Tag Archives: MFA

Do You Need A Degree To Be A Writer?

School Days

I’ve always been a writer. In what seems like a former life now, I used to be a teacher.

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When I was teaching, my students knew I was a writer.

Probably because I wouldn’t shut up about it. You know those bartenders who are actors or those waiters who are musicians. Yeah, I was that guy.

My students got a kick out of me (and hopefully learned a little something). They were all great in their own ways (well, almost all were); however, many years later, I find that some of the most memorable students were the writers. Of course.

When I was teaching, students with a talent and passion for creative writing were always eager to share their stories and other writing with me.

You may want to replace the word eager with desperate. But hey, we writers want to get read, otherwise what’s the point, right?

Rashad’s science-fiction short stories were incredible. Of course, the factual descriptions involving smoking cigarettes were inaccurate. But I suppose that’s a good thing for an 8th grader.

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Jibriel’s screenplays for short films were excellent. He wasn’t a student of mine, or even in my school, but word about my second career spread and Jibriel sought me out. I’m glad he did.

Should Rashad, Jibriel, or any other aspiring writer pursue a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing or an MFA?

The answer, for most writers, is no. Here are five reasons why I think you should probably skip the MFA or BA in Creative Writing:

1. Writers Hate Other Writers

What kind of person really wants to be around other writers all the time?

You love writing now, but how would you feel about it if you were talking about writing all the time? Would studying creative writing that intensely sap your interest?

And, of course, there are professional jealousies.

Could you handle other writers in your program receiving more recognition than you?

Could you handle your own creative writing being judged harshly by other writers in the program? Would this discourage you?

2. Never Ending Student Loans

Are you ready to embrace debt?

Because that’s what you’ll face unless you’re from an affluent family, can land a scholarship, or attend a low-cost state or city university.

3. Insularity and Lack of Adventure

If you want to write something worth reading, then you’d better have a wide array of experiences.

I suppose interesting stories can be written about downing vodka shots for Adderall, grinding to Teach Me How To Dougie at a frat party, or performing a bell run. Maybe.

But remember, the only thing that’s positively more boring than stories about writers are stories about students in MFA programs.

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4. You Can Do It Yourself

Writing is an art, not a science. Therefore, some degree of natural talent is extremely useful. If you have talent, all you need to do is hone it. If you don’t, cut your losses.

Write consistently, embrace honest critiques, dedicate yourself to continual improvement, read as much as you can on improving craft, and soak up an array of interesting experiences.

If you do all of the above, you’ll soon be writing better than many who undertake formal study in creative writing.

5. These Programs May Stifle Creativity

Want to be confined to writing in certain forms, on certain topics, or within other parameters that limit the creative process? Hell no.

Conclusion 

If you’re really really really serious about being a writer, then you can ditch the creative writing program without any negative consequences.

And if you’re not serious, why are you wasting your time reading this blog?

Like What You Read? Like What You Read!

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If you found this post helpful, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, then share this post on social media!

If you’re not sure if a creative writing program may be right for you, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

 

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Professionalism for Authors

We can all recite a long list of names of famous authors who are almost as famous for the way they comport themselves as for their writing. Please don’t attempt to mimic their antagonistic behavior. If you do not have name recognition in the popular imagination (i.e. Your books aren’t being sold at bookstores), you must hold your pride at bay, and conduct yourself like a person, not a walking spectacle.

The following are common errors related to professionalism that novice writers often make. These mistakes must be avoided at all costs:

1. Don’t rush the writing process along. Plot out your story. Fix the errors. Make sure the prose is sharp. Your first draft is just that – don’t send it out immediately to publishers. Spend some time ensuring that your work is as tight as it can possibly be before submitting it.

2. Pay attention to submission guidelines. There’s nothing less professional than not following submission guidelines. Doing so will almost undoubtedly lead to a rejection, and worse than that, it will color you as a careless writer in some rather influential people’s minds.

3. Write an appropriate cover/query letter. Think of this like a job hunt. Don’t be the person sending 100 resumes a day with the same generic cover letter. This is insulting to editors and publishers. Show that you are actually familiar with the work they publish, and that your writing would be a beneficial addition to the press or magazine. Do your best to find out the name of the person that you are addressing.

4. On that same note, make sure that your work is an appropriate match for the content of the journal or publisher. Don’t send a genre piece to a literary magazine. Don’t send a noir manuscript to Harlequin. Do your homework.

5. Don’t be goofy or edgy in your communication. Your work may be satirical or hardboiled, but your approach to publishers and other power players must be professional. You’re a writer – you’re not a clown or sociopath.

6. Never respond to a rejection (unless there’s a clear lead in to do so from the editor, which is extremely unlikely). Just don’t. Certainly don’t respond to any rejection with inflammatory remarks. The literary world is small. You want your name to be talked about, but certainly not for this reason.

7. Respond to acceptances from literary journals. Thank the editor for selecting your work. Be humble and gracious.

8. Get involved beyond your writing. Offer to volunteer as a reader for a literary journal. Start your own literary magazine. If you have the money to do so, pursue an MFA to show your dedication, network, and learn from masterful authors.

The takeaway: Never underestimate the importance of professionalism for authors. Conduct yourself in your literary career in the same fashion as you would in any other professional sphere.

To simplify the process of getting published, please click here.