Saturday, February 4, 2012

in defense of the MFA in creative writing

I've recently read yet another blog furthering the debate against creative writing MFA's. I find it so interesting that there is so much written about the inadequacies of this graduate degree. Though the inadequacies vary from article to article, they usually consist of these key points:

1. The MFA is essentially worthless.
2. There are so many more writers out there than positions to give them (academic or otherwise).
3. The issue of funding.
4. Again: Too many writers!

I know I am not fully funded (though I am paying for the cheapest MFA in Chicago, as far as I know). I found this particular piece written in HTMLGIANT full of good points, but failing in one major degree.


Now, I'm sure there are some that enter MFA programs naive or arrogant regarding the interest in their work and hypothetical future profession. But I haven't met anyone like that. We know the improbability of financial success. The possibility of adjunct positions, or far less, in our near futures. We know that there are too many people out there who want to be writers. We know, of course, about the debt we are accumulating.

OBVIOUSLY I'd rather get fully funded in my studies. But I'd rather be in a city that has readings and literary events almost every freaking day. That has a writing community I can get involved in. I'd love a guarantee at job placement, or the promise that everyone will love my book and buy three copies of my book, or that my book will even get published. Wouldn't that be great?

And I do appreciate the concern that these articles address. They say things like, "Don't get your MFA if you are not fully funded." OR: "The MFA is not an essential degree." Thanks, really.

But I'm happy with my MFA studies. I've read writers I never would have otherwise. I've met lifelong friends that love writing and love talking about writing. I've been given the time to read and write the most I ever have in my life. And I've had some damn good professors who have taught me tools I would never have learned.

The MFA may not be essential in practicality, but it has been essential for my writing life, when I was so close to losing what I so loved doing.


I am getting my MFA in creative writing because I want to get my MFA in creative writing. I believe it will help in forming the life that I want. And nothing anyone can say, no matter how factual or practical or entirely logical would ever have swayed me to do differently. I believe many entrenched in the MFA feel the same way. There are problems with the MFA, yes, GOD, there are problems. But there is a lot of good, too.

I guess that's my main point. I think my debt will be worth it. Maybe that is stupid. But don't think I'm too stupid to know about what I've gotten myself into, MFAHATERBLOGWRITERPERSON.

1 comment:

  1. That's kind of how I feel about getting my BFA in illustration in the first place. No one in my family understood, everyone tried to discourage me from doing it, and I spent many a night recovering from arguments over why I am or am not wasting my life by making this decision.... But you know what? It's MY fucking decision, and it's MY life. This is not the path you chose for your life because it's not what made sense for you-but that doesn't mean that your life and my life are the same. Even if I never become a super famously amazing and ultra-profitable illustrator, I do not for a second regret having gone to school for it. Obtaining my degree was the first big life decision that I made for myself, and I enjoyed every single minute of my education, as well as the community experience and the slap-in-the-face called reality. You make your choices, and then you live with their results and as long as it was YOUR choice for whatever reasons that you may have had, then no matter what the results it was worth it.