So the countdown begins. Having been admitted to her art college of choice, in a few months my daughter will be a 10-hour drive away, living artistic instruction day and night. It’s a dream for her, and I’m thrilled (my pocketbook is perhaps less so). I’m also a bit envious–at how clear her creative path is to her, and at the idea of total immersion in a world of creativity.
All of us creatives find our own path to our muse. I am a creative writer, but my undergraduate education didn’t include a single creative writing class, not even English Lit. I am now squeezing a low-residency MFA in Writing program around a very busy schedule of professional work and family. I will attend my daughter’s high school graduation in June, and she will attend my MFA graduation in July.
But are she and I anachronisms, pursuing higher education when there are so many ways to learn today?
In the early ’90s, I briefly reconnected with my muse by reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. My students at The Writer’s Center reconnect by taking my course and others, which enrich and educate without leading to a degree. And let us not forget the power of the Internet to facilitate one-on-one instruction. I spend six months working remotely with a Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member in my MFA program, but there are many talented writing instructors who provide similar services directly, outside of a formal educational institution.
In a post last year titled “What Defines an Artist? Self-Taught vs. Trained,” I highlighted two artists I interviewed on my cross-country U.S. road trip. One was a self-taught painter, the other a professionally trained composer. Both were successful, and both were happy.
I look at the date I wrote this piece, and realize I produced it at the very time I was applying to MFA programs. I myself was wrestling with the question of whether I should take on the enormous task of graduate study. There was no right or wrong path for me. My life to that point had been about creative growth outside formal educational structure; I then chose to spend two years experiencing formal education. After July, the burden will be on me again to grow without the regimen of MFA packets.
If you’re reading this post, you seek to honor your creative muse. What has been your path to where you are now? I’d really love to hear from a variety of perspectives: students or instructors in formal BFA or MFA programs, and students or instructors in coaching or tutoring programs outside of an academic institution. Let us know what you’ve learned about the many ways we can all improve our craft as creatives.