Credibility without an MFA degree.

Posted on January 3, 2011

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Seth Abramson of The Huffington Post recently wrote about 12 myths regarding the creative writing master of fine arts. Here’s my favorite one:

1. MFA programs are “cash cows.” Nearly a third of the world’s 148 full-residency MFA programs fully fund 75% or more of incoming students. More than half of the top 50 programs are fully-funded, with 70% fully funding half their students or more. And most applications from the nation’s three to four thousand annual full-residency MFA applicants go to these top 50 programs…

So there’s hope for me after all.  I think about applying for MFA programs all the time–I don’t know a college graduate who doesn’t. But the idea of putting myself in further debt always squashes it.  With or without a full-tuition ride it’s probably worth it, though. I’m genuinely enthused to become a full-time professor some day (the day I start looking pathetic in leather jackets while talking about band practice), and I’m finding that most universities aren’t willing to give you the time of day without some sort of graduate degree. I’ll be sure to acknowledge Huffington Post in my admissions essay when the time comes.

Though, I’m not sure if I would enter a program for creative non-fiction.  I seem to be getting by okay writing here and for various other websites, for one. But also, so much of my memoir is about living and functioning in the day-to-day working world that I doubt it would be a credible book if I wrote it under any other circumstances than those I’m in now.

Graduate school provides something of a retreat so one can focus pretty much all of their time and energy on their craft–that’s a great thing, but it would also be easy to write a memoir that safely looks back at the past from the POV that everything is better now, and will continue to be. But I’m not sure if it would resonate with people who can’t afford to take time off from the “real world.” The people who know that nothing stays perfect forever.  My book is about living in the now–maybe even in less than desirable circumstances, but ones that can work in your favor if you allow it.  At least that’s the way it’s shaping up in this first draft. And as far as my own life is concerned, I need it to keep going in this direction.

If my next work is a sci-fi/fantasy epic that needs at least three volumes to tell it, I’ll be sure to get as out of touch with reality as possible.

I’m definitely updating this blog every Monday whether or not I have something to say. This blog–without sounding too fruity–is about the “writer’s journey.” The more I do this, the more I’m convinced writer’s block is a myth. We all have something to say at any given point. Even if it’s just “uh–” (which, in some cases, says more than any sentence). The trick is to just not be afraid to say whatever it is.

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Posted in: Writing