For some reason last spring it occurred to me that being a full-time professor/mother/wife, while fun and fulfilling, did not occupy enough of my time and sanity. Days chugged along quite satisfactorily; the kids were happy, the husband well-fed and agreeable, my students had enough funding to keep them in rice and beans. Myself, I had a routine, one that kept me writing in the mornings, blogging and editing in the late evenings. I managed on my six hours of sleep, and felt pretty good about life, love, and all the other things in the world.
Then summer hit. Ennui settled in with the humidity. I hit walls – with work, with writing. Life felt aimless. It drove me crazy.
I considered withdrawing my life savings and buying a Maserati sports coupe. I contemplated running away to Italy or maybe Maine, to shelter at Haystack awhile. There were quite a few days I almost did NOT take my exit and kept driving, driving, driving. Restlessness thrummed under my skin like an electric current.
But I am not gutsy enough to throw myself into too much adventure. Perhaps all I needed was something to percolate the spaces between my synapses. I decided to pursue a dream I’ve had ever since I started writing 5 years ago. So on a whim I applied to a graduate program in creative writing – and got in.
Going in, I had reservations – this was an MA program, not an MFA. I was not/am not sure whether I’d rather go the MFA route (more on this later). But for now I am an official student in the Johns Hopkins MA in Creative Writing program. I am quite certain I am the oldest student in the class. I am also quite certain I have less exposure and training in the humanities than my classmates. Walking around the Homewood campus reminded me of Chapel Hill, which of course vaulted me back to my own undergraduate memories, my mispent youth.
The MA is part-time, of course. One course a semester. This semester, Contemporary American Writers. One class in, and already my brain’s flexing like Gumby. Asking the provocative questions:
• When I ‘like’ something I read, why do I ‘like’ it?
• What are my core set of beliefs regarding life? Regarding art?
• How do writers elevate life into art?
• Why do I write?
I have never sat in a classroom with a dozen other people passionate about writing and reading and art. Wow. Even though my first class occurred during one of the worst emotional weeks of my life, for almost 3 hours I forgot my grief, my anxiety, my frustration. For 3 hours I was transported and re-energized.
We’ve been discussing this video, a TED talk by Shea Hembrey, a contemporary artist who took on a phenomenal challenge -- he became 100 artists. Take a peek, and tell me -- would you, could you, do this with your art? Your writing? Why or why not?