I submitted my dissertation a few weeks ago, but can't get my head out of gotta-meet-deadline mode. The back-to-school scent in the air doesn't help, since I have just finished 4 years of full-time education. Besides, this is a beginning: I must now focus on forging a career as a writer, if I am to stand any chance of success.
Doing a Creative Writing MA is one of the best decisions I've made in my life. There is much debate around whether you can learn to write: people seem to love the myth that geniuses are born, not made, and believe that all good writers automatically know how to write well. They probably also believe that great writers write perfect first drafts. I don't know if I'm a good writer - or if I have the potential to be a good writer - but I have learnt more over the past year than I had in the previous 10+ years of trying to write.
What I have learnt:
1. I'm not alone. There are other people who have this crazy dream of making a living through writing.
2. I'm competent. None of my tutors ripped my work to shreds (literally or figuratively). In fact, my marks have been good (though not brilliant) and gradually improved throughout the course.
3. Loads of technical stuff - including things I'd never really considered. Like gesture. I'd never appreciated how gesture can perform complex tasks while appearing simple.
4. To let my imagination run wild. I did a module on experimental writing, which helped me realise how I'd constrained my writing over the years.
5. There are (some) people who will take me and my writing seriously.
I can't express how much I've learnt or how much confidence I've gained. I know universities are accused of viewing Creative Writing MAs as cash cows, but mine was worth every penny. And whatever the university thinks, the writers teaching the courses will, in my experience, encourage and nurture writing talent.
The only 'regrets' I have are centred around what I cannot change: my problems with mental illness. I have Borderline Personality Disorder with Depression and Anxiety, so I found it difficult to interact with my tutors and fellow students. I didn't take advantage of having a successful novelist available to give me feedback, because my low self-esteem makes me believe I'm not worth his time. I didn't exchange work with people as much as I would have liked, because I thought they wouldn't value my critiques and reading my work would be a waste of their time.
C'est la vie. Living with mental illness is never easy. I must focus on the positive: I completed the MA despite these struggles and found it more valuable than I expected. Now I have to put what I've learnt into practice...