This post by Gabriela Pereira at Jane Friedman’s site caught my eye because I recently saw the above question posed as a possible topic for a panel at a convention.
My immediate response: This doesn’t need a panel. The answer is short and unambiguous: No.
Then I thought, well, maybe some people would find it helpful for some reason? So, as I say, this post caught my eye. Here’s how Pereira starts off:
Most writers want an MFA for one of three reasons: They want to teach writing, they want to get published, or they want to make room in their life for writing. It turns out these reasons for doing an MFA are actually based on myths.
Pereira then goes on to provide a more extensive answer the the question about whether you should go back to college in order to be a writer. The whole post is easy to summarize: No. No, you shouldn’t. You may improve your writing by going for an MFA, and that’s fine. But you can certainly can improve your writing in other ways, and you definitely shouldn’t think of it as a shortcut to a traditional publishing deal.
Pereira does add:
MFA programs are not a bad thing. In fact, they are exceptional at serving a small and very specific group of writers. If you write literary fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry, and if you thrive in a formal academic environment, then the traditional MFA is a great option. If you can afford the tuition without taking out loans, and if you have the time to make the most of the experience, then you are one of those ideal candidates for graduate school.
Yep, that sounds perfectly sensible. If that description suits you and you happen to want to pursue an MFA, go for it. Otherwise, good heavens, just read widely and then sit down and write a book. No need to go to college for that.
Of course I’m probably a bit biased since MFA programs are not known for cheering on would-be writers who lean toward genre fiction.