An MFA (Master of Fine Arts in creative writing) Is a program which aspiring authors often consider as a stepping stone to a professional writing career. There is an article In Creative Writing News, of 23 January 2022, by Chiziterem Chijioke which analyses the pros and cons surrounding MFA’s.
Chiziterem Chijioke is a creative writer, editor and a student of mass communication. She has worked as a volunteer and is a member of Fresh Writers Community and currently works as an editor for Creative Writing News.
Ms Chijioke says: “In recent years, MFA programs have become so competitive because many writers see them as gateways to building successful writing careers. Research shows that in the U.S alone, there are over 350 creative writing programs at the MFA. And each year, an estimate of over 20,000 people apply to be admitted into MFA programs. But some literary greats have continued to debate whether an MFA is a prerequisite for a successful career in writing.
Many writers want an MFA based on myths that surround the program. One of such myths is that an MFA is the key to a successful career. While the program has served as a catapult for some successful writers, many others with the degree have failed to take off. You need much more than an MFA to carve out a niche for yourself in your creative writing career.
Pros of Getting an MFA in Creative Writing.
- An MFA helps writers grow in their craft.
Writers must understand that learning is an endless process. When getting an MFA, learning is basically what you would be doing. You would learn in order to harness your inborn craft. It is an opportunity to learn to write better than you already do. There is always a great advantage in expanding your knowledge. It makes you more exposed, more aware and better in any field.
2. It connects a writer with a community of writers:
The beauty of creativity is sharing that creativeness with people who understand. While taking a writing program, you meet people who understand your skill and share similar experiences with you. These experiences may be writer’s block, story setting, narrative style, genre, niche. Most times, your knowledge may bloom from discussions with your pairs, who have been through similar situations like you have and although they might not have a manual on how to overcome certain blocks, their experiences might inspire you on how to go about yours.
3. It makes a writer more open to Criticism:
Creatives receive criticisms all the time. Most times, you may feel your work or that what you have written is perfect. But then, criticisms can shatter that perception and make us wonder why our perfect work is unworthy to someone. Again, some writers can question the sanity of someone who criticized their written content. An MFA program helps a writer grow a thick skin for criticism. The lecturers would have you correcting written work time and time again. Your ideas or writing standard may not align with theirs and this may lead to a lot of criticism.
4. An MFA helps a writer read more:
Many writers are selective in their reading habits. An MFA program forces you to read books you would not consider on a normal day. Reading widely exposes students to various writing styles, which can help you become a better writer. Many writers do not understand that reading widely is a big part of being a better writer. You read to learn, you read to understand, you read to know more. Where better to improve your reading than in a school? Reading is part of a learning process and it is therefore inevitable during an MFA program.
5. An MFA makes a writer dynamic while discovering their niche:
Although many people can juggle different genres, some writers struggle with settling on what genre is their niche. A writing program might help you uncover that. An MFA does not give you what you want to read or know — it throws in various aspects of writing and helps you understand it.
6. Writers’ Workshops:
A writers’ workshop is an instructional program created to gradually build a person’s independent writing skills. It focuses on the writer. Each workshop is organized to provide a gradual release of instruction, moving writers from a class writing exercise to independent writing. During an MFA program, a lot of writing workshops would take place and this would help broaden your mind. It would also make you more open to learning, because a writers’ workshop focuses on nurturing a writer.
Cons/ Myths about getting an MFA in Creative Writing
- An MFA does not guarantee that you get published as a writer:
Many writers think getting an MFA in creative writing is a ticket to getting published. It is not true. An MFA only helps you become a better writer, it does not guarantee that publishing houses would choose your work.
2. MFA does not determine your success as a writer:
Whether or not you become published, an MFA is not what guarantees how far you go or how successful you would be in this field.
3. An MFA is Expensive:
One important question to ask when considering getting an MFA in creative writing is “how much does an MFA in creative writing cost?” A con of aiming to get an MFA as a creative writer is that the program is costly. Research shows that the average fee of getting an MFA in creative writing in the USA is $13,800 a year at Public Universities; $36,300 at Private Universities.
4.Making a community does not mean it lasts forever:
Most times in life we encounter beautiful people and things and we hold great hope that it is everlasting. An MFA in a creative writing program would introduce you to people, but this does not mean that these connections would last forever especially after graduation. It also does not mean that your success rate might be the same.
5. A masters of fine art program does not give you access to literary agents:
Another myth about MFA programs is that it guarantees you access to literary agents. Just like the statement about getting published, an MFA does not guarantee that you would get a literary agent.
6. It might affect your writing:
One criticism of MFA programs is that it stifles originality and creativity. During the process of learning and gathering novel ideas and knowledge, the mind becomes affected. There might be a clash between your voice and that of the person whom you are learning from. Always hold on to who you are. Hold on to the fact that every story needs to be told, including yours. Always hold on to who you are. Hold on to the fact that every story needs to be told, including yours.
A creative writer doesn’t necessarily need an MFA. It doesn’t help you get a job. It doesn’t help you get published, and it doesn’t teach you how to be a successful writer. It just gives you an opportunity to focus and grow in writing.”