Thursday, May 25, 2017

Do you need a mothereffin A (MFA)?

Today, I watched my husband receive his doctoral diploma in Civil Security Studies from NJCU. Not to sound like a braggart, but I already have two master's degrees. Yes, two. I'm over-educated and not employed. But watching my husband in his doctoral regalia made me envious, and I momentarily considered an MFA program in Creative Writing. Momentarily. Because again, I already have two advanced degrees. And I just paid one of those off. Ten years later.

There's debate on whether a) one needs an MFA and b) is it worth the cost? Some writers emphatically say no. You don't need a master's degree to become a published author. And that is very true. Craft is something that can definitely be self-taught. I consider myself to be one of these students. I've read tons of books on storytelling, process, genre, and self-editing. I've taken some cheap online classes in mystery writing, and revision. I absorb everything an editor tells me I'm doing wrong. I listen to podcasts specifically geared toward readers and writers. I'm a perpetual student.

And considering many MFA programs cost $40K, you're never likely to recoup that tuition. 

However, there are plenty of authors who would disagree with me. I met one, in fact, at a writers and readers festival where I opened my big, fat mouth to declare MFA programs a waste of money. She respectfully countered. She loved the challenge of elevating her work to a level she felt she couldn't master alone. She enjoyed the mentorship, and camaraderie of her writing peers. Writing is a lonely gig. Who wouldn't want to commiserate and share one's work with like-minded authors? Also, the MFA would allow her to teach in colleges and universities. And let's be real, writing pays crap so one needs to supplement the art.

So, there ya have it. Do you do the MFA or not? Well, it really depends on the author. Good news, there are some programs that fully find MFA students. I found this awesome link with a list of programs. They're competitive, but rightfully so.

What say you? Do you have an MFA? Would you want one? (I would, if I could swing the tuition.) Sound off in the comments, beloooooooow.


Carrie Beckort said...

I don't have one, and at times I wonder if it would be beneficial. I mean, a BSME and an MBA aren't the standard qualifications for a writer. However, one of the things I've come to love about writing is the freedom of letting things happen organically. I fear with more targeted education I'd bog myself down with the 'proper' way things are supposed to be done. As you say, learning is important, but I think these days there are many other ways it can be accomplished. But who knows - maybe some day I'll determine it's necessary.

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I would do one to become a better writer -- to challenge me in ways I can't do alone -- but not at a 40K price point.

Ann Bennett said...

I would love to get an MFA. Unfortunately, life has other plans for me. My big misgiving as I get older is I did not get a PhD.

Unknown said...

I wrote my first novel, Checkmate, while I was doing an MA and MRes in Creative Writing and my second one while I was doing my PhD.
Taking the academic path teaches you to take criticism and use it properly. It gives the opportunity to make friends at the same early stages of being an author and to make professional networks. Importantly for a genre writer (I write supernatural Gothic horror) it gives an opportunity to really study how the genre works and I think this has made me a more competent writer. I fell that writing is more a craft, rather than an art.
And yes, you do become an eternal student, but then, that's no bad thing.
If you can do a higher degree, then I would grab the opportunity and see where it takes you.

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