Your Institution and You

"Yesterday a student came to talk to me about grad school. Mindful of the dismal prospects, I urged her to think carefully about the decision, to recognize its likely economic consequences, and to take a year or two off after completing her undergraduate degree before applying. But the best advice I gave her—advice I would have liked to receive when I was in my twenties—was not to put her trust in institutions. Instead of waiting to be recognized, Lana-Turner-at-Schwab's style—or worse, disciplined, shaped into a round academic peg that may never discover any holes, round, square, or otherwise—any writer today needs to DIY, even—perhaps especially—those who have found some kind of institutional niche. 

To succeed as a writer—and I define "success" quite simply as being able to continue in one's work—you not only have to "create the taste by which [one] is to be relished" (Wm. Wordsworth) but you have to create relationships and infrastructure and paths of distribution. Start a press, start a blog, form a reading group, start a reading series. If you can synergize with institutions, do so, but don't sit around waiting for them to recognize or rescue you: they can offer you everything but initiative. This is the best path I've found for resisting the otherwise inevitable alienation from one's own creative labor that comes from permitting oneself and one's work to be processed by workshops and editors and tenure committees.
-Joshua Corey