I have a history of difficulty with academic decisions. The problem is two-fold: first, my interests range far and wide. I want to learn everything. About everything. This is, of course, impossible, but, as they say, the heart wants what it wants. It causes particular problems when I’m doing research for a fiction project; I’ll start out, say, looking up Mesopotamian mythology and end up somewhere in ancient China. Or Semitic languages. Or the Gnostic gospels. The second part of my problem is that I frequently mistake what I think I want to study with what I ought to study. In high school, for example, we were asked to focus our course load in either math/science, the arts, or humanities. Based on my past successes/failures, it should have been clear to me that I needed to have a humanities focus. However, the summer before I started at this particular school, I fell in love with science fiction, and I spent most of my days reading Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Orson Scott Card. This convinced me that I needed to be an astronomer, though it should have been obvious to anyone that what I really wanted was to write science fiction stories. Instead I ended up spending my last two years of high school on the edge of failing Differential Calculus and Physics I.
Things haven’t gotten any better in the self-awareness department, apparently. Though I was actively writing short fiction when I started grad school in 2011, I declared my concentration to be literary studies. I did it because it seemed to be the place where I stood the best chance of learning, and by that I mean that writing fiction is a skill improved through practice, and, when I was making the decision, it seemed to be something I could learn just as easily on my own. Now, coming up on my third year of master’s work, it seems obvious that the classes I love, the classes I really come alive in, are the fiction workshops, the classes where I can get and give feedback on art that is being created every day. Regardless of whether or not it’s a practical decision, I’ve simply lost a good bit of my interest in writing about the work of others. Literary papers are agony for me now. The fact is, I’d rather tell stories than think about what other authors meant when they wrote theirs.
In other words, hindsight being what it is, I should have concentrated on creative writing. The literary studies are useful, and have certainly been enlightening in terms of exposing me to stories I might otherwise never have encountered, but, like I said before, the heart wants what it wants. At the end of it all I’ll have a master’s degree in literature, but if I do decide to go on and get a PhD, it will almost certainly be in creative writing.
Or maybe not.