Michelle Wittle On MFA-ing

Michelle Wittle On

In a passing conversation, I mentioned once to a family member I thought I would like to go to grad school for Creative Writing. My family member almost got whiplash turning around to face me and said that creative writing can’t be taught and it would be a complete waste of money.

Whether this was just her opinion or the opinion that had been drilled in her since birth, I will never know. But I will tell you that I firmly agree and disagree with this statement. On the one hand I agree that raw talent can not be taught. However, I do agree that raw talent can be sharpened and refined.

I think we need to look away from the narrow view of a grad student just creatively writing all day long. I am assured that is not all one does in grad school.

Last night I gained another perceptive on the MFA conundrum and I would like to share it with you now.

But of course I have to give you a small back story (because it wouldn’t be a Michelle Wittle blog if there wasn’t at least one small anecdote).

It’s a known fact I have been a struggling writing. I can’t even pay someone to publish my fiction works. Most of the time it is due to my lack of effort. But, I am now learning a bit more about my writing self and my flaws.

Here’s the secret.

I have no idea what I am writing.

I will sit down with my Mac (or now George) and I will just fill words on a blank word screen. It sounds like it is a short story to me, so I pimp it out as one.

The truth is, the story is more of a flash fiction piece or perhaps the start of a novel.

Since I have no idea what I wrote, I can’t send it to the right places. For that small blunder, I get rejected and sadden ensues.

Now, in comes the grad school part.

My friend was relating a story to me about how when she signed up for grad school, she was almost positive she wanted to seek this one avenue of her art. However, as she is approaching her graduation and after being exposed to many different and unthinkable avenues of her medium, she realizes now more than ever she wants to pursue this different street.

That is what grad school is for. You get to meet people who are your peers (and I don’t mean age wise but creative medium wise). In grad school, you will make connections with professors and people in your field. You can get internships. Lastly, you will be exposed to all different types of genres and avenues of your art. Maybe you thought you wanted to be a novelist. But after being in the class, you realize you are more of a poet. School is the time for exploration and learning who you are and where your place is in your field.

While it is true, raw talent can’t be taught, in every art there are always more than one way to find your place in the field. Look at grad school as the place you get to dance around in all the aspects of your art. You get to try on different hats and then you can find the one that fits you the best.

So, to MFA or not to MFA that may always be the question, but I think the answer should be, “is it a learning experience you can afford to miss?”


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