Flaubert was 29 when he wrote Madame Bovary, Fitzgerald was 28 when he wrote the Great Gatsby, Kafka was 28 when he wrote The Metamorphosis. The list goes on and on. Needless to say, many of the world’s literary masterpieces were penned by authors younger than 40. I remember reading somewhere that Virginia Woolf said a writer has nothing of note to say until at least the age of 30. On the other hand, Flannery O’Connor wrote that: “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days”. One thing is abundantly clear, in terms of age requirements, I am either in my prime or past my prime.
Some people say an MFA program in helpful in writing a book or making a career of writing, though I venture there is nobody who would say it is a requirement. Some might actually say it is a hindrance. In any case, MFA, check.
One note on how the MFA may actually be very helpful in terms of literary aspirations. In an MFA program, you get to read a few pieces/people who blow your mind, but most of the writing you read by your fellow MFAers is underwhelming. I’m sure I underwhelmed my fellow MFAers most of the time, if not all the time. So, in an MFA program, it’s less about being inspired by the greatness of others, and less that you come to terms with your own greatness, and more about a de-mystifiation of the writing process. The people in the MFA program you worked hard and wrote often were generally the same people who published and won awards and are still writing today. There comes a point in the MFA where you look around and say to yourself: “Hey, if that guy can do it, I can totally do it”. Confidence and understanding of the work involved, check.
All of this is leading up to my 2018 resolution, which is simple and ambitious. In 2018 I want to write a book of essays. In the service of writing this book, I aspire to publish three essays in literary journals and to read a book a week. It would also be nice to exercise more, lose my Nutella belly, stop picking at my skin, take better care of the callouses on my feet, and clean the litter box more regularly, but these things are secondary. In writing a book, it’s likely I will end up with a larger Nutella belly and dirtier litter boxes and rougher paws, and I’m okay with that trade off.