• Jamie Lynne Burgess

The Path Forward

They tell you that the path to becoming a writer is either MFA or NYC. I've thought about an MFA. I've attended the info sessions at writing conferences. I've talked to friends who did professional writing degrees. I've envied them and their writing communities. But I've seen the price tag, and reconsidered.

I won't deny it; I've thought about NYC too. I used to always say I'd live there: New York. I thought it on my first trip when I was just a young teenager. And New York always opens up for me like a flower, something magical. A palm reader on my first night in Brooklyn Heights told me I would be an author.

But I am marrying a person who does not want to live in a big city, and compromises must be made.

I am a professional writer, yet I struggle all the time to find the time to write. To make the time to write.

For some reason, I think that when I want to write, the time will magically appear. I'll make it without thinking or realizing. This never happens.

What I learned in my two months at Elsewhere was that when the time is there, what I do with it is write.

When I'm bored of the Wunderkammer of the internet, when I have talked to everyone who needs my attention, when my work is mostly caught up, I want to tell myself a story.

I do not need an MFA to tell a story. I do not need to move to New York to feel important. I do need to keep writing, and to keep improving my writing, to keep challenging myself and to grow my own community of writers, in order to become the author I wish to become, the one I was prophesied to become under a streetlamp in New York City when I was just a budding human being.

Elsewhere showed me that there is a path forward that defies MFA and NYC. Standing in my empty studio with Henry on my last day in Paonia, I said to him, Who's to say, really? You're painting, and you're paying your rent. To me, that's an artist. And that's the type of artist I want to be too.

My two months in Paonia taught me to see myself as an artist, to allow my inner-artist its freedom to come out and play. It also taught me that there are many ways forward. Not just MFA or NYC, but a whole host of other types of writing courses, retreats, residencies, and in-betweens. The key will be to keep applying and trying and moving forward.

And, of course, to keep writing.

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