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So you want to study Creative Writing?

By Maria Turner

Assuming you’ve already had the Master of Fine Arts debate with yourself (you know the one: Can writing be taught? Are MFAs killing fiction? etc.) and have made the decision to go to writing school, here are some tips and suggestions. 

Photo: University of Toronto

Where to go? 
You don’t want just any program, you want the one that’s right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Who’s on the faculty? (Not all good writers make good teachers, so ask if you can speak to a student who is in the program.) How many graduates have published books? Do they offer any financial aid?

Do you know what you want to write yet? If the answer is no, find a program that allows you to experiment. If you’ve got your genre and subject all mapped out, then find a program that will allow you to focus. There are lots of options out there.

Getting accepted
Before you jump into an MFA, take a writing workshop or two. (Chances are there is one near you.) Get feedback. If you don’t like sharing your writing with others or talking about the craft of writing, maybe an MFA is not right for you. 

Work hard on your application. Polish your writing. You want to show what you are capable of. Ask someone else to read your application and help you choose what writing samples to send in with your portfolio. 

What to expect
You will have to work hard. Being in an MFA program doesn’t suddenly make writing a whole lot easier. 

You will get emotional: you will alternately love, hate, and envy your classmates. And you will suffer from self-doubt of the “everything-I-write-is-crap” variety. (Don’t freak out. This is totally normal.)  

You will learn new things, including how much you still have to learn. Which is a good thing. You will write a lot. You will get a degree. And then, well, it’s up to you.


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