As an author, I feel so far off the beaten track of techniques, theories, movers and shakers, and writing schools, that I must confess I have no idea what’s going on in terms of best practices and goals. Furthermore, I don’t think I care.
I subscribe to several writing magazines. Some of the material is interesting. Most of it makes my eyes glaze over. And that includes the 1000000 ads per issue about MFA programs. These ads list their faculty. I’ve never heard of 99.9% of them. Of course, they haven’t heard of me either, so that’s no a condemnation of those running the show.
My brand of heresy is that I think many writing programs kill off more students than they help. My English minor in college just about killed me. Courses in taxidermy and underwater basket weaving would have been more helpful.
Yes, I’m a rebel when it comes to how writing and literature are taught. Yet, I think most prospective writers will do much better if they are left to figure out how to find their own voice and style without prompts from a professor. Sure, there are plenty of good tips out there about practical matters.
If you want to write, then write. You alone know what interests you, what kinds of stories are haunting your dreams to be told, and how words best spill from your brain onto the printed page. It’s a natural thing. Programs and rules tend to disrupt that natural thing: writing as only you can do it.
While you may not know a dozen theories your 300- or 400-level college course wants to impart to you, you do know yourself and how you see the work you wish to do. The drummer or song or inspiration behind your work always comes from within, not somebody standing behind a lectern who says ABC is good and XYZ is bad.
I always picked XYZ and made it work as my way of mocking silly writing theories. As Mark David Gerson says in his popular writing books, “There are no rules.” Every time a guru says don’t, I can show them a successful author who did it. We always need something fresh and innovative, and sticking to ancient rules ensures we’ll never find it. Which is not to suggest we need pure chaos, though a little bit of chaos in writing can be energizing.
Good writing, I think, comes from people who thought it was more important to know themselves rather than to know the substance of an MFA program. Why? They chose life over conformity.