The Drawbacks of Part-Time

Last week, when the snowstorm forced school closings for two days and I was allowed two whole days of freedom to write, I thought to myself, Ah! So this is what it could be like ALL THE TIME if I had chosen to go to grad school full-time instead of keeping my teaching job and attending classes at night! I spent those two glorious days sleeping until noon and alternating the rest of the day between writing and watching Maury Povich. Being programmed genetically to sleep that late every day (ask my mom or siblings; they’re the same way), I have never quite gotten used to that alarm going off at 6:00 every morning, and I thought to myself, I could be living on loans now, spending all of my time writing, and I could finish this thesis manuscript in a couple months, no problem!

But then I remembered: if I didn’t work full-time, I wouldn’t get paid full-time. I wouldn’t have a pension, a retirement plan, or insurance. And I certainly wouldn’t have the endless supply of writing material that comes from teaching high school.

But I’ll be honest: there are plenty of drawbacks to choosing to work full time while doing an MFA, and I think it’s important to know about them if you’re trying to make a decision on the matter. First, there’s the obvious: time. Writing requires a great deal of it. The better you get at it, the more time you need. And the more you work, the less time you have. Also, you can’t take any day-time classes, which narrows your choices of teachers and courses. You can’t go to most night-time events, either, because as we all know, writers like to drink, and most such events are held at bars, and I can’t afford to go to work hungover (because as we also know, writers aren’t known for their self-control, either). Being part-time, I feel like I’m part of the community but separate, too, because I’m not down at school as often. I don’t know people unless they’re in classes with me. And then of course, there’s the annoyance of having to listen to the people in your program (who work ten hours a week or less) complain about how busy they are and how much they have to get done when you’re thinking of the stack of 80 Great Gatsby essays you have to grade and silently cursing them and their leisure time.

But then, this past weekend, one of my students invited me to his hockey game for teacher appreciation night. Each player honored a teacher, and we got to go out on the ice to take a picture with our students, while the parents provided us an enormous dessert table and the crowd gave us an ovation (and our team won!). It was so moving to me, the simple act of being asked to attend this event, that I remembered then why I teach. It’s part of who I am, and it finds its way into my writing over and over again. I think I’m a better writer because of the work I do. Perhaps one day, if I write that blockbuster novel, I’ll be able to afford to switch roles: write full- time and teach part-time. But for now, I’m happy with my situation. You have to experience life in order to be able to write about it.

Any thoughts about working full-time while in grad school?

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About Ben Sobieck

Benjamin Sobieck is a Wattpad Star and 2016 Watty Award winner. He’s best known on Wattpad for Glass Eye: Confessions of a Fake Psychic Detective, the Watty Award–winning sequel Black Eye, and When the Black-Eyed Children Knock & Other Stories. Four of his titles have appeared on Wattpad Top 100 Hot Lists, all at the same time.

7 thoughts on “The Drawbacks of Part-Time

  1. Bisa

    I am in the process of applying to Graduate schools. I would go full-time if I could. I want to spend my time writing not stretching myself between so many things. I need structure and deadlines. I do have a more flexible job than I use to have. I am looking forward to finally concentrating on my writing. Even if it is only part-time.

  2. Mary

    I got my MFA in Screenwriting and let me tell you, the loans are a huge ick factor in my life. However, thus far, the government loan people have been incredibly understanding and helpful. While I hate knowing that I owe this huge sum of money that just keeps growing and growing, the two years I spent working on my MFA were two of the best.

    The thing is – do I NEED the actual degree? No, probably not. But I had two years in which I HAD to write. I composed three complete features, two television specs, a pilot, and a slew of outlines and partial screenplays. Plus, I made a core group of friends who have the same aspirations I do and who have remained my critique partners and Los Angeles moving buddies.

    I did attend full time, but I also had two part time jobs and found myself constantly busy. Being busy forces you to actually write when you can. When I finished my degree and I was in job hunting phase, I thought I’d use all my spare time to write. Having no deadlines and endless time did not work well for me. I think the combo of having deadlines and being busy is the most productive combination there is.

  3. Laura Campbell

    I’m in a similar boat as Erica. I decided not to go back to teaching English this year. I spent most of my days miserable. Writing kept calling my name, so I took the plunge. I just wrote a blog comparing an MFA and to DIY-education. I read everywhere that you don’t have to get an MFA to succeed. You just need to write, write, write. Then get involved with writers groups, which I have. Network.

    I’m still paying off loans from my English degree and Teaching Certificate. There is no way I can afford to seek my MFA. Plus, there aren’t any schools close enough for me to commute. I don’t have money to move. So, what do you think. Am I making a huge mistake or will my route just take longer?

  4. Jessie Morrion

    Hi Erica, I totally understand the concern…I get a sick feeling in my stomach every time I look at my loan statements. But I do believe, at least at this point, that it’s an investment well worth making–my writing has improved so much, as have my writing habits. You just have to REALLY want it. Let me know what you decide!

  5. Erica Peters

    I would love to go to grad school, and go full-time. My hold back is how to pay off the loans when I get out, especially if I go back to school for an MFA.


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