|To stimulate discussion!
||[Feb. 16th, 2008|01:40 pm]
Writing MFA, Hopes and Hopefuls
Do you guys think that your MFA program has made you a better writer? Do you think that your writing style has changed because of it? How much do you let your professors and fellow students influence your writing? Do you think that MFA programs tend to inhibit writers from becoming great writers?
I'm just curious. :)
It's made me a better writer because I have time to write and am encouraged (more or less) to try different things. I also get exposed to other people with a variety of styles. It hasn't changed my style very much, except making me more willing to get out of my comfort zone a little.
I only let people influence my writing when they know what they are talking about :D That is to say, if I can tell it's just a matter of taste, I ignore them, but if I can see that what they are saying will really improve something, then I listen.
I don't think MFA programs inhibit you unless you allow them to, in which case the problem is really internal. Some may be better environments than others.
Oh, I should have read the other comments before I posted mine. I basically just totally seconded elorie. Hear, hear.
Yeah, I completely agree.
I've been made a better writer just from having time to write, space to experiment, and exposure to other talented people I respect. I don't think my fundamental style/voice have changed, but they've become more sophisticated maybe, through practice and refinement.
My philosophy about workshops tends to be this: everyone comes at your work with goodwill, but everyone also has highly subjective taste and tics. You listen to their experience as readers, but ultimately you decide what you want the story to look like. So I don't think I've been trying to write what they want me to write. I think I've been getting advice that ranges from good to mixed to bad, and that I'm clever enough to sort it all out towards my own needs.
I'm quite pleased with my program in general and I don't feel stultified at all. I think there are places that are a little more invasive and judgmental, but if you have a strong enough attitude and don't let people tell you what literature has to look like, I don't see that inhibition is inevitable.
I love the exposure I get to different writers that I probably would never have read otherwise. And yeah, you take from workshops what you find useful--and sometimes people can be really insightful to your work and point out themes and things going on at a fresh new angle. I love it when that happens.
When I look at my writing, I'm not positive that it has, qualitatively, changed for the better. I think that having deadlines and assignments has given me a sense of urgency in the process, but that's not to say that I'm really writing more. It's also fairly difficult for me to tell whether any improvement that has happened has happened as a result of my being here, or just asa result of having another year's experience writing under my belt.
To be honest, I've never had a workshop that I felt had a make-or-break impact on a poem. If a poem is weak going in to workshop, I usually come out of workshop feeling both discouraged and a little flummoxed as to the direction to take it in. If it's strong, I feel a bit encouraged and sometimes have some ideas for fairly mild edits, but I've never had a workshop save a poem. If that makes any sense.
Having deadlines makes you produce though--once it's out of you, it exists to work with and improve. That's how I see it anyway.
Having deadlines make you produce for deadlines, but I was fairly productive when I was working full time, too (wrote 1/2 a novel and about 20 poems in my year off). I'm not saying that deadlines are bad, just that I don't think they're always totally necessary.
Having done my MFA where I did my undergrad work, I can successfully say that yes, my MFA has improved my writing. Then again, I think the fact that I have kept writing and kept exploring new options with my work and played with new forms has helped as well.
I think that the MFA does exactly what people says it does, it gives you time. Most people use that time to write or to develop their writing. I've used it to read more work outside of what I have read, and I feel that has helped my writing to improve.