Friday, January 11, 2019

Does A MFA Make You A Better Writer?

I was back on my cooking podcasts again, and they were discussing whether or not it was a worthwhile thing to attend culinary school. Again, this got me thinking about writing and the degrees people can get in creative writing. So the question is, does earning a Masters In Fine Arts in Creative Writing make you a better writer.

My answer is NO!

But, I would also add that for most degrees, the actual degree does not matter. It comes down to your knowledge of how to use those skills successfully in the real world. Still, I want to take the time to really address most MFA programs in Creative Writing.

If yo have worked with higher education, the universities often hire people based on the degrees they have earned. The idea is that these people have taken a great deal of time to really understand their area of research. And you know what? They have. They fully get the concept. But here is where the downfall comes in. These people are experts in their field, but, as teachers, they may lack the ability to convey that information to the students.

When it comes to MFA programs, many of these degrees are taught by instructors who may understand "creative writing" but in terms of understanding the business of writing, those skills are not there. The result, unfortunately, are a lot of students who graduate with that great MFA degree thinking they are now ready for being published. What they really have are probably a lot of pieces of writing that demonstrate some of those traits we find in great writing, but the execution of those skills is just not there.

I had the chance to teach several creative writing courses at the local colleges. I was required to use the textbook the college had chosen. OK, that part is fine. But when you look at the assignments and the direction these chapters and assignments took, it became clear that, while these were useful skills, these are not the skills necessary to really be a published author.

So what does it take? I spoke about this earlier in the week. This is that intuition piece. This is that ability to translate those basic craft skills into that masterpiece. This is not a formula. Unlike what the textbooks say, there is not just one approach.

Think of that scene from DEAD POETS SOCIETY at the beginning.

Did this make great poetry?

We all know the answer. It did not!

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