Ladies and gentlemen, I have signed up for the GRE General Test. I take it in less than a month.
Why? you ask.
I want to go to grad school. That’s the simple answer. The more complex answer stems from a combination of factors. Here they are in handy list format:
1. I need a change.
2. I’ve been at the same job for eight years and I’m borderline ready to walk out.
3. I can’t find a better job with my current schooling and experience.
4. At least not in this area.
5. My transcript is 80% flaming garbage and 20% soggy toast. I need to put up spectacular scores to show I am ready for the long, hard grind of a master’s program.
6. I’ll have been out of academia for six years by the time I get in again.
7. Mostly, to prove to myself I can do this. And I will!
The end game is to get my Master’s in English Literature. By some miracle I already acquired my Bachelor of Arts in the same. My undergraduate career was less than stellar, but I’ve always had a love of learning. I want to put that love to good use. I also need structure and to build good habits when it comes to scheduling.
I put editing my novel on semi-hiatus to get ready for the test. I needed a break. My rewriting efforts were suffering over the last month as I approached this decision. I intend to finish the project soon, but the GRE and grad school application take precedence now. Which leads me to another issue, one at the crux of a writing career and the pursuit of a degree. The latter does not necessarily aid the former. One is not a requirement of the other.
There’s no bridgekeeper asking for your CV and a list of three references before letting you cross into the land of authorship. (Honestly, I wish it were that easy.) It’s more of a Sisyphean task. You hit the high of completing an entire first draft of a manuscript only to look at it a week later (or a month, or six months) to find the shine worn off. You fall back down into the pit is self-doubt and uncertainty.
Personally, I’m only on my second trip up the hill. I’m doing my first round of rewrites on my first novel. Thanks to The Internet, though, I have no illusions about the amount of work still ahead of me. There are still quite a few highs and lows. I have yet to scale critique partners, querying agents (and piles of form rejections!), edit letters, beta readers, and a whole host of other various challenges that come with the territory of transitioning from writer caterpillar to published author butterfly.
And I know there’s no guarantee here. I could hit all the marks and have a book ready to hit shelves, and GRRM’s publisher might release his long-awaited book the same week. I could be a butterfly crushed under the wheel of fate.
But I’ll keep persisting, I’ll keep putting pen to page and writing because that’s what writers do.
And the master’s degree? That’s an entirely separate pursuit. A master’s degree and a writing career can exist in a kind of symbiosis, one boosting the other. The degree is specifically to increase my chances of finding a job in a field I’m passionate about.
Incidentally, another obstacle to being a writer is making enough money to be a full time writer. Many published authors don’t, and they hold down day jobs, or part time gigs, or evening and weekend shifts. Sometimes it’s to supplement income, sometimes it’s to pay the mortgage and keep the lights on. Those who divide time between the grind and the dream must be diligent in alloting time to write and then using it to that end and efficiently. I struggle desperately in that category.
So, what do I hope to accomplish with a master’s degree in English Literature? I want a job in something closer to my interests. Perhaps I’ll teach in the future. I definitely want to make a career of a writing. I want to get published, and be a professional author with at least fifty percent of my income drawn from book sales. Lofty goal, I know. Realistically I’m aware this may never happen, but I’m certainly improving my chances with every word I write.
A writer writes, by definition. I intend to keep doing so. But I also want to get a little more education in, and this time around I plan to actually pay attention. I plan to sharpen my writing skills by analyzing the greats that have gone before. I plan to build my connections so that I have a community of other writers and readers around me. Most of all, I plan to have fun and I plan to learn a lot.
Coming up is my journey to the GREs, and grad school and a master’s program, if all goes well. Wish me luck!
I want to get back in the habit of posting regularly. This is the start. Future posts: National Novel Writing Month is coming up in November. Even sooner, October is just around the corner. Halloween is the most fantastical holiday, and the season puts me in the mood for horror. I’ll have some related material posting then.