Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Study: Write for You?

I'm quite interested in John Scalzi's post on MFAs and creative writing, which I've been mulling over for quite a while. In it he suggests it might not be a bad thing to teach students about contracts and publishing. I agree with him. He also brings up the much more contentious issue of cost, which I find particularly appropriate given the recent protests in the UK regarding increased tuition fees.

I did an MA in Writing for Performance and Publication from a red brick university (the University of Leeds). It cost me approximately £3,500. I don't think I'd have paid more for it, though. Not because I didn't value the course, or because I don't value MAs in general, but because, frankly, I'm tight-fisted and could put the money to better use elsewhere. The Coalition have increased maximum fees to £9,000 per year. If you have that kind of money lying around, you might be happy to part with it.

There are benefits and drawbacks to all MAs and MFAs in creative writing. A year or two of dedicated writing time, in a supportive environment where you can focus on craft and workshop your writing among your peers, can be a wonderful luxury. But only if the class you join challenges you. Some creative writing groups are for hobbyists. This is fine. But if you want to be a professional writer, you might want to consider the alumni who have come before you. What have they had published? Where? What successes have they had?

Also consider who is teaching the course. If your course leader is a playwright, and you want to be a poet, then you might be better served studying elsewhere or foregoing the MA/MFA for a local poetry writing group or a writing retreat (e.g., with the Arvon Foundation). Has the course leader had a strong record of success in their field? What do you think they might teach you?

Ultimately the only two things that will teach you about writing are reading (especially reading the work of your peers and in the genres you wish to write in) and sitting down to write (and then doing what you intend to do). Many published novelists have never studied creative writing formally. It's clearly not a prerequisite. But it can help you explore different facets of your writing, or broaden your approaches to writing.

Hopefully these questions, if you can get some answers, will help you decide if an MA/MFA in writing is right for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment