MFA Programs

My girlfriend is applying to MFA/creative writing programs right now. She is stressed out, writing a bunch of statements about teaching adn the formative moments that defined her life as that of a writer. 

I’m not big on MFA/creative writing programs. I’m not big on creative writing being something that is taught or has an academic discipline. The process seems counter to the process of writing. It feels like something that clusters ideas and breeds conformity. It encourages writing that goes from point a to point b to point c and makes all of the right and expected stops along the way.

It’s something that would have been hard on James Joyce or Jack Kerouac or William Faulkner. Or Mark Twain. Or a host of others.

I’m also not thrilled with the negative environments it creates. Granted, having been in my share of writing/poetry courses, I know there are times you just want to say to something, “pick a different hobby.”  But it often seemed as if people were unnecessarily hard on eachother. they would bring sledge hammers and machetes into class and use them liberally.

I have a friend who just graduated from an MFA program at chatham in pittsburgh. She shares a lot of these concerns, which surprised me a bit with her going into the program. And now she’s pursuing a PhD in creative writing.

I guess if your goal is to teach, then options are a bit limited and this is what you have to do. But I think a lot of people go into these programs wanting to write. But if they really wanted to write they would just…write. 

And what’s especially odd for me is that, despite my reservations about such a program, I’m considering applying for a couple myself. Just test the waters. I don’t hate school and the idea of teaching at the university level isn’t a bad one.  But I don’t expect it to make me a better writer. I just want it to give me a career path.

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5 Responses to “MFA Programs”

  1. DOMINO Says:

    Ha. Yep. I agree with you completely.

  2. Wrong Says:

    Kerouac workshopped with Burrows. Faulkner taught at Iowa Writers Workshop. James Joyce and Mark Twain both struggled to get published and shared their work only with the peers for years.

  3. charlieblizz Says:

    I think a comparison between sharing/working with a group of people you have constructed bonds with over the course of time and events is significantly different from the random group of people you are thrown together with in a college program. My personal experience has led to those being two entirely different environments to share work in and to gain feedback from.

    Faulkner also taught at Virgina the last five years of his life, or long long after publishing the works that define his career.

  4. DOMINO Says:

    In college programs, some people are intensely competitive. They have no desire to see you do well. The better you are, the more they’d like to discourage you, mislead you, or get rid of you.

  5. It’s a Jungle Out There « DOMINO Says:

    […] out of one college writing program, and have been considering entering another — I found that Loose Leaf Bound was writing on a subject that is very much on my mind these days: “I’m not big on […]

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