I posted before about my dilemma regarding the MFA. I’m going to revisit this debate today. As I said before, I was told once by someone who I had never met in person and who had only read a paragraph or two of my writing (Yes, I know agents read about the same amount before deciding.) that I needed to take classes on fiction writing. What I was showing that person was something that was not the finished product, that was an example of something I wanted to work on as part of my graduate school studies. Not something that would ever get published and see the light of day. Now, I know that there are perhaps some things that I could work on in my writing, but is it really fair to essentially imply to someone that the only way to ever be a really good writer worth their salt they have to dole out thousands of dollars to take officially sanctioned classes? Shouldn’t we be learning to write by example, by trial and error, by blood sweat, and tears? One of this year’s issues of Poets and Writers had a letter to the editor which said something along the lines of how nice it was to see an author getting recognition and publication who didn’t come from the “MFA machine.” That’s really stuck with me.
The recent issue of Writers’ Digest had an article about the debate between whether the MFA in creative writing or the PhD in creative writing is the terminal degree for poets and writers of any genre. That’s really prompting this post here. It’s always been something that’s bothered me. (By always, I mean in the last couple of years since I started actually thinking of myself as a writer and poet.)
So my dilemma has been and perhaps ever will be this: Do I try to get into an MFA program? Or do I simply work with the resources I have around me and work to improve my craft that way? I mean, I live in a totally non-artsy-fartsy region of the United States. It’s not really likely that there’s an MFA program here nearby. And it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to find other things that a writer would need, like writing conferences or critique groups, here in my area. But more on that next time.
I really want to prove this guy wrong so I can put a really snappy, biting dedication that only I’ll ever know who the target of it was. I’ve already got that dedication in mind and was planning on putting it on the project I was planning, but will likely never get off the ground, so I’ll put it on a different one. But is the MFA the better way to go?