1. AllWrite
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    AllWrite Member

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    Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts Degree

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AllWrite, Aug 15, 2011.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of attaining a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree?
    Does anyone have one?
     
  2. James Scarborough
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    James Scarborough Member

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    In only advantage I can see in seeking an advanced degree in creative writing would be if you were interested in an academic carreer, teaching creative writing. I can't imagine such a degree being very helpful to a working writer.
     
  3. AllWrite
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    It wouldn't do much for opening doors in writing for television shows?
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, it wouldn't... i have to ditto james on this...

    other than an academic career, the only thing it might help with is if you want to be an editor at a publishing house, or for a magazine...
     
  5. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    There is another thread about education.

    I believe education is good to a point. Much like a bell curve.
    It helps to a point but then seems to detract from helping.

    I think any class that encourages you to write and get feed back on how to improve will help. But masters level education seems over the top.

    Another thought, maybe the masters education makes things interesting to you, that normal "lesser educated" people might not.
     
  6. AllWrite
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    If it is not going to benefit me in attaining work as a script writer then I do not need to do it. I will look into costs of the program before I make any decisions. Thanks for the replies.
     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    It's actually pretty good to have these days.

    The networking ties related to MFA programs goes deep. This is even evident in 'genre' fiction circles, and increasing, as many programs are broadening to focus on more genre-related work, and many MFAers are finding great success in commercial fiction. Not to mention, many conferences (like the kind you have to submit samples and be approved to attend) are heavily attended by writers with MFA's. If nothing else, it's a great networking tool, and while it may not be to everyone's liking, nepotism and/or networking (however you want to call it) can be a great benefit to a writer.

    It gives you time to write. Many MFA programs are funded, meaning they're paying you to write and read and study writing. It's not going to make you rich, but is more money than most writers will probably ever make from their writing.

    People like to discount the benefits of formal education when it comes to writing, but how many other professions can you sit in a classroom with the masters of the industry looking over your work and giving you feedback? The sad truth is very few writers make a living solely from their writing, so even the most accomplished writers will have day jobs, and their jobs are often teaching in MFA programs.

    The investment is actually in getting the undergraduate degree. As I mentioned, many MFA programs are funded, whereas undergraduate degrees will often be where the bulk of costs accrue. MFA programs don't require any specific undergraduate degree, so if you've already got one, even if in an unrelated field, you can still get an MFA. Or you can get an undergraduate in a field that is more helpful for a 'real' job, and then still apply to MFA programs in the hopes you get in, and if you don't, you have your 'useful' undergrad degree anyway.

    Some professions or professional levels will require an undergraduate degree, or even a Masters, but not really require a certain one. And many careers will pay more if you have a Master's degree, even if not in a related field. So, it's a bit foolhardy to get either an undergraduate degree or graduate degree in writing, thinking you'll then automatically be a successful writer, but if done smart, it's not exactly a bottomless pit, and can actually contribute to career advancement.

    Basically, no offense to anyone, but much of the advice that I see related to formal writing education and writing degrees are those on the outside who don't realize how it actually works or they themselves couldn't understand the benefits. That's not to say they're wrong, as it's a personal choice and perspective as to whether it will be useful or desirable to any given individual writer, but the reality of it is far more complex and deep that usually represented. An MFA can be a huge boon to the career as a writer, but, as with everything, it's what the writer makes of it. The problem is most writers discount it without even understanding, or expect the dream to come to them as they passively wait for success. The reality is successful writers fight for that success, and an MFA is one way that can greatly assist in that fight.

    If nothing else, tell me where else you can have award winning, nationally (or internationally) recognized writers reading your work and giving you in-depth response, all while paying YOU for the opportunity. Granted, the biggest block to getting into an MFA program is you actually have to be a really good writer, which seems to be the root of much of the consternation against it (and formal education in general, as suddenly objective expectations come into play, and many writers aren't ready for that level of critique or judgment). So, instead of deciding an MFA isn't right for an individual or that the writer just isn't good enough and should keep working, I see a lot of writers go to the argument that it's no good anyways so who'd want it. Don't be fooled by those arguments, though, it's like the cute girl that rejects the boy, so the boy kicks her and says he never liked her anyway.

    As with anything writing-related, it's what you make of it. To discount the benefits of an MFA in creative writing is pretty foolish or ignorant, though.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you want to write for american tv, the best path to take would be to get an entry level job in the industry and study screenwriting specifically for tv... you can do the latter on your own, or find a good online course... or an on-site one, if you live in NY or LA...

    it's virtually impossible to break into tv writing in the us, unless you already have a good track record as a writer and/or good connections within the industry... so, if you really have your heart set on a career as a writer for tv, better be prepared for a lot of hard work, serious study, and a long wait before you get there...
     
  9. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Or, what about Masters programs that offer screenwriting as an emphasis that, in addition to focused study from professionals in the industry, seem to be a great way to make contacts as you develop relationships with those professionals.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    What exactly do you mean by 'funded'? I've never heard of any master's level program (at least in the US) where they pay the student (unless the student receives a fellowship or assistantship - which are both hard to come by).
     
  11. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Many Masters programs in creative writing do require fellowships and assistantships, but most of those that do require them have this funding built in. Meaning, if you get accepted to the program, you're qualified for that funding as part of your acceptance (with tuition waivers, still qualifying for federal aid, sometimes including research stipends).

    And sure, most require some sort of teaching or tutoring or working with a publication or any number of things that are all a huge boon to a writers craft and career potential.

    It's hard to get into good MFA programs. But it's also hard to get published in a reputable pace. It's also hard to get an agent. Also hard to get a book deal. Also hard to keep your agent and publisher even if you have books published!

    Everything about writing has low statistical success rates, but that doesn't mean pointing out it's hard to do one thing makes that one thing a bad option.

    Not allowed to link to things, but some basic research and you'll find tons of MFA programs (and PhD) in writing that include funding (which almost always implies tuition waivers). Sure, you're not going to get rich and you aren't going to make as much as getting a 'real' job, but they're paying you to get experience, and a degree and to focus on your writing? What other 'real' job is going to do that? What other writing related opportunity even compares?
     
  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    But again, not every student gets this funding. Schools cannot possibly give away this education to every student or even the majority of them. That's just common sense. People looking at an MFA have to consider the financial investment and whether or not it will 'wash', whether that's in financial or other ways. If it does, go for it. If it doesn't...
     
  13. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Most programs that have funding have it as part of the program and don't let you go without it.

    So your argument against the value of higher education is that everyone can get it for free? But that those that are skilled or qualified enough can in fact get support that funds their education?

    At least you seem to be coming around from your position that it's just too expensive and not worth it, and realizing it's a decision that has to be made by the writer, and is perhaps especially worth it if you are skilled and qualified enough to have such a program funded.

    It's absolutely absurd to reject an option that is in fact very good for those who quality, based on the fact that not everyone qualifies, which is still what you seem to be doing. I still don't understand how you can't understand that just because it may not personally be an option you want to pursue, that that means it's somehow bad in general.

    There are very literally writers right now who are starting classes with award winning authors and being asked by a graduate program to spend the next 2 or 3 years of their lives concentrating on becoming the best writers they an be, and being paid to do it...

    and it's not worth it why? Because not everybody is good enough to qualify for such opportunities? My advice isn't to put down the entire notion just because you don't understand are aren't qualified yourself, but perhaps instead educate yourself on opportunities and then work toward them.

    This reminds me of the writers I know who claim it's impossible to get published and there's just no money to be made in short fiction, and then don't even realize there's a local contest that pays the winner up to 500 dollars for a single 101 word story. Oh, but, pshay, I'm sure it's like totally fixed and a sham, right?

    Nope, it's just the sort of thing I see happen all the time where there ARE opportunities out there for writers, but so many would rather sit around claiming the world is against them and just doesn't understand their artistic genius instead of getting out there and educating themselves and giving the opportunities a shot.

    I don't understand why you're even arguing, to be honest. Of course people have to weigh the pros and cons, consider if a choice is right for them, but you still seem to want to insist that aha, it's really expensive... which isn't even necessarily true and just seems to be a way to discourage others from an opportunity you don't even seem to fully understand.
     
  14. AllWrite
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    That seems to be like the best idea. I assumed creative writing would encompass that but it doesn't. Is there a site that you are aware of that fellow script writers network?
     
  15. Jewels
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    Jewels Member

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    I'm glad this question was posted as I'm seriously considering enroling in an MA in creative writing next year (in Australia). I've heard so many arguments against creative writing degrees which I think are just ridiculous. No one questions people studying art eg. sculpture, painting etc at tertiary level, but for some reason with writing there's this idea that it should come naturally and that writers should be toiling away alone in a garret somewhere.

    Writing is a craft and it needs to be honed, and in my opinion creative writing higher degrees give writers invaluable opportunities to critique each other and refine their writing skills, and really strive for a standard of excellence in their work. Many of the award winning writers in Australia have come out of MA courses and this in itself is proof of how valuable they are.

    I am planning to enrol because I love everything to do with books and the opportunity to continue writing books and talking about them with other like-minded people is my idea of heaven! I also like the idea of having that structure there to help me focus my ideas and having the constant feedback as I'm writing.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the best screenwriting-only forum is www.twoadverbs.com

    not so good but very popular is www.imdb.com
     

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