Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To MFA or Not to MFA, That is the Question

I’ve recently applied to an MFA program in creative writing.
Having said that, I’d like to address the question of whether a master of fine arts is necessary to a successful writing career.  The answer is (drum roll)...Heck, no! 
There are tons of MFA-less writers who are way more successful than most grads could ever hope to be (um, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, anyone?).  A solid case against the MFA in writing was made by Jennifer Weiner several years back on her blog.  Her stance is basically to "get a job, not an MFA" for the life experience which will inspire creativity.

So why am I possibly getting an MFA, you ask?
Because if I want to get a higher degree and my job will help foot the bill, why not get it in something in which I’m interested?  Plus, it’ll get my butt in gear writing-wise and even allow me to teach creative writing down the line.
I’ve only applied to one program because it’s the only one I could see myself attending.  The program requested the usual materials: application form, 2 letters of rec, academic transcript, critical essay, personal statement, 25-page fiction writing sample—all that good stuff.  It’s all submitted, so until decision day, I get to play the waiting game.  Aren’t I lucky?  Whatever the outcome, I’ve made a promise to continue working on my manuscript and actually, you know, finish it.

The long and short of the MFA debate is, in my opinion, that if you feel you need it to be published, I wouldn’t recommend it.  It’s great for a solid grounding in the writing craft, teaching credentials, and even a contact or two.  At the end of the day, however, all we publishing folk care about it is a good story (and for fiction writing, A FINISHED MANUSCRIPT).

Very official publishing formula, success guaranteed!
Smidgen of talent + Much butt-in-chair action + Much patience and humility + A dash of luck = Published Author

Put all those elements together and all you need is the right pair of eyes to catch sight of your work.  The rest is history.

Music in my head: Sweeney Todd - Stalkerish, but catchy

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