Lisa Burstein

This Be Where I Blog

My MFA- I couldn’t be a writer without it

on March 15, 2012

I know for some writers MFA is a dirty word. Some people look at them as programs that just churn out writers that all write the same way and that are run by professors who would be publishing full-time if they could- they teach because they need the money. In my case this couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The story of how I got to my MFA program is probably as important as what I got from it. I was two years out of college with a degree in Writing for Television and Film (what?) that’s an actual degree and I was working at Dell publishing as a Marketing Assistant. I loved working with books, but marketing them was NOT my strong suit. I knew and had always known I wanted to write them. I knew I needed guidance to do this. I found it in my MFA program.

Basically for me an MFA gave me two years to focus on nothing but craft. To focus on nothing but writing and reading and talking about books(and of course a little drinking in bars with other writers spattered in between)- it was heaven. Like this perfect space and time where everything I was doing was exactly what I wanted to be doing. Unlike college where I had to take science and math and other crap to be a writer, here I got to take whatever I wanted and it was all about books and writing! And I needed that two years, I needed MORE than that two years- as my first novel wasn’t acquired until I was out of the program another 8(!). But, I know I couldn’t have done it without that foundation.

My MFA taught me the rules of writing and allowed me to break them. Taught me how to be supportive and helpful to other writers(key in making it in this biz) taught me how to critique work, how to read like a writer and write like a reader. It helped me decide that YES, I did want to be a writer. Making that decision and taking yourself seriously are one of the hardest things a writer can do.

My MFA gave me that.

I want to note that I certainly don’t think an MFA is necessary to be a writer, but for me it helped :).

Blog visitors- Please share the first time you really felt like a writer.

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4 responses to “My MFA- I couldn’t be a writer without it

  1. mbm8377 says:

    First time I really felt like a writer was when I wrote “The End” on the last page of my first novel. That I actually followed through and finished a “long” story was a major accomplishment. I have a horrible habit of starting things and never finishing them. Now I know I can do it and have finished 3 other manuscripts and have 3 more in the works. ^_^

  2. Yes! You are so right — two years to be a writer. To learn craft, and when to break the rules… my MFA years were a safety haven, in that regard.

  3. I agree! My MFA program definitely gave me the tools I need to be a successful writer. I gained friends, a revered mentor, and the time I needed to work on craft. Shortly after finishing the program I got my literary agent! I hope I’m on my way to being published soon 🙂

  4. My BA was in English, mostly straight lit, but I studied creative writing (for a “fun change”) in grad school. And that’s where I learned how to be a writer and where I learned to love it. My Long Fiction professor nurtured my ideas and my enthusiasm beyond belief. On my final writing assignment, he typed up a professional (looking) “review” letter. I still have it today. It was the boost and push I needed to know I had talent. 🙂

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