As an undergraduate I often felt the need to choose between what I wanted to do and what I needed to do. But these days I'm starting to doubt the necessity of reading until my eyes bleed in order to satisfy a core requirement. I recently had a startling discovery about myself: I don't like reading novels. WHAT!?! But I was an English major! But I used to read a lot on my own... didn't I? As I think back I can't remember a single time when I read a novel from self motivation and genuinely enjoyed it. Well, shit. Who the hell am I if I don't like reading? But that isn't true. I love reading graphic novels, plays, and nonfiction. I'm really drawn to dialogue in fiction. It's that fluffy 8 page description of the main character's left shoe shit I can't stand. This is also why I tend to fall asleep during action movies at the point where the plot abruptly comes to a halt for 20 minutes of violence and special effects.
I've been really into the John Holt philosophy lately that theorizes that compulsory schooling changes your personality. It seems to be true for me to some extent, though I've always been resistant. I've been complaining about how the education system wasn't designed with me in mind for at least a decade (you know you're old when you can say this). I now realize that it isn't constructed to benefit anyone because we are not supposed to learn by burying our faces in a poorly written textbook the night before an exam only to forget nearly everything a couple weeks later.
I knew I wanted to be a writer since I could manage to scribble my name down, but I never felt like I had the time to commit to it until now. Let me remind you that I have an infant son who I can't be away from for longer than a couple hours at a time and THIS is the point where I feel like I finally have the time to commit to my craft. So let's pretend I said 'school sucks' in an edgy and original way. The lack of a challenge (let's face it, getting an undergraduate degree in liberal arts is a joke) paired with the unbearable thought that life was slipping by while I wasn't getting any closer to reaching my goals was more than a bit depressing.
As I have been researching playwriting and theatre stuff I see a lot of advice along the lines of, "if you're serious about it then you need to pour all your time and money into an MFA (preferably mine, personal checks are accepted)." Something about this seemed a little fishy to me. Probably the discourse of necessity which incites desperation. Ay dios mio! How will I ever be a writer without this utterly expensive degree which affords me the opportunity to write 4 or more plays in 3 years? And (gasp) I get an internship too! Like, real job experience! What a deal!
What can you do in 2 to 3 years? Develop a self sufficient writing habit for one. I don't know about anyone else but writing for a grade doesn't exactly ignite passion for my work, or in my work for that matter. And then I'm writing more now than I did when I was taking writing classes since I don't have to spend all that time on the bullshit assignments and I can focus on what works for me. I can also read whatever I want. I no longer have to complain about reading some pointless book or how expensive textbooks can be since they're free with my library card.
But how in the world will I ever get anything published/produced without a mentor holding my hand? Well, imaginary reader, one thing is to submit to things constantly. This means a lot of rejections, which can be discouraging. But keep in mind that rejections don't necessarily mean that your work sucks. It just isn't what they were looking for. Perhaps your poem about pretzel bread doesn't really fit in with a knitting magazine's poetry contest. But you can't just wait for someone else to hand your destiny to you. How about you round up your acting friends, get a permit from the park district, and put on your play in the park? Now look at that, you've got something to put on your resume. You can turn that 10 minute play into a short film on YouTube. For prose writers why don't you try self-publishing through POD or E-books (more about this to come)? Also, ahem, blogging regularly and connecting via other social networking sites could help.
Why isn't homeschooling for higher education considered valid? Seriously. Why do we need a lousy piece of paper to certify that we are learned in some topic? I think the answer is that we don't. Would you rather hire someone with a degree or with 4 years of work experience in your industry? The answer is going to be work experience. Every time. While a student at an institution is boasting about their fancy curriculum a self motivated individual is out there getting real experience. So, institutions of higher education, I don't need your MFA! I can do this myself, thank you. With a curriculum that is catered to me personally and guess what? It's totally free.