The Art of Writing Should Be An Even Playing Field


The art of writing should be an even playing field.

As it stands right now in early 2017, there is a logical debate going on between critics of the Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA) and those who support it, believing it has a place for anyone pursuing a writing career. There are many articles for or against the MFA but as an objective viewer watching the debate from afar, does it really matter?

For example, I enrolled in an English creative writing class in college over thirty years ago which allowed  you to write whatever you wish, only to face stern criticism as you read your piece in front of an unsatisfied professor and other students with writing experience not afraid to state their opinion. The first two short stories I submitted were met with less than a positive response. The first story was of my own creation, not written for the class. The somewhat ambiguous ending in their eyes prompted a lot of probing questions that did not live up to their standards. The second short story I wrote exclusively for the class was a bit more polished and grounded in reality but again, it was deeply scrutinized by the professor and classmates who did not found it appealing to their taste. While I submitted the first two short stories, one I wrote strictly for myself but wanted to share, I wrote another story I had finished a year prior as a personal creative venture. It was a literary project I wrote for myself. It was not meant for the class so when I read the first four pages of what I wrote in print as an eleven page tale, the reaction based on the tension I interjected between two of the main characters caught the ear of my professor who wanted to hear more. My classmates with a critical eye could not find anything to gripe about. I was pleased for once I wrote a satisfactory piece that I felt like writing and not because I wanted to give a good impression to my professor. With that third short story that is a short story I created for myself, it allowed me to move forward and write the short stories I felt like writing without the influence of my professor or critics. Could you imagine what would have happened if this same professor told me I needed a MFA to be a ‘serious writer’? If I were told that back in the 1980’s, I would have considered it but I feel a degree could not simply replace the hard work, time and dedication I put into creating the best work possible.

Besides, shouldn’t be the effort one puts into their writing that ultimately counts instead of obtaining a degree that a select few, including agents feel is a ticket to success? While this author is not against any aspiring writer working hard to obtain a MFA, those of us who stopped with only a Bachelor’s Degree or even writers without either one shouldn’t be judged on their lack of dedication, drive and motivation. It should be the individual writer’s decision on how far they wish to take their career and creative projects.

What I learned from that creative writing class is that there will always be critics, those who have reservations about your creative projects and those who will simply wish you nothing but failure because in their eyes you will never be good enough or talented enough to meet their standards. As long as you as a writer continue to believe in your stories, do your homework by retaining the literary knowledge to succeed and study other famous writers who have found their measure of success, you will also find the same whether you’ve earned a MFA or not.

Charles L. Chatmon
Authors N Focus


How the Literary Class System has Impoverished Literature
Six Myths About the Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts
Why Writers Love to Hate the M.F.A.

About Chatmon's Books

Chatmon's Books is your online bookstore for the best in emerging authors, writers' workshop CD's and DVD's, bookmarks, poetry postcards and more. #LiteratureUnlimited

Posted on February 13, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This article, I have to say is near and dear to my heart. Because I’ve been writing for years. It is my passion, my love and it’s something I will be doing for the rest of my life. I’ve made writing work for me and I don’t have a degree at all. You hit the nail on the head when you expressed “Besides, shouldn’t be the effort one puts into their writing that ultimately counts instead of obtaining a degree that a select few, including agents feel is a ticket to success?”
    because that’s how they try and make people like me feel. If I have no degree, successful I won’t be.

    I’m like by whose standards? What is success to you? When I began writing my book, I was happy about this long awaited dream of mine I finally was able to pursue. But I have to be honest, I endured so many mixed feelings, because, people will try and make you feel un-worthy of the talent you already possess. However, though I felt this way I still proceeded, nothing was going to stop me, and then, I received a chance to meet Nikki Giovanni and I asked the question “being that she was a professor and had a degree”, I asked “I’m currently writing a poetry book, be it that you’re a professor and you write poetry. Do you think I should go to school for this before I put it out? Or not?

    Nikki, responded, no you don’t have to go to school for it. Put it out there, see where it takes you. So, just like you, degree, teacher and all, you can appreciate work and talent that may not have the degree. Shonda Rhimes said, she hates the term aspiring writer, she said “To me, it’s just you’re a writer. Go write” that is me all day.

    Now, do I believe in school? Yes. I believe school gets you resources, you may not necessarily come across on your own, such as Fellowships, Writers Retreats and grants, but all of that, still never negates what you have to offer, if you ask me. Thank you Charles for this article, as it has re-inspired me and made me feel wonderfully great about who I am and what I do. From one poet/writer to another, keep being you because poetry/writing is you. Thanks for understanding the under achieved writers, such as myself, per our society. (sarcasm smirk). At least you get it. 🙂

    Quanda R. Graves (Until)
    Author of I Just Want to Write! (which is quite appropriate for people with all of the extras) just let us write.

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