There are many programs for creative writers. Here at Yavapai Community College there is a creative writing certificate. Another type of program offered at many different locations are workshops. A writer can post their work on a blog and get feedback about what does and doesn’t work. Yet another program for creative writers is an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) with a focus on creative writing.
An MFA program “is the way community is created now. With community we can learn from one another as well as support one another. In our day and age it takes intention to build community, and mentors are essential and MFA’s allow that to happen... (BelleIt gives writers a group of people they can share their work with and that will help them where help is needed. Many believe that an MFA is a necessary tool when trying to get published. However a writer’s work should not be judged on the education they have received but rather the quality of their work.
There are many examples of brilliant authors that didn’t get the kind of education that is incorporated in an MFA program. Some that even received no education whatsoever. For example the author of both Malcolm X and Roots: The Saga of an American Family, Alex Haley , never graduated from college. (Alex Haley) And yet without such higher education, he was able to co-write Malcolm X with Malcolm X himself. He also spent many years researching his family history and in doing so was able to write Roots which “Many activists viewed…to be an important part of the Civil Rights Movement” (Alex Haley Bio) and even years later, the story of Roots having been turned into a video series, continues to have a great impact for many people including myself.
Another, more modern, example would be J.K. Rowling. She too didn’t receive any formal creative writing education. In fact her studies in college were focused mainly on French (Rowling). However she is incredibly successful and her Harry Potter series is famous worldwide.
I wouldn’t say that getting published is as easy as one – two – three but it doesn’t require as much education as most other careers. Don’t get me wrong, being educated is definitely helpful but a person doesn’t have to go through ten years of schooling just to be a writer. “Any one that writes it a writer (Belle).” While learning more about the methods can help with the technicalities and the writing technique, education such as an MFA program can’t create the talent needed. “…Many of the MFA novels I see are better written than they are better books it’s too much about showing off and not enough about trying to please the reader (Ferrari-Adler).”
Just because MFA programs aren’t a necessary tool for getting published that doesn’t mean that they aren’t helpful in other ways. That’s not to say that what MFA programs can teach you is essential for a writer but it isn’t at all detrimental to an authors work. One thing that the Spaulding MFA program in particular focuses on is “specific crafting issues (Belle). That program has students read the work of other writers and focus on how it either uses a certain craft exceptionally well or how it doesn’t do a good job using that specific craft at all. “Focusing on an accomplished writer’s skills and processing it for a paper helps [one to] see clearer how to use it. (Belle)” If you read books and focus not only on the story but also the authors craft a writer will be more able to apply a similar craft and talent to their own writing.
Some MFA programs, such as the one at Colombia, have programs that help graduates get connected to the publishing network. The one at Columbia is called the “‘Life After the MFA’ program.” Another such program meant to set up connections is at the University of Arizona. They have created an anthology of students writing called “Look Book.” The “Look Book” was put together to showcase the talent of the students to the editors and agents that are out there searching for talent (Rawlinson). Having a degree from an MFA program shows the education you have received in writing. Some MFA programs offer a Terminal Degree. This type of degree makes a person eligible to teach creative writing.
Just because some MFA programs offer things like “Life After MFA” and “Look Book” that doesn’t mean you can’t get published without such resources. Simply being self motivated can be all you need to get published. You have to be persistent and, like anything, you have to want it.
Just because a writer is educated doesn’t mean that they have talent. Talent comes from practicing. It comes from sitting down and free writing until your hands, or your mind, goes numb. If nothing else, free writing can produce one sentence that in turn can stem a story worthy of being published. That sentence can come without being taught mechanics and technique. That method comes from self motivation. You can write and write and write with perfect grammar, perfect punctuation and perfect vocabulary but if a story doesn’t have feeling, if it doesn’t have the voice of talent, it’s not worth reading and so in turn, not worth publishing. Having a Terminal degree, just like going through any MFA program doesn’t qualify you as an exceptional and publishable writer. It is a degree for teaching, not a degree for writing. (Spalding)
An MFA is not the only tool for being mentored as a writer. I know many groups that create support for writers. Some are places where writers can share their work and be critiqued in a safe environment. While an MFA program does that as well, Creative Writing groups often cost a great amount less. Seeing as a creative writing isn’t always the most lucrative career choice, MFA programs are out of many authors reach financially. Creative Writing groups can be just as helpful and supportive as MFA programs, without the sacrifice it might take to pay for an MFA program. There is a group right here on Yavapai Campus that gets together every other Thursday or so and discusses the works of other authors and what tools and methods they use. This is incredibly similar to what the Spaulding program does but without the eight page essays. MFA are helpful in that they create a community however that community can be found other places as well.