Right now, I find myself in Washington State doing something I didn’t think I’d do. I’m receiving my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ve read about my journey down this part of the writer’s path. You’ve heard about the homework
and the reading and the thesis (lots of talk about the thesis
). With all that writing about the process of the MFA, I never talked about why I decided to do get this degree.
In retrospect, I knew I was getting this degree about nine years ago. I knew then I wanted to get a masters degree but my first thought was sociology, not creative writing. But over the years, the deeper I got into my writing, the more I wanted to learn and study it. I wanted to create.
I didn’t know it then but I was afraid of creating. That sounds odd but it’s true. There were some topics I was afraid to write about. These self imposed limits I thought were taboo. Even now, I’m too embarrassed to say what though topics were. Because I was limiting myself, I was limiting the writing. It lacked depth and expression. I know that now. I didn’t then.
So that’s the thing about the MFA, it takes everything you know about writing and shows you how absolutely wrong you are. Before I started I thought I knew a lot about writing. After all, I spent years as a newspaper reporter. How could I not know about newspaper writing? And doing reporters make the leap often to book writing? Obviously, I was going to breeze through this degree.
The dirty little secret that those reporters turned authors don’t tell you is that they had to relearn some things, lots of things. Crafting a piece of fiction is different than writing an article. There is a care there to mold the piece to where it wants to go. Articles are not crafted, they are written and by comparison it’s much like putting dog food on a cracker and calling it dip–it looks the same but the taste is way off.
Reporters have to relearn a lot and it’s almost as if we are playing with a handicap. So this program is no where near the breeze that folks thought it should have been.
In addition to opening me up and reteaching me how to tell a story, the MFA years were growing years for me personally. I know that I must be kind to myself. I use the word must because it is not an option. I must be kind to myself to create the work I am meant to write. I know that sounds odd but it’s true. We do not own stories, they own us. They come to us in thoughts and in whispers from the Muses.That’s when we know it’s time to get dirty with some awesome story.