EDIT: It occurred to me that I should clarify up front that I am NOT a wannabe MFA dropout. Just someone who contemplates the “to MFA or not to MFA” question from the inside.
I stumbled across this answer to this question while procrastinating on the internet. It’s about getting an MFA in art, as opposed to writing, but it interests me nonetheless.
Treat this course of study as though it were a work of art that must be finished at all costs. Persevere through your uncertainty and your panic. Pay attention to the details of your subjective responses. Think about what it means to be panicking in art school. Think about what it means to be borrowing so much money, to be following the directions of teachers. That is all part of being an artist.
Think about what it means to want to be an artist. That can be your art for now. Study the lives of other artists; consider their agonized indecision, their confusion about what role to play in life, their methods for completing their work and making a living in the world. Use this time to learn all you can. That’s all you have to do.
You don’t have to “produce art” now. You’re in art school. This process can be your art for now. You’re supposed to think and learn, acquire techniques and skills, grow and develop as a person. That’s what you’re doing. So go to class. Throw yourself into your problems. Believe in yourself. If art has changed you, then honor that change; make this your way of paying art back. Devote yourself to art. Be a humble servant of your craft and your genius. Do the right thing. Stick with it. Be an artist.
On one level it’s kind of silly. Including the whole “don’t worry about debt!” part. And an important aspect of the asker’s question–you don’t need an MFA to be an artist–is totally ignored.
What caught my attention was the sentence, “That can be your art for now.” I’m not sure that I agree with this on the level that “producing art” can wait. (Maybe because I have to come out my program with, you know, a book.)
But I like the sense that part of being an artist is more than production. When it comes to production, I have a lot of insecurity. When I’ve written a decent draft and people tell me it’s pretty good, I am happy. Not that anyone has to tell me it’s perfect–they can be honest. But something that is at least passable for a story, as opposed to a bunch of mangled, melodramatic, boring crap. (I sometimes write mangled, melodramatic, boring crap. And it makes me feel … crappy.) When I take forever to get one draft written, when I have to abandon something I’ve put hours and hours of time into, when I have no idea what my thesis is going to be (gulp), I feel like I’m failing.
I am pretty sure I’m reading a little more into this answer than the author intended, but it seems to present an MFA program is a time of discernment. Not just about whether or not to be an artist, but on what that means, and how it translates into action.
I have more thoughts but they are not worded at the moment.
And I have a draft to finish. Yes, the draft that was “due” on Wednesday. Ungh.