to MFA, or not to MFA

Thursday, January 26, 2012

As a former English major, all-time literature lover and enthusiast, and creative MA-student-to-be, I find myself usually defending and/or explaining exactly what I want to do career-wise. I don’t mind it at all – it is my passion and I love sharing what my goals and ambitions are. For those who don’t know, I’d like to lay it out here and discuss my academic goals as well, because the writing and publishing masters is fairly novel and definitely unique – I believe there are less than five specific programs in the United States.

The most simple explanation is that I want to be a writer. Specifically, my interests are fiction short stories and novels. Being a writer is a part of who I am, and I always will be regardless of money or any other factor. I love poetry and am working on getting some pieces published, but prose is where my heart is. While doing this I would like to work as a fiction editor, or, if the publishing industry doesn’t fit, a college-level writing instructor (I’ll be getting certified to teach in addition to my Masters). So, why graduate school?

I agree with the belief that graduate school, specifically the creative writing MFA, is not necessary to become a writer. You can’t be taught how to be a great writer, and  an MFA/MA doesn’t mean that you will be published, successful, or good. But for some people, myself obviously included, it is a viable and relatively affordable (in the case of DePaul) option right out of the undergraduate education.

It inserts you into a like-minded community of writers which doesn’t easily exist outside of such graduate programs, and, more importantly, it establishes a solid two to three years of intense focus on writing. As anyone who writes or wants to become a writer knows, this is indispensable to the craft. The coursework is mostly based around workshops, where you are writing, critiquing, and being critiqued. I've craved this type of community as long as I've been seriously writing.

Finally, at the end of the day, it is advanced graduate work – a goal I’ve had since the beginning of college. The WAP program is essentially a combination of the MFA with a business-oriented focus on publishing. I think it's the perfect balance of practicality in this sense, as it grants networking and exposure to the industry. I'll also be able to work full-time if I wish/have time.

This might all sound like I’m trying to sell the program to you as if you are a potential student, but as I said, I am very excited about what I am going to be doing for the next several years. Mostly, I just wanted to offer a more in-depth explanation which I feel such an MA requires. I’m thrilled to have found such a tailored program. You can read more on it here, from the perspective of a graduate:

I want to speak more on the academic creative writing debate, and I probably will on my other more writing-focused blog. But as far as my purpose here, obtaining a creative Master is exactly what I want to be doing at this point in my life. I'm not just trying to be published (which, interestingly, is not really all that difficult); it's not about that. I want to be a great writer. I have many ideas about the direction my life will take, and this is a really big step toward one of my truest dreams.

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