Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Here's a Toolbox," said Graduate School.

"Now make your degree." 

I have decided that graduate school is much different than what I imagined it would be, and after talking to several other friends in various grad programs, it seems I'm not alone in this. I figured I'd come to school, take classes of course, but at the meat of things I'd have a wonderfully attentive writing advisor who would hold my hand and encourage me and hold weekly meetings to talk about my writing (okay, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but really this is almost what I had at good ol' OC!) Not that I literally need my hand held, but I've been much more on my own with the giant project of writing a book than I thought. I just met with my chairperson last week, after having busted my butt to get a first draft completed. She is going on sabbatical next semester when we're supposed to meet, so she'd suggested we meet now over the summer. I walked into our meeting and she was on page 75 of 240. She hadn't even read the thing! C'mon, now. She gushed about those pages she'd read (which normally would please me but I was mostly irritated), but the meeting was basically a waste, as she's asking me questions about the narrator's positionality and how that changes, whether the narrator becomes self-reflexive about the writing, etc. 

Well, I can't really answer that based on 75 pages. You'll have to read the whole draft. 

Is it really too much to ask? Apparently so. Other writers I've talked to say the same thing. We're on our own here, but what it comes down to is our own individual motivation and drive. I really wanted advice on my manuscript, and some good, solid reads--from faculty and peers. (I've found now that workshop doesn't even help me that much anymore because my project is in full-book stage and it's hard to pull out a 20-page excerpt that can stand on its own and not receive criticism that isn't constructive for an entire project.) Even my friend who is in a graduate program for speech therapy can't seem to get personal attention for her lab projects at WVU!

But I can say that there's no way I would have accomplished what I've accomplished if I were still writing piecemeal shorts while working full time at MGH. I have jumped in head first, and have learned a lot--though not necessarily from direct instruction. The readings courses have been helpful, some of the workshops have been insightful, just having my eyes absorbing creative words on a daily basis has been tremendous. I've made my book a priority, and because of that the project has blossomed. I've gotten to know some awesome writers and teachers. I've discovered research possibilities I never would have found on my own. I've made grand friends, and for once feel knit into a diverse community that shares many of my intellectual pursuits.  I've realized that I own this, it is mine, and it is up to me to make it a success. 

Graduate school gives you the tools, but you have to build it on your own. NOT what I was seeking or planning for, but fruitful nonetheless. I think it's a good thing.  

No comments: