Thursday, February 7, 2013

Meanderings : MFA


picture from How to Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon,
one of my new favorite books,
I've read it from cover to cover.
Now that I've read it, I pick it up often and open it randomly
and see what I need to know for that day.
It's not just for writers or artists.
It's about creativity.
Buy it.
You'll like it.

This first paragraph is how I started this writing today and I'm going to leave it, as development, as an example of how meandering thoughts can lead to having something important to say. I don't have a major focus to write about at this point. Instead, some wandering thoughts - I was going to say random thoughts but they aren't random. Not really. Keep reading; I discovered a focus even though I thought I started with none. Oh, and I did come back in and add a word to the post's title to more accurately reflect the finished piece.

One piece of information is that my Bachelors Degree university is now offering an MFA in creative writing. That's really good news. I checked their website within the last year, maybe even with the last six months, and there was nothing there. One reason I checked there is that I had a really good experience, their format worked really well, and I hoped they might come up with something similar.

This is good and always makes me smile: my undergrad degree is, tada: a BS in Liberal Studies. Love that. With double minor in English:Writing and Theatre. But it was a great experience. Distance education, with some in-person of what would now be called "rigorous" 3- to 4-day classes (where there were pre-reading requirements, post-attendance assignments which were lengthy to prove that you did your homework and understood it), some online classes, even a correspondence course via regular mail, and a little bit online. It worked. My advisor was very helpful and encouraging. It was great.

Anyway - see, rambling, meandering - I checked their website and, nada. Until now. They recently were approved for the MFA in writing. And someone I would love to take a workshop with, a class with, is one of the professors.

And I was tempted.

But I've decided that right now is not the time for me to jump in. I thought I would when I saw it, even with the two week application deadline. I know I could write up two 750 word essays and find work to submit and all of that. And it would be kind of cool to be in the first cohort. And the curriculum looks good. Looks like what I want in an MFA if I do that - and I've been thinking about it for a while; I like the look of the curriculum, a lot.

Now is not the time and having the first two week residency in June - no, not a good time. I will just be at the end of a busy theater season and starting the process for scheduling the next season. I also have a summer theater workshop in the development phase and will be (hopefully) doing final preparations right at that time for the workshop. And I am on a national committee which is putting together a standard practice paper on performance interpreting - which has an early August deadline for getting the first draft written up before our national conference.

So this June - not a time to start an MFA.

I'm not ruling it out for later. Just not now.

Okay - maybe I did have a focus for this writing. The MFA.

To MFA or not to MFA, that is the question.

Short answer: not now. Long answer: maybe.

I'd like an MFA and there are factors to consider. I'll pose some of my questions and I'd love to see what others say. I know someone in an MFA program and I drool when I see her posts. And sometimes I think, whew, glad that assignment isn't mine (at least not now).

I read about the inspiration of an MFA. The community. The camraderie. The knowledge about the business of writing and publishing and, yes, networking. Confidence building (that one I really want; don't guffaw - I really could use it!). Feedback. Energy. Creative momentum. The paper which says I did it and validates that I Can Write.

I read about the negative aspects of an MFA. It's not the real world. It's sterile. It dilutes creativity and replaces it with an academic mandate or style of writing which can swallow the soul. It's too expensive. It creates a false sense of quality or expectations. It's unnecessary. It's insular and isolating (within a context of others of similar experience). It's not real world and there are other ways to write outside of academia.

Oh - and an MFA gives your permission and time To Write. For me the time is not an issue; an MFA wouldn't give me time. It would give me a Timeline and it would be one more thing in the list of things I'm doing. And that's one key for me right now : not wanting to add anything in because I feel like I've just reached a point of some relative balance and sanity in my schedule. Balance like a teeter-totter with evenly weighted ends, not flatlined.

So I did have something to say, after all.

What do you think about an MFA in writing? Is it worth the time and money? Why or why not? What is on your list of pros and cons?