Friday, November 25, 2011

To MFA or not to MFA...?

After reading this special section from the October/November issue of Poets & Writers magazine, I find myself wrestling with the question of applying for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. One of my friends here has taken the bull by the horns and decided that at 33 or 34 that she is absolutely going to write a novel by the age of 35 and that an MFA program will help her achieve that goal. I applaud her ambition and her ability to make all sorts of other changes in her life recently, she's a very inspiring person for me. 

That being said, I don't know if my personality is one that responds well to constant goading. Having periods of rest helps me to reflect and re-orient what I'm working on. But maybe I'm limiting myself... perhaps under the scrutiny and enforced deadlines of the workshopping program of an MFA I would be able to achieve much more than I had thought possible? I also wonder if the reason I find myself considering the program is for some degree of personal validation. I think that if you want to be a writer though you're just going to be one. A degree won't make it so.

There are also two big sticking points that I've run into and that I have no clear answers for... time and money. The time factor is obvious... being someone who is thankfully still employed in an awful recession, easily well over 40 hours of my week is occupied with plain old, inflexible work. As much as I'd love to, at present I cannot reduce my hours down to part time to accomodate going to school or more writing. The local university here also serves up a double whammie by not offering too many evening classes for working folk.

Money is another consideration because in order to go to school at inconvenient times, I would need to change my job and possibly pull out more loans. I've still got a bad taste in my mouth (not to mention moths flying out of my wallet) from all of the debt from my undergrad degree.

Have you considered taking an MFA or other grad degree? What considerations are you wrestling with? Are there any considerations that I haven't thought of?


  1. I got an MA in creative writing at U of Florida before they had an MFA, more than 25 years ago. I looooved it. It absolutely gives you time to concentrate on nothing but writing; there's the sense of camaraderie (and competition); and you have access to excellent teachers (depending on the program you choose.) Would I do it now? No. Back then, the education was dirt cheap. Now, it's just too expensive. Once you add up the tuition plus the time spent off work, you're probably looking at an investment of over $100,000. That's money you will never, ever, earn back. What to do instead? Go to writers conferences and take the intensives. Sign up for weekend (or even week-long) craft workshops. Join a writing group that meets weekly or monthly at night. Take on line courses (like the Writers' Digest courses, or those offered by Media Bistro.) This is how I've been continuing my education for the last year and a half, and it's working beautifully. There's my two cents, for what it's worth.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Gail! As much as I'd love to just go back to school out of frustration, I think you're right... the numbers just don't add up. When I look at costs the decision becomes apparent quickly.
    Thanks to some of the links you have on your blog I've looked into a few writers groups in the area. Do you know of any genre specific groups?

  3. I received my MFA from FAU and I can honestly tell you that the amount of stress and money that I spent in the process is not worth it. I am currently working somewhere that has nothing to do with my degree and I am underpaid. If you love to write, I say to just submit your stuff to journals and keep on writing. An MFA is not necessary in order to succeed as a writer.