I was lucky enough to take part in a NEOMFA-sponsored salon session with the author earlier in the afternoon. The quote above was the most memorable part for me. Diaz, while speaking about MFA programs and the professionalization of the writer, let out this burner:
I’m not a fucking dentist.
I’ll preface the rest of my post with the following facts:
- I am a poetry MFA student, age 23.
- I took no time off between my undergraduate education and graduate education.
- I am fully-funded and I realize how lucky I am.
- I regret starting my MFA so soon and I wish more people would have told me I didn’t have to start my MFA as soon as possible.
I think Diaz makes a great point—when did the artist stop being the artist? Why do so many writers go into thousands of dollars of student loan debt to ‘become’ writers? Writers need to write (and read!) to become writers, not take 2-3 years of graduate classes. The time an MFA allows one to write is beneficial, no doubt, but in general, the degree is becoming nothing more than a debt creator.
Also, when did a tenure track job become the only way to live comfortably as a writer?
So many of academia’s canonized writers had day jobs. T.S. Eliot was a banker and later worked in publishing. William Carlos Williams was a doctor. Philip Larkin was a librarian. Those are just some of the famous writers with day jobs.
In all, keep doin’ what you’re doin’, Junot.