So there’s this piece going around, about what students need to do succeed as writers in literary MFA programs. A lot of it is pretty basic — show up, do the work, read good books, nurse your talent. And a lot of it is pretty bitchy — there’s a bit about how being abused as a child can’t make you a better writer, which is both unnecessary and sidesteps the central literary issue of abuse narratives, namely that coming forward to tell a story is the often first step in ending abuse.
But that’s an issue for another post. I’m here to tell you something else about MFAs, and writing in general.
MFAs are bullshit. You don’t need one.
You may simply want one, which is something else. And this isn’t to say that you can’t make use of one. Or that the process of obtaining one isn’t helpful. Getting a Master of Fine Arts degree can be a great way to hone your craft, meet other writers, find mentors, and enter a local literary community. From a networking perspective, it’s a good idea. Especially if you’re writing mainstream lit, you’ll need to find a way to set yourself apart from all the other writers who talk about three generations of women coming together for a funeral, or alcoholic forty-something English profs who fall for their students, or the divorced thirty-somethings returning to their tiny rustbelt towns and reuniting with the parent of the pregnancy they had aborted back in high school, or whatever.