I’ll be honest.
I didn’t expect the writing course I talked about last week through University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop to be this rigorous. I mean, the course is zero dollars. How phenomenal could you really expect it to be?
I knew it would be fun. I knew I’d learn something new about writing. I knew it would inspire me to flex new writing muscles while I recharge between big writing projects. But this class feels like a legitimate college level writing workshop. I can’t believe how well thought out the lessons have been. How engaged the instructors are on the discussion boards. How many story details the assignments invite me to consider.
That’s not to say this course has to be hard if you don’t want it to be. You’re not graded on your prose. You can’t fail the course. You can turn in sloppy first drafts and call it good enough. And you’ll still learn something. But if you give the assignments and peer feedback as much as they invite you to, you’re going to write so much better than you thought possible by course end in November.
A lot of what I’ve learned is from other writers. As you see what your peers are trying to do in their work, you get a chance to see their techniques succeed spectacularly or fail beautifully. And even in their failures, you learn better what not to do. The video lessons, too, overflow with hard writing tips and tools.
It’s got me thinking about an MFA at University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. They say there’s a less than 5% chance you’ll get in if you apply. But that just makes me want it more.
Have you ever considered an MFA in creative writing?
I always thought an MFA would make me write like an MFA grad. I’m not sure what I imagined that would look like. Something pretentious and florid yet cookie-cutter, maybe. Better to write street, I thought. Whatever that meant.
But the more I learn from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the more I read the stories from these MFA grads in places like Missouri Review (another story resource I discovered through this class) and The New Yorker, the more I feel transported. The character depth and detail in these stories makes me jealous. I wish I could affect a reader the way these writers affect me.
Sure, Hemingway did it without an MFA. But he had Fitzgerald and Pound and Stein for connections and feedback. Where is my hard-hitting writer group?
And, okay, you could finish a creative writing MFA online on the cheap. But where is the vibrant community? The creative energy of writers in conversation. The sheer excitement of being surrounded by so many people who take writing as seriously as you do.
So, hell. The MFA in creative writing. Manufactured writer factory or unleashers of ecstatic creativity? What do you think? Tell me in the comments.
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