obvious shit i wish i had known 4 years ago

Writing Outside of an MFA Program

Hello everybody, my name is M. Kitchell and I don’t have an MFA. In the height of all of the recent posts about MFA programs, teaching creative writing, etc (all very valuable posts), I thought it might be worthwhile to offer a dissenting voice, if only in the sense that I neither have an MFA nor do I have any interest in getting an MFA.1

My interest in making this post is not out of any sort of bitterness or idea that MFA programs are “stupid” or whatever, but rather an exploration of the alternative. While I was an undergrad student at a state college working towards a BFA in Photography, I was convinced that I wanted to attend an MFA program in creative writing. I was already writing, both on my own and in the limited number of creative writing workshops that my university offered, but I had no idea where to go from there: asking some professors I had a vague idea of how to submit to journals, but I had virtually no idea how the “industry” of publishing in general functioned.

My thought, being someone who wrote & wanted to eventually be writing things that people other than my peers were reading, was, at first, that it was necessary to attend an MFA program. I knew that whether I was in school or not I would keep writing, but the problem was I had no idea how to function as a writer. I don’t mean this in any sort of romanticized notion of “the writer,” clearly that pretense is dead. What I mean by this is that, rather than enrolling in an MFA program to “learn how to write,” I wanted to enroll in an MFA program to learn how to navigate the contemporary world of letters.

I thought that the inherent networking of an MFA program would be a necessary step towards publishing a book, that learning the ins-and-outs of submitting stories to various journals would result in more publications (and at this point I literally had not even tried to submit a story to a journal yet). I liked the idea of going to school for writing because I like writing, I like forced deadlines, I like having to produce work.

Craft Notes / 75 Comments
September 15th, 2011 / 6:30 pm