Saturday, March 7, 2015

Defending a Creative Thesis

Dear Blog Friends,

The time has come, once again, for me to defend a large body of words in front of a committee of my choosing. The deed will go down this Monday at 4 p.m. Any warm fuzzy thoughts you can send my way at that time will be greatly appreciated. I feel like the past two years have flown by, but I guess that's what happens when you're having fun. I think the best decision I've made in my entire educational career is switching from a literature/critical concentration to a creative writing concentration.

Sure, it would have been easier for me to write another thesis about someone else's work, analyzing it in some "new" way that would bring something else "new" to my field. BUT, and this is a critical one, I think there is enough of that in the academic community right now. What we really need are more creative works (not that I'm placing my thesis among such greats that we study), and I think that the people capable of writing these works need to stop being afraid of doing what we love. That's what it came down to for me. I knew--deep in my gut--that I could write another critical thesis and that it would be good enough for me to get my M.A. in English, another box checked. However, my true desire wasn't that. I wanted to write something of my own, something free from style constraints and works cited pages.

And I had a story inside me. It needed to breathe the fresh air and its characters wanted to be heard. They still do. I've only chiseled away the detritus from a small piece of it, but the support I've received from my mentors and friends is enough to encourage me to continue carving.

As I meditate on the past two years, I am pleased with my progress as a writer and as a perpetual student. If there is one thing that I've taken away from embracing the creative process, it's that learning never ends. There is always something new behind the next door. So, whether I go on to get my Ph.D. in English, my MFA, or simply sit on my master's degree and laugh at the world, I am content.

I thought about making this a post with advice to fellow creative thesis writers about the whole process, but then I decided not to. Each of us has a path and yours won't be like mine. The best advice I can give anyone who is thinking about pursuing a master's degree in creative writing (or who just wants to write a book/short story/poem, etc.) is to listen to your inner voice. Not the one saying you will fail if you try. That's not you. Listen to the other one. The one that says, "I'm here, too. And I want to tell a story. 'Once upon a time...'"

Until next time...