Well y’all, the holidays are upon us. As my friend Grant keeps saying, this semester isn’t so much winding down and it’s coming to a screeching halt.
The less time I have, the more I think about time, how it can work for us or against us, how some people thrive under the pressure of a million things bearing down on them, and how others need a whole day, a whole week, a whole lifetime, just to get their minds in working order.
How does the concept (and existence) of time affect the life of an MFA student? How much time is enough? How much is too much? What are the ideal circumstances under which to write, to read, to learn, to create? In other words, what effect does the structure of our days, of our lives, have on the version of ourselves that we are now, and the version that we are (or want) to become?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or space to answer any of these questions (sorry), so in true over-busy procrastinator fashion, I’ve asked my friends to help me.
I find it fascinating to see how people spend their time, mostly in the hopes that I will discover some sort of magic in their schedules that will make me a better person (or at least a better writer). And, because I happen to have the best cohort ever, a few of my folks have agreed to share a typical day with us. Everyone is currently taking a full course-load this semester of three classes, which all happen at night at UCF, leaving people free to spend their days however they want (or need) to spend them.
Meet some of the crew:
“The Full-Time Workers”
Jordan: “I realize now how lame my life is.”
(Jordan works 40 hours a week as a rental car agent at the airport)
5:30am: Wake up.
6am – 2pm: At work
“I can usually get some homework and reading done at work. I’m lucky enough to have a pretty laid back set-up at the airport.”
3 – 5pm: Run errands and/or take a nap
“I also try to take this nap with some form of snack stuffed in my mouth.
“The rest of my evening, I either get ready and go to class or get ready to go out and have a life with my awesome MFA peeps. If I’m not doing anything that night, I cook something and let Netflix eat my brain until like 11pm and then I go to bed.
“On the two days I’m off work, I wake up at 11, eat, read, write, drink, go out, etc. I finish up the rest of my homework and reading for the week. On those two nights, I go to bed whenever the hell I feel like it.”
Lucy: “The weekends are for procrastination.”
8am-2:30pm: At work most days.
“Lately I’ve been working till 5pm and going to school from work. I write/read during my half hour lunch. Sometimes I’ll sneak in a few minutes of writing during work, but mostly I write late late at night before I go to bed. That’s when I stay up until the story gets out, no matter how long it takes.”
“The Part-Time Workers”
Victoria: “This is a weird thing to actually write down.”
(Victoria works 30 hours a week as a creative writer for a tupperware company)
7:30am: Wake up and head to work
8:30am – 5pm: At work
“I take at least an hour a day to write before lunch.”
5pm: Head to the gym
“I battle traffic again and drag myself to the gym where I do all of my school reading while listening to ridiculous rap, see: doc waffles.”
6pm: On school nights (3 days a week) go to class
8pm: “Pray that someone wants to go out for drinks. If not, I’m home by eight, reading and drinking wine and maybe squeezing in a little more writing if my mood permits.”
Jen (Me): “I have absolutely no idea.”
(I work 20 hours a week as a Graduate Assistant for the Student Disability Services office at UCF, and I see a few students for OT one morning a week).
6am: Alarm goes off in vain hope I will get up and run before work (this happens about 50% of the time).
8am: Head to work, get coffee and breakfast, try to wake up with loud music, curse at traffic.
9am-?: Depending on the day, I will work until it’s time to go to class (5:30pm) with tiny breaks throughout the day to write a little, do a little homework, OR I work until 2 or 4pm, go home and get some reading done, try to hang out with my husband, eat copious amounts of sushi and drink too much wine.
On days off, I do homework all day, read, write, and think about cleaning my house. I go out most nights, either for drinks with school chums, or to readings (so many readings). I love to say I will be in bed by 11 or 12, but always go to bed at 2 or 3. Happily, I live with extreme sleep deprivation – I like to think about how it can only improve my artistic mystique (realize this is bullshit – take a nap).
Jonathan: “I made the conscious choice of not working my first semester as an MFA candidate.”
“A typical day for me often begins with jotting down in my notebook everything I had dreamt the night prior.”
Morning: Write and read.
12noon: Workout and eat.
Afternoon: Do homework.
Evenings: Class, workshop with friends, go to readings.
“On slow days of no class or events, I often inject more me time from reading, writing, more sleep, the sporadic Netflix binge, and staying connected with friends, family, and the world.”
Ben: “I stayed up until 3am the other day and wrote…so the structure is just there to facilitate the working, but hopefully ideas are coming all the time.”
8am: Wake-up, breakfast, shower
9am: At desk. Write for 2-4 hours.
Afternoon: Do homework/reading for 4 hours. Typing of handwritten drafts/editing.
After dinner: Read, watch a movie or TV. Go to class 2 nights a week.
1-2 events each weekend
“But also sometimes writing intermittently throughout the day as well, usually just little ideas for things that I force myself to make into whole stories in the morning session. Sometimes I start watching YouTube videos and do that for way longer than any working schedule should allow time for.”
It must be pretty obvious from the above selections – going to class is the least of everyone’s worries (in other words, class is short and fun, and doesn’t take up anywhere near the amount of time you would think – it is really almost ALL about the time you spend outside of class). Just to clarify – we all have three classes a week, at night, and most people are in class 2-3 nights a week from either 6-7:15, or 7:30-10:15, or both. It’s up to you to structure the rest of your time, and making the most of the MFA experience means learning how to be self-motivated and independent, so that you are getting the most out of the time you spend in class, taking it home and making it work for you. Everyone works differently, and that is the beauty of this program.
What sort of MFA student would you like to be…?