What I Do and Don't Think I'll Get Out of My MFA in Writing
As I write this article, I’m sitting on a Zoom call. It’s populated by more than 20 fellow writers, ranging from established and award-winning authors to MFA-holders to those like me, first semester students at VCFA’s MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults.
Now before I continue, I need to say this — pursuing or even holding an MFA in writing, any form of it, is not necessary to being a published author. I mean, obviously, otherwise there would be far fewer authors in the world, and we would have way less beautiful stories to consume.
For me, though, it felt critical to enter this program at this time.
Let me start by telling you what I know I won’t get out of my MFA journey: I will not get a guarantee of publication.
It’s a little depressing to think about, but true, that I could graduate and live out the rest of my years practicing writing, but never have the chance to hold my own book in my hands. Obviously I hope that’s not what happens, but it could, and I think that’s important to note. Because I’m not in this program as a shortcut. I’m here because I’m ready, willing, and able to put in time and work to improve at my craft.
That’s the first thing I hope to get from this program: leveled-up craft.
For a long time, I have written books without thinking about the art of writing books. I have spun tales and told stories and forgotten to think about things like structure and themes and not having giant, gaping plot holes. I have reached a level where my writing is aesthetically pleasing, but not substantively rich. And I think this is born from a place of fear.
Fear that if I dig in deep it’ll get complicated. Fear that if I dig in deep it’ll get messy. That I’ll have to be vulnerable and show parts of myself I don’t like, and maybe others won’t, either.
It’s also born from a perfectionism which insists that I must present the best of the best. So I haven’t tried to level up before because I know the path will be tricky and there will be mistakes made along the way.
I don’t want to make mistakes anymore. I want to have made them, and be able to simply bask in my own growth.
So I’m hoping that VCFA’s program, a low-residency one which includes a 10-day intensive residency at the start of the semester, followed by independent work with an advisor, will help me level up, dig down, and really become a stand-out writer.
I also came here because I found myself craving community. Now, in the months since applying and being accepted, I’ve found my footing in a beautiful community of writers, and I adore them and that space, and maybe it would be enough, but I find that there is no “enough” for me when it comes to community. I simply crave it always, crave connection with a broad expanse of other writers and word-lovers. And VCFA’s Writing for Children & Young Adults community, which as of this writing I’m six days into, is a spectacularly special kind of place.
During this residency, I have found joy and belonging through a shared sense of fear and impostor syndrome. I have been able to share pieces of my heart to encourage others, and be encouraged in return. It is an inclusive, welcoming, thoughtful community, one of the most thoughtful I’ve ever joined. And it is so refreshing to be here.
It’s important to note that in many ways, pursuing an MFA is a trick of luck, a huge spot of privilege. It costs money and takes time and I am so privileged to be doing this work.
It is possible to level up your craft and find a beautiful community outside of an MFA program. For me, at this time in my life, this was the right choice to make. Perhaps it isn’t for you. I hope we can still celebrate each other.
To leave a comment