Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

The MFA Student: "Bitterness Is the Emo Cousin of Entitlement"

The New School's MFA writing students are learning! "Provided they’ve been paying attention to the world outside the workshop, they’ve noticed that the conversation about what it means to be a certificated 'writer' has shifted away from the literary, and even the lofty, and is now taking place in the rather harsher language of political economy."


7 Comments / Post A Comment

BadUncle (#153)

Get certificated to play the saxamaphone, instead. You won't refudiate the decidering.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I'm trading up for a Masters of Fine Typing.

Steve (#7,126)

harsher language of political economy

My degree in political economy has never felt so bad ass.

jaimealyse (#647)

Okay, but seriously, the thing I don't understand is that every anti-MFA thing I read is about how people use MFAs to put off real life, or pour all their money into tuition expecting instant publication the second they walk out the door. What about going for an MFA for a couple of years of intensive study and focus and to, y'know, make yourself a better writer? Are these programs good for that?

I'm asking for a friend.

MatthewGallaway (#1,239)

Two things: 1) I think the problem with the argument you make, Jaime (on behalf of your friend), is that it doesn't account for the fact that you'll need to figure out a way to study and focus with or without the MFA, so why delay the inevitable, particularly if you're going to end up in mega-debt (which may make the long-term proposition of studying/focusing/writing that much harder? (If someone else is paying, that's another ish entirely.) 2) For some reason I never realized why Sam Lipsyte looks so familiar, but thanks to this article I now realize that he was in Dungbeetle, a band I definitely knew back in the day. (This is what happens when you spend a decade playing indie rock, followed by a decade trying to forget the decade you spent playing indie rock.)

jaimealyse (#647)

Except, to 1) – You're assuming that a person can necessarily get what they would get from a couple of years of intensive MFA study elsewhere and otherwise – the excellent peers, the mentors, the deadlines and time to write. The question of whether it's worth the debt is another thing.

Limaceous (#2,392)

I would tell your "friend" to check out the programs you're interested in very carefully. Writing from the poet perspective, the most beneficial part of an MFA program, I found, was the "insta-community" of writers you become part of. And really, you can build these communities by hand, the hard way, going to readings, making small-talk with odd-looking strangers over cheeseplates. It's just easier to make these contacts in the structure of a program.

Two years of MFA program really doesn't make you a better writer than just writing for two years would. In some ways, you become a worse writer, because you start changing in response to whatever is on trend in that program at that time. (We are all experimental poets now…)

And then think about the money. (It is a lot of money.) And then find a program that offers some funding (I got the second year of a two-year program covered with an assistantship). And even still, I look at the loans and think, "I could have bought a car." Decide if you'd rather just have a car.

Another point: It is very difficult to just borrow $50,000 and chill out for two years thinking about poetry or whathaveyou. So sometimes the MFA really does give you the breathing space you wouldn't already have.

OK, I've rambled on a bit longer than I meant to. I don't regret doing the MFA, but it isn't the miracle-drug some expect. For anyone thinking really hard about a creative writing MFA, I'd also suggest you check out things like the 95 Cent Skool.

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