I’ve had writers in my programs ask me; I don’t have an MFA, can I still publish my book? Do you really need an MFA in creative writing to be a published writer? To them I say, Writer, you don’t need an MFA to be a published writer. However, it may benefit you in other ways.

Getting an MFA is a huge investment of time and money. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee an advanced degree will lead to publication or a successful writing career. If you’re trying to decide if an MFA in creative writing is the next step for you, let’s look at the pros and cons.

Listen in as I talk about three excellent reasons to pursue an MFA and why another option to an MFA – without the major investment of time or money – might be a better fit for you. 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

 

  • The pros and cons of getting an MFA in creative writing. 
  • How your goals impact whether an MFA will be useful to you or not.
  • Why enrolling in an MFA program can actually DELAY publication.
  • When DOES it make sense to do an MFA?
  • Benefits of MFA for writers.
  • The tried and tested option to an MFA – that saves time and money – especially if your ultimate goal is to quickly make progress on a manuscript and get published.

Resources Featured In This Episode For Writers Wondering If An MFA In Creative Writing Is Worth It:

 

Your key takeaways from ‘Do You Need An MFA In Creative Writing To Be A Published Writer?’

 

Getting an MFA is a huge investment of time and money. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee an advanced degree will lead to publication or a successful writing career. If you’re trying to decide if an MFA in creative writing is the next step for you, let’s look at the pros and cons.

If you’re a new or emerging author, I’m glad you’re looking into opportunities to develop your craft. Professional development is incredibly important. Every vocation requires training to prepare you for the work ahead and for many writers, an MFA can be a logical next step in your writing career. It can also feel like the only option.

For the creative professions, an advanced degree does provide the opportunity to learn and grow – but it doesn’t mean you’ll leave your graduation ceremony with any certainty you’ll publish a book or the writing you worked so hard to produce in your MFA program will find a literary home.

If you’re considering an MFA program, I’d take a step back and ask yourself this question: what is your ultimate goal?

If you want to publish a book, the truth is you don’t need an MFA.

 

I don’t have an MFA, and neither do many of the writers I’ve mentored who have gone on to publish their short-form work in journals or get their books published.

I’ve had MFA graduates sign up for my writing programs in the hopes of finally getting an acceptance letter. I believe enrolling in an MFA program can actually DELAY publication. Because when writers are so focused on their studies and projects, they aren’t necessarily producing and submitting their work to journals.

Ultimately it isn’t a degree that makes a writer feel like they’re a real author. It’s getting an acceptance letter from a publisher and seeing their work in print.

If your ultimate goal is to publish a memoir, essay collection, novel or book of poetry, what will get you there faster is publishing your work in journals NOW so you can build up your literary CV – not a degree, certificate, or diploma. 

So when DOES it make sense to do an MFA in creative writing?

 

What draws many writers to MFA programs is the prospect of community, immersing themselves in literary discussions with other writers, the discovery of influential books and writers, and the opportunity to devote themselves to their craft for a sustained period of time.

Here are three excellent reasons to pursue an MFA:

 

  1. Your ultimate goal is to one day teach creative writing in academia, where an advanced degree is required
  2. You want to learn from a specific author with a great reputation as a mentor, and acceptance in an MFA program is your opportunity to work with that writer
  3. You love higher learning and simply want the experience of learning more about literature and craft in a university setting.

What many writers don’t know is there is another option to an MFA without the major investment of time or money. And if your ultimate goal is to quickly make progress on a manuscript and get published, it may be the better fit for you.

An Intensive is a program of relatively short duration where writers focus on developing their craft as they produce a portfolio of work. You’ll generate a lot of writing with focused instruction to help improve your work, with substantial and timely feedback. You’ll have the opportunity to revise your work and enjoy greater 1:1 interaction in a small cohort.

I’ve been teaching creative nonfiction for nearly 6 years. After helping countless creative nonfiction writers celebrate their first publications, I saw an opportunity to design a program for emerging writers who want to make meaningful progress on a manuscript, get the 1:1 feedback they need, and pursue publication

If your ultimate goal is to publish a memoir or essay collection, I encourage you to apply to the Spark Your Story Intensive. I offer the program twice a year for a small cohort of just 10 writers. It’s an amazing opportunity to work 1:1 with a mentor who can help you hone your craft and help you get published.

 

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