Creative Writing MFA programs have always struck us as a bit of a scam. We mean, we respect that they provide workshop-leading jobs for writers who are qualified for little else, and we admire the work they do in the 'keeping entitled assholes who consider themselves artistes far away in Iowa where they can't annoy us' department. But seriously, we don't think that having a bunch of jealous, bitter, insecure writerly types sitting in a room sniping at each other shapes anyone into a better novelist (except maybe Curtis Sittenfeld. Uh, and George Saunders. Well, so there are some exceptions, but it makes us feel better to think that MFAs are pointless so just let us, okay?). Anyway, it was with relief and a bit of awe that we read this letter to Salon's 'Since You Asked' column, from an MFA student who seems to have seen the light:
Since I started being serious about fiction writing, say about four or five years ago, I realized there was only one thing that I wanted. I wanted a shot at being a writer, and the way I defined that (knowing there were many ways I could have defined it) was to be accepted to a certain rather prestigious MFA program.The writer goes on to say that she has since fallen in love, realized that love is the most important thing, and lost a lot of faith in her abilities.
I'm not sure that I deserve to be here. I can't see that my work is getting any better. I feel like my classmates are all better writers than I am and it doesn't help that most of them have odious personalities. I have continued to write, which in my mind is better than giving up, but I find myself constantly thinking I'm crap and wondering if I should give up this ghost . . . So what am I doing here? I'm going to stay and finish my degree, but I've been thinking a lot lately about never writing a word afterward. Does that make me a terrible person?MFA lady, we applaud you! If only everyone else in your program would come to a similar realization! The world would be a better place! Entire forests would be saved from pulping! Singing and dancing in the streets! And that must be the advice that Salon's Cary Tennis is about to dole out, right?
I am glad you are going to finish the program. No matter what you decide to do later, it is good to finish the program and get your degree.Oh. Sigh.
What Am I Doing Here? [Salon]