View Full Version : I need direction and advice and I don't know what to do..

06-18-2005, 10:48 AM
A bit of background: Some of you may remember my rejection and dejection thread where I explained I was rejected from all the grad schools I applied to. A prof of mine thought this was ridiculous and helped me apply to UC Riverside before their May 1 cut off date. Well, the MFA program wanted to accept me, but they didn't have room (already filled the quota of fiction writers). So they sent my application materials to the new UCR Palm Desert satelite campus. I received my acceptance letter this week.

I don't know what to do. I think I've decided, but I don't know. If I do accept, I'll have to move by August to an entirely new area where affordable living and jobs both seem to be rare.

What do I want to do other than write? I want to work in the publishing industry. Fortunately, living in LA, I know I have a decent chance of finding some job, somewhere. What do I want to do with my MFA? Work in the publishing industry.

So I thought about what I wanted to do and what I didn't want to do. I don't want to try to find the money to move. I don't want to do what we did 4 years ago, when we went into deep debt, didn't have a job for nearly 3 months, and generally was miserable. That was scary. I can't handle it.

I decided that I'm going to wait a year for graduate school. In the meantime, I'm going to get some job experience, and I'm going to continue to write. Starting Monday, I'm going to hit sites like mediabistro.com and craigslist and I'm going to paper Los Angeles with resumes.

It's scary to do this. I know school, I don't know the rest of the world. God knows that it's scary. But I figure experience is just as important as a graduate degree, and money is always good.

I also think that I want to do as much writing as possible before I start an MFA program. I have a lot of novels and stories in me right now.

I'm going to sit on this for the weekend. I won't send my Statement of Intent either way until later next week.

06-18-2005, 12:52 PM
Take it! When in a dream a cobra wants to bite you ... let it bites! Later on you will discover its the same when you are not dreaming. Cryptic answer, eh? Not really, because what one talks about that is his/her reality. And you are talking about 'deciding to accept it and move'. So whoops move!


06-18-2005, 01:08 PM
I don't know what to do. I think I've decided, but I don't know.If you cannot put your heart into it, you probably cannot succeed at it. So if you feel all sorts of disinterest in making a big move, that may be a hint. Others might be really successful at that, but if you don't like it, it won't be easy for you.

I think -- although I'm not certain -- that you can get writing jobs pretty quickly. The real trick is, can you get jobs that pay well with the environment you want? I think you can do it. Get your name out there. And then get your name out there again. And then again. If it's what you want and what you love, other people will pick up on that.

(A secret as a hiring manager: many times candidates come in with similar levels of skill, but different levels of drive. I pick the candidate with the drive, because I'm betting she is more likely to get it right. What this means to you is that dogged persistence is your ally. If you want it, sometimes it's enough to get your foot in the door. The writer who is booked up but distracted can lose out to the newbie who listens to the client and learns everything she can/should.)


Diana Hignutt
06-18-2005, 03:00 PM
My advice? Listen to your heart and do what it tells you.


Cathy C
06-18-2005, 05:54 PM
I have two famous quotes for you, and my advice:

"People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent." Bob Dylan

"Something you need most might be something you turn away from, something you turn away from might be something you regret, and something you regret, in the end, might cost you the one chance you ever had." Brian Judge

Your post sounds very much like the beginnings of regret. You tried, you failed, and you asked for help. Someone helped you. Now you seem to be wondering if it's a slap in the face of the one who helped to refuse the gift. First -- no, it's not a slap in your professor's face. He offered to help you get accepted. You did. His duty, and your duty TO him, is done.

But if your only reason NOT to do something is because you fear the unopened door you MIGHT miss, then you will DEFINITELY miss the open one. Granted that the years of working experience MIGHT gain you something. But the years in school might ALSO gain you something.

It's a crossroads that you're facing. Each path leads further and further away from the other. If you take a job, can you reasonably quit to go back to grad school without regret? Would it be fair to a potential employer to hire on with the KNOWLEDGE that you will leave just as you've gotten trained and are proficient at your job? Can you quit in time that your transcript isn't a liability rather than an asset?

I chose not to continue college, but I did so without regret and still have none twenty years later. It's been a good life in the working world, but I could never progress in my field past the point where a specific degree was REQUIRED. That was fine for me, because I was happy where I was. But publishing is a cut throat business and every advantage you can get is a good advantage.

Think carefully and don't let convenience blind you to opportunity. It's convenient not to move, and not to go into debt. But is it convenient for the life you envision for yourself in a decade? If you work now, the contacts you make might not be there when you return if you left to go back to school. If you go to school now, what might you lose except the unknown?

Yes, follow your heart -- but follow your TRUE heart; not the one that thinks for NOW, but the one that thinks for ALWAYS.

Good luck!

Azure Skye
06-18-2005, 06:40 PM
It sounds like you're burnt out. Take some time off and write. Grad school will be there next year and you can always apply early since you already know the process. It should be a little easier the second time around.

Your heart is trying to tell you something. Write. Get a job. Get your second wind.

Good luck.

06-18-2005, 06:59 PM
From what you've written, I think you made the right choice. Change is scary, but it can also be exciting and wonderful. The thing is, you have all the opportunities at your fingertips.

I've done the grad school thing. I've done the "quit school and join the world" thing. I've done "get a job" thing. I've done the "all I really want is to write" thing... they're all part of my experience and I love them. The thing is, if you're burnt out or unsure about school (or anything), it may be time to stop and do something else. I am not saying you shouldn't persevere if your heart truly believe in something -- but you know where your heart really is, don't you?

Good luck, my friend!

06-18-2005, 08:07 PM
Pepper, the posts here have offered such superb advice that I am hesitant to add to them. What I'll do instead is offer a link to Journalism Jobs, a site I have bookmarked: http://www.journalismjobs.com/

Click on "View all Jobs," then narrow your search under "location" to California. A good resource.

06-19-2005, 01:37 AM
I'll be honest, though it's still difficult to admit because it's just not the way I was raised to view the world.

I don't want to get a job right now. Maybe a part time job at the tutoring center. Make enough to buy groceries with, mostly. I'll start subbing when the school year starts.

I want to be completely young and selfish and take the year for me me and my ****. I want to spend the year writing and looking for an agent and writing some more.

If I move to Palm Desert, I know two things for a fact. One, I willhave to work full time. Two, I may be writing a lot, but it won't be the projects currently eating my brain. If past school years are any indiction, I'll have enough energy to write what I absolutely have to write for school, and that's it.

FTR, Jaime wants me to take a year off and he doesn't want me to look for a full time job or any sort of career right now. He says it'll kill be creativity like it killed his, and he doesn't want that.

06-19-2005, 02:38 AM
Gosh, how I wish I had "a year off just for me, me and me" when I was your age. I was always doing something, achieving some goals, getting a degree, getting a job, paying the mortgage, blah blah. I went from school to work (sometimes simultaneously) and never stopped. I wanted to spend a whole year traveling and just learning things (without the structure of classes and degrees), meeting people, etc. I never did. I wishI had.

06-19-2005, 03:06 AM
I know I'm really lucky that I have a husband who is willing to support me and live in near poverty for me. Financially, we're not even comfortable. We live paycheck to paycheck, but that's how we're both used to living, so it's not a big deal.

06-19-2005, 04:16 AM
There are jobs for people who can write, edit and read, at UCLA, all the time. Here's the place to look:


There's an office for UC Press in Westwood; write a cover letter, indicating your willingness to work, and submit it with a resume. Indicate your interest in a publishing career.

Do what's best for you--but always have a failsafe option; for instance, if you decide not to go to UC Riverside now, ask for a delay. It's pretty standard to take one.

An MFA won't really help in terms of a job in publishing; it's a "personal" degree, and a degree for people who want to teach.

Check out Aquent; take the proofreading test. If you can proof and can drive, you can get lots of work in L.A.

06-19-2005, 04:42 AM
Thank you, Medievalist. I don't know why, but it didn't occur to me to request a deferal until 2006. I am going to do that. And thank you for the rest of the links. They are extremely helpful. I'm going to send my resume ASAP. Oddly, Aquent doesn't seem to be working right now. I can get to the front page, but I can't get to the job listings or the register area.

The thing is, we're not opposed to moving to Palm Desert at all. But we didn't count on it. I never *applied* there. I never planned for it. And then we're told just six weeks before we'd have to move...and we just can't do that. But give us a year to plan for the move, and yeah, we can swing that easily.

06-19-2005, 05:04 AM
Yeah! What they all said. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/EmoteSun.gif

06-19-2005, 06:17 AM
Food for thought --- Note the "tag line" under my signature.

06-21-2005, 09:44 AM
I'll be honest, though it's still difficult to admit because it's just not the way I was raised to view the world.
I don't want to get a job right now. Maybe a part time job at the tutoring center. Make enough to buy groceries with, mostly. I'll start subbing when the school year starts.
I want to be completely young and selfish and take the year for me me and my ****. I want to spend the year writing and looking for an agent and writing some more.

And there's your answer. I agree with Ms. Azura Skye, you sound burnt out. Be a shiftless bum for a year before you have a mortgage and seven kids! One thing I've learned, is that if something feels like you're climbing Mt. Everest every day, it's probably just not meant to be. Life shouldn't be that hard.

The deferral sounds like the best of both worlds.

Nearly everyone I know in grad school wishes they'd taken a year off. A job-- any kind of job, even waiting tables -- will give you a different perspective on life. Being financially able to take a low paying entry level publishing or writing job is a dream a lot of us middle-aged 'adults' can't achieve.

Evan Hunter worked several 'odd' jobs while writing, including subbing in some of NY City's worst high schools, and used the experience to write "The Blackboard Jungle." Taking a year off may immeasurably improve your writing.

I have two friends who were just accepted into MFA programs. One is 48, the other is 55. There is no time limit here. When you want to go back to school, you can. You may find it easier to get accepted when you're older and have work experience.

It's heresy, but here it is: everyone says Do This or you'll regret it later. Do That or you'll regret it later. Psychologists tell us the #1 mental health problem with senior citizens is they regret the choices they made when they were younger. NO MATTER WHAT DECISIONS YOU MAKE, YOU WILL REGRET THEM LATER. Guaranteed. It's the secret of life. Get over it. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/wink.gif

One question I ask myself when making decision is: What would you do if money were not a factor? I can't always act on it, but it sure helps clarify my thinking.

06-22-2005, 11:52 AM
I contacted the school and deferral is not an option, unfortunately.

I talked to my mentor and he said the same thing, Joni. Everybody regrets every decision they make. Then he said, "What do you want to do?" I said, "Write." He said "In a program or by yourself?" I said, "By myself." And he said, "Then do it!"

It was different hearing those words coming from him.

I'm going to send my Statement of Intent tomorrow, marking No. I've already started applying to part time jobs and I spent the last 2.5 weeks working on the first draft of my WIP. I finished it yesterday. I'm really productive when I don't have to worry about school, lol.

Thanks everybody for your thoughts and posts. This was not an easy decision for me to make, and I considered each bit of advice (advise? I can never keep them straight...) carefully.

06-22-2005, 11:58 AM
Pepper--I took *unintelligible mutter* years off between my bachelor's and grad school.

It'll be fine. You'll be able to get in later, if it's something you decide you want, then.

Best of luck!

06-22-2005, 04:00 PM
I don't think people regret that many of their decisions, honestly.

People regret not trying for things. If you hadn't applied for the program, I think that might trigger regret. But you did apply and were accepted. There's absolutely zero shame in turning it down since it is mostly a timing issue.

You've got peace with your decision and that's what matters most. If you decide later you want to get the MFA, you'll be accepted to another program.

Cathy C
06-22-2005, 06:01 PM
Glad you made your choice! Congrats, and good luck with it!

each bit of advice (advise? I can never keep them straight...)

Easy trick for this: C comes before S in the alphabet. "Advice" is something you get in the NOW ("Thanks for your advice." "I took your advice.") "Advise" is something that happened in the PAST. ("I was advised by the people on AW.")

C is now
S is later

Advise is also something yet to happen (which is another form of later). "Will you advise me on what I need to do?"

Hope that helps! :D

(PS -- this also works for "affect" and "effect". A comes before E, so you WILL affect something by something you do, and what you do will HAVE an effect.)

06-22-2005, 06:44 PM
Pepper I've survived (mumble) years of grad school, at two schools. I've seen more incoming grad students than I can count, and I know for a fact that the survival rate for grad students is higher for those who have lived a little. For one thing, you can earn a little and save it; even if you still go the loans and debt route, you have a cushion.

And then really the MFA is a teaching degree, or a degree "just because." There's no hurry. But do check out the Warren Wilson program.


06-22-2005, 07:54 PM
Good luck to you, Pepper. My opinion: you're made the right choice. I actually think that very few things are irrevocable, even those that say in black and white that they are. You can always change you mind again, really. It's not a sin and it's not a sign of weakness and it's a not a sign of anything other than you exploring where you want to be, want to go and want to do.

06-24-2005, 09:31 PM
Just a quick update. I mailed my statement of intent today to not register with UCR this year. The nice lady in admissions told me when I reapply this fall, I do not have to pay another $60 fee. I just have to fill out the online application and sign the disclaimer form and that's it. I have high hopes for UCR, based on other discussions, and it's definitely my first choice for school.

I also have an interview scheduled for next Tuesday for a private tutoring firm. I've been tutoring for my University for four years. I made 8.75/hour. Apparently, private tutors make 25-30/hour. It's a good thing I loved my boss and my job so much, otherwise I'd be pissed, lol.

I also have committed to writing novellas for two anthologies for Liquid Silver Books (publisher of New Frontier) both due out next year, so I've got writing to keep me busy for the next month or so!

06-24-2005, 09:33 PM
See? Wonderful news. Keep going.