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Is an MFA in Creative Writing Worth It?

Should you pursue an advanced degree in writing, or should you just write? Many argue that studying arts and humanities is a waste of money because it does not guarantee a career with a great starting salary. But perhaps these people fail to see the value of life enriching experiences and making a creative offering to world. It is true that many people have achieved their creative goals without participating in any costly, formal, program. Writing is something that you can get better at with practice. There are many advantages and disadvantages to higher education. MFA programs can be expensive and do not guarantee that you will make it big as an author. Only you can decide what the best course of action is for yourself. Here are four topics to consider before you commit to a Master of Fine Arts.

1. Structure

Formal programs offer the time and place for writing. A set schedule with deadlines can help a writer stay focused and disciplined. Many writers struggle to stay motivated when nobody is holding them accountable. There is also something inherently motivating and inspiring about writing and working in an academic setting with other artists. 

2. Feedback

Critical and honest feedback from professors who are experienced expert writers is an extremely beneficial asset for the aspiring writer. Writing workshops are also beneficial because it allows the writer to put their work into the hands of real people who will provide honest, critical feedback before the work is made public. 

3. Validation

Writing is an extremely self-conscious practice. It is never easy to put yourself and your work out there. To share an artistic offering means to be vulnerable to judgment and criticism. Writing within a community who will provide praise and validation can be extremely beneficial for a writer and you should not underestimate the importance of building confidence. Obtaining a degree will also provide you with a sense of credibility as a professional writer. 

4. Craft Skills

Perhaps the most important advantage that comes with a formal writing program, is receiving the instruction and tools needed to sharpen your craft. MFA writing programs are taught by a faculty of professional and experienced writers who will coach you in poetics, tense, tone, and mechanics. They will help you find your individual voice and style as a writer. 

Before you decide to commit to the study of the fine arts, you should be sure you have the time and money to do so. You should also clearly define what your career goals are and be sure to find a program that will help you achieve those goals. You might find that the training and feedback you are looking for could actually be achieved through inexpensive weekend writing workshops, clubs, or online seminars. But it is also worth mentioning that not everything is about money or the return on your investment. If writing is your passion, and fully immersing yourself into it is what you feel you must do, then do it. Only you can know what is best for you. It was Stephen King who wrote, ““If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Jacqui Donaldson is an American writer and teacher. Her work has been published in The Vehicle, Loud Coffee Press, Across the Margin and others. Connect with Jacqui on Instagram and Twitter @Jacquiverse.

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