On Thursday, I defend my final project for my master’s degree. In addition to inspiring nightmares in which I show up late, forget the room number, drop my papers all over the floor--well, you get the picture I’ve been reflecting on my time in the program.
I know there is some debate about the value of an advanced degree for writers. What I can say is this: No, you don’t need a degree to write. You just need to write. But that’s not why I entered the program. I had been writing for years before I went back to school for my master’s degree. My undergrad work was in English. I’ve been a reader my entire life. I have several shelved novels gathering dust under my bed.
So why did I go back to school? Well, aside from being the kind of person who actually enjoys school (I’ll pause now for the requisite nerd/geek jokes), I wanted a time in my life that was dedicated to improving my craft. I could have found an online or local crit group (in fact, our library has a Fantastic writer’s group that I belonged to) but I wanted the pressure of deadlines and assignments. I have four kids and in the day to day grind, setting aside time to write was often the last thing I felt like doing.
Being accountable to someone made me work. I needed this. It has made me a better writer. And, it’s made me a better mother. Having something for me—just for me—has helped me balance my life. My kids will eventually grow up and leave (well, 3 of them will anyway—Gracie, it’s you and me forever!) When they do, I’ll have something to hold onto.
The time I spent in NKU’s program was a gift to myself. I was lucky enough to find a program where the professors encourage students to find and develop their own voice. (A rarity, let me assure you.) You want to write graphic novels? Go for it! You want to write sci fi? Good for you! Literary fiction? There’s a place for you here also.
No, I didn’t need a master’s degree. But if a life is built out of your experiences (and I believe it is—both good and bad) then my time at NKU will always be one of the highlights of my life.