To MFA or Not to MFA

I suppose I’ve always wanted to write. Even as a child, I wrote stories, poems, dramatic monologues but I didn’t consider writing as a profession. I had daydreams of becoming a journalist but when it came time to decide on a college path, I selected pre-law. I wanted economic security and independence; I thought a law degree was my ticket.  Of course, I later realized that I didn’t enjoy being a lawyer (I’ve written about that before) but I continued on for years, hoping that I would change my mind. I didn’t.

Motherhood pulled me out of that career path and I became a stay-at-home parent for a while. Then my husband needed my assistance in managing a small start-up and I worked by his side for the next ten years. Over the years, I became aware of a distant whisper: Why aren’t you writing? I tried keeping a journal but my efforts were sporadic and inconsistent, so I put down the pen to focus on everyday life, content to write chatty Christmas newsletters.

One day, I stumbled upon a continuing education class in creative writing. You should do this, the whisper said, so I did and discovered the joy of writing, a joy that I thought had been lost long ago. I also found that other people liked what I wrote. So I took a few adult-ed classes and thought that would be enough. But as I wrote and read more widely, I realized that I wasn’t content to dabble. I wanted more.

I’ve been on a path of discovery and education in creative writing for the past five years.  Every year, I challenge myself a bit more: first, one community college class, then several more. Next, writing workshops and conferences. Then, university-level courses. I joke that I’m getting a DIY MFA. With each step, I learned more about writing and about myself. I’ve even put my work out into the world, submitting to literary journals with modest success.

The whisper in my head is louder now, more demanding. You should get an MFA. I know the arguments against getting another degree: it’s expensive, it doesn’t guarantee publication, there are too many MFAs already, and I’m too old.

But I have a desire to find a mentor, to belong to a community of like-minded writers, to have the dedicated time to write. So I’m exploring the path to an MFA in creative writing. I’ve registered for more writing classes in the fall, including a graduate seminar, to see if I am up to the task.

I don’t know what my ultimate destination is but I’m looking forward to the ride.

The Book of Kells


This entry was posted in back to school, creative writing, learning, poetry, random, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to To MFA or Not to MFA

  1. “But I have a desire to find a mentor, to belong to a community of like-minded writers, to have the dedicated time to write” From personal experience, I can assure you there are MANY like-minded writers forming communities all over the web and elsewhere – where you can be mentored, belong to a community and be encouraged to write. Have you tried doing a google search? Best part of all is you can do this from home – and at no cost. There are may ways in which MFA’s are over-rated. But for your purposes, I’d seriously suggest continuing your DIY path. Look where it’s already led you!!!

    • renobarb says:

      Thank you, Sarah, for your thoughtful comment. For now, I’m just exploring the MFA path. Fortunately, I am able to take graduate classes at the public university here in my hometown, as well as participate in on-line communities, so I’m not leaving home. We’ll see where this exploration leads.

  2. asthaguptaa says:

    It is wonderful that you have not let go of your writing side and calling!

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