Wow. The MFA shit really hit the fan the past week or so. First, ex-instructor Ryan Boudinot cuts loose on his I hate rant. Commence comments, like the one by Chuck Wendig – one of many around the blogosphere.
Why am I weighing in? I have not taken one creative writing class. And one of the reasons I’m on the fence about pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing is getting an instructor from the “you-suck-so-you’re-wasting-my-time” house of pedagogues. If I’m not the Real Deal, I’m wasting his time?
From reading the essay, I believe Boudinot did not have the vocation to be a teacher. Writing is a vocation. Teaching is a vocation. Writers who have no business teaching master’s level classes could be the topic of another post. This is what I want to know – what does some of his former students have to say about his article?
As for Boudinot, I would think that waiting to find The Real Deal and dissing the rest must have been a terrible way to make a living, much less spend one’s time. But the complaints: If someone didn’t start thinking about writing until a 20-something or later, forget it? Don’t have time to write? Not a serious reader? Dissing memoir writings for working out a ‘shitty life’ in a composition? C’mon. Anyone who decides to sit in front of a classroom of students, masters level or not, who do or do not have a writing background, surely must expect that half the class isn’t going to be up to the mark when it comes to writing anything worthwhile, much less publishable. Living for the Real Deal?
I’ve always been interested in storytelling, but my reading and writing as a teen consisted of newspapers, magazines, mysteries, and high school required reading. Serious? Not serious? Who knows? Not have time to write? No one has enough time to write, certainly not anyone holding down a job and raising a family. I can’t imagine doing that, throwing an MFA course on top of that, and having enough time to think. So a student tells that to an instructor. I would expect every student in an MFA course, low-residency or not, to utter those words at least once. And about this ‘wish you had suffered more” memoir rant. Maybe it’s a good think Boudinot left the business.
Full discloure: I’m trained as a journalist. I studied music for years. I use both disciplines whenever I try to write something. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I have been writing and editing news stories, features, and manuscripts for over 30 years. I have never been published in any publication other than a byline story in a newspaper or magazine. That means: none of my creative output has been selected, agented, edited, or published by anyone, from the local arts quarterly to a Big 5 publisher. And I’m O.K. with that.
I know not everyone is not cut out to be a teacher, the same as not everyone is cut out to be a reporter or a novelist or any other type of writer. But it takes patient, tactful people who know how to deliver the bad news when the time comes to tell the pupil they don’t have it what it takes.
My real concern lies in MFA programs and the instructors: I wonder how many feel the same way as Boudinot but do nothing about it. Show of hands? I’d like to know.