. If anything, they’re getting worse. Ignoring them won’t make them disappear, but focusing on them will only make them seem more awful. So I choose to take a middle road. I will acknowledge that they are there, that they affect me in real ways, and I will do what I need to do to take care of myself. And then I will let them go, so that my mind is free to focus on better things.