Can writing be taught? We know what the detractors say.
Tweet I recently left a teaching position in a master of fine arts creative-writing program. I had a handful of students whose work changed my life.
The vast majority of my students were hardworking, thoughtful people devoted to improving their craft despite having nothing interesting to express and no interesting way to express it. My hope for them was that they would become better readers.
And then there were students whose work was so awful that it literally put me to sleep. Here are some things I learned from these experiences. Writers are born with talent. Some people have more talent than others. The MFA student who is the Real Deal is exceedingly rare, and nothing excites a faculty adviser more than discovering one.
I can count my Real Deal students on one hand, with fingers to spare. There are notable exceptions to this rule, Haruki Murakami being one. Being a writer means developing a lifelong intimacy with language. You have to be crazy about books as a kid to establish the neural architecture required to write one.
If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out. My experience tells me this: Students who ask a lot of questions about time management, blow deadlines, and whine about how complicated their lives are should just give up and do something else. Their complaints are an insult to the writers who managed to produce great work under far more difficult conditions than the 21st-century MFA student.
On a related note: Without exception, my best students were the ones who read the hardest books I could assign and asked for more. One student, having finished his assigned books early, asked me to assign him three big novels for the period between semesters.
He read all three and submitted an extra-credit essay, too. That guy was the Real Deal. Students who claimed to enjoy "all sorts" of books were invariably the ones with the most limited taste. One student, upon reading The Great Gatsby for the first time! Yes, a graduate student!
I worked with a number of students writing memoirs.
One of my Real Deal students wrote a memoir that actually made me cry. He was a rare exception. For the most part, MFA students who choose to write memoirs are narcissists using the genre as therapy. They want someone to feel sorry for them, and they believe that the supposed candor of their reflective essay excuses its technical faults.
Just because you were abused as a child does not make your inability to stick with the same verb tense for more than two sentences any more bearable.
In fact, having to slog through pages of your error-riddled student memoir makes me wish you had suffered more.
MFA programs of that era were useful from a professional development standpoint—I still think about a lecture the poet Jason Shinder gave at Bennington College that was full of tremendously helpful career advice I use to this day.
Anyone who claims to have useful information about the publishing industry is lying to you, because nobody knows what the hell is happening.
After eight years of teaching at the graduate level, I grew increasingly intolerant of writing designed to make the writer look smart, clever, or edgy. I told a few students over the years that their only job was to keep me entertained, and the ones who got it started to enjoy themselves, and the work got better.
Occasionally my students asked me about how I got published after I got my MFA, and the answer usually disappointed them. Those seven years spent in obscurity, with no attempt to share my work with anyone, were my training, and they are what allowed me to eventually write books that got published.
I think the instant validation of our apps is an enemy to producing the kind of writing that takes years to complete. Ryan Boudinot is executive director of Seattle City of Literature.Most writers want an MFA to teach writing or get published. But it turns out these reasons for doing an MFA are actually based on myths.
3 Myths About the MFA in Creative Writing (Jane Friedman) Most writers want an MFA for one of three reasons: They want to teach writing, they want to get published, or they want to make room in their life.
The Legacy of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have an impressive legacy dating back to Over the years, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have grown to become the longest-running, most prestigious program for creative teens in the U.S., and the nation’s largest source of scholarships for creative young artists and writers.
About D.B. Gilles. D.B. Gilles teaches screenwriting, television writing and comedy writing at New York University’s, Tisch School of the Arts. October 8, - am Andrew.
Hello, Debbie: Well, it sounds as if you have an MA or even a PhD’s worth of creative writing already! This is an impressive record, especially in completing NaNoWriMo and then continuing with further work to flesh out that book.
Last week, I was invited to speak about writing and education at the California Writers Club of San Fernando Valley. Preparing for the talk gave me the opportunity to think more about MFA in Writing Programs: namely, if writers should get one, what kind of writers should get .
27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA. the perennial neurosis about whether or not an advanced degree in writing is worth it has become a progressively louder conversation.