Sunday, March 6, 2016

Will having an MFA make one a better writer, or just feel really special?

"...Contrary to the critics, many top MFA programs explicitly state that they’re 'doctrine free' and allow students to develop their writing 'on their own terms.' They do not, they claim, actively try to make their students sound any particular way. As the University of Texas program says, “The best thing we do for fiction writers at the Michener Center for Writers is leave them alone.” But then why go? If a program isn’t going to train you or change you in any significant way—and the data suggest that by and large most don’t—then the costs of that investment start to seem deeply questionable. According to the latest research, only 7 percent of MFA graduates are fully funded, which means 93 percent are investing some portion of their own money to sound like everyone else.

"Some might say that’s precisely the point. The MFA isn’t about developing a unique style at all, but about learning how to sound like already published writers. It’s about gaining entrance to the club. Look closely at the promotional materials of creative-writing programs and you’ll almost invariably see a host of proper names—these are the people with whom you can expect to rub shoulders, if not directly, then by association through the former graduates that have passed through the program or the mentors of your mentors whose influence will surely rub off on you. It’s about having the opportunity to insert yourself, however virtually, into that literary social network."

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