I’m thinking about applying to UBC to do a master’s degree in creative writing. I could do it part-time, through distance education.
I’m feeling conflicted, though.
Part of me says “If you want to write, just write. You don’t need a master’s degree. Just write.”
That same part of me also questions the logic of digging into my meager retirement savings to finance a master’s degree when I’m a lot closer to retirement age than I am to school age. It’s not cheap. It’s about $18,000 spread over the two-to-five years it’ll take me to complete it. (For some reason I can’t fathom, tuition for distance education is even higher than tuition on campus.)
Tuition is a solid investment for young people, but not so much for the middle-aged. I doubt that I would ever recoup my tuition from paid writing gigs, so I can’t make a sound economic case for going back to school…especially for creative writing.
The only case I can make for it is that I want to do it. I want writing prompts, ideas, stimulation, assignments, pressure, deadlines, guidance and feedback. I want to take my potential as far as I can and see where it goes. I want to immerse myself in that writing zone where the words flow and the time flies.
All my life – all my life – I’ve wanted to be a writer. Even before I could print my own name, I wanted to be a writer. With most dreams, there are real obstacles that need to be overcome. If you want to be a doctor, you have to go to medical school. If you want to travel around the world, you need some time and money. But writing? It’s free, there are no pre-requisites, and no special equipment is required. Even a little kid has everything they need to do it. There are no barriers. No excuses.
Which makes it all the more puzzling – and frustrating – that I haven’t done it yet.
I don’t know what obstacle is standing between me and my dream of being a writer, but it’s probably not a master’s degree. Nevertheless, working on a master’s degree might help me plow through whatever the obstacle is.
When cancer brought me face to face with the possibility that I might die soon, it altered my perceptions of life. The shift was subtle, but its implications have been significant and lasting. Paradoxically, most of the things I learned from cancer were things I already knew. For example, I knew – just like we all know – that quality of life matters more than quantity. But now I know it in a way that sometimes changes the choices I make.
I know that a person can die young after living a complete and rich life, and a person can die old without ever having really lived.
I know that money matters, but it’s meant to be spent on things that matter more.
I know that when my time is up and I’m reflecting on my life, I’d rather be thinking “I was a writer” instead of “I always wanted to be a writer.”
And even though this contradicts everything I just said, I also realized when I had cancer that I am already a writer.
These are some of the things I’m thinking about.
What do you think? Should I apply? I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, advice and suggestions.