Megan asked: I’ve long considered getting an MFA in creative writing. But will an MFA really make me a better writer? Or should I stay on my current path of writing and reading a ton? What are the pros/cons of getting an MFA? Thanks!
Nancy asked: I don’t get writer’s block, but the thing that stalls my writing engine for hours is stopping to find the right metaphor when I need it. Do you have any exercises that will help me get rolling more quickly?
First things first: would an MFA program make you a better writer? Yes. But will “writing and reading a ton” make you a better writer too? Also yes. I’ve said before that you don’t need an MFA to get published (click here to read) and it certainly isn’t the only path to being a better writer.
But here’s my caveat. The act of writing itself helps you get better, but there’s one more ingredient you need: a good critical reader or readers to tell you what’s working and what’s not in that writing. This is probably the best thing about an MFA program, frankly. It delivers a captive audience of a dozen or more great readers who will workshop everything you write as fast as you can write it. You learn not just from what they find in your work, but the strengths and weakness you find in theirs. But if you can find a critique group or critique partner online, through shorter workshops (the Iowa summer program is incredible), or in some other way, you’ll continue to grow and improve as a writer – without the MFA price tag. It’s a very personal choice, but the good news is that there are lots of possible ways forward.
Now for the metaphor question.