In conversations at Bread Loaf in Sicily, I’ve heard a recurring lament from some of the people here with MFAs. As any lament should be, it’s a mournful dirge – these writers feel the need to undo what they learned in their MFA programs, meaning the emphasis on craft and technique, for them, removed the spontaneity, fluidity and feeling from their writing. By no means is this true of all the MFA-writers I’ve met, here and at other conferences, but it is a cautionary tale. I’ve heard this most from writers who earned their MFAs early, in their twenties. Again, not a scientific fact, simply an observation.
At some point, I do believe any hard-working, dedicated writer can reach the point of workshop overload. I may be headed there myself, but I don’t think so, yet. There are two more conferences I want to attend — Bread Loaf in Vermont and Sewanee.
I envy my MFA-holding writer friends — not the letters after their names, but that intense experience of writing with other dedicated writers, of studying with incredible faculty. And, if I received a surprising inheritance, I would probably do it, despite the cautionary tales above, because I think I am mature enough to learn and receive, while able to sift and discard what is not useful for ME in my writing.
I will try to post soon about the readings last night. I thought reading at the outdoor venue at Reed College was amazing, at Tin House — and it was — but imagine reading your work on the stone steps of an old Italian church, to peers sitting in a courtyard, and you have a view of a castle, the Mediterranean and mountains. Writer heaven, again.
May you have a heavenly writing day! Happy #writing.