Academically, the only way to become a better creative writer is getting a Bachelor’s in English and a Master’s from an MFA Program in fiction or poetry. Assuming that more schooling is the answer, these are three reasons for the academic approach:
1. You Get Shit Done
Reading and writing everyday will make you a better writer. Our hectic schedules and complicated lives usually get in the way. Schooling will give you a strict structure that requires both of these tasks. When a story has a due date attached to it, you will be more motivated to do it. As you progress through the program, you will end up with a decent amount of finished works and a library of books that you’ve read.
Warning: You may start writing for the grade and temporarily lose your voice in the process.
2. Thick Ass Skin
The publishing world feels like a desolate place that will take your hopes, dreams, and most prized work and defecate on them with rejection letters. With a bad economy and the rise of the e-book (threatening the future of bookstores as we know it), this harshness is magnified. So, as a writer, you need thick ass skin. Creative writing workshop classes can give you that. Receiving regular feedback from your peers and instructors can help you develop an understanding of what type of criticism you should take to heart and what you should mentally flush. A couple examples of the most memorable skin thickening comments I have received are:
“You need to ground your dream sequence in reality.”
“There is some merit here but your narrative needs another vehicle to drive.”
“Tentacles are simply not scary. Did you really think they were?”
Warning: Skin thickening can be a painful process.
People. I generally don’t like them too much. I’m easily annoyed. It may be the heightened sense of awareness that comes with being a writer, or I may just be a jerk. Pursuing creative writing within my program has forced me to interact with fellow writers. Some piss me off, others are irritating, but a small few have become my trusted friends. The Artificial Selection Project started because Kevin, Ryan, and I took a creative writing class together. Maybe finding a community at school could help you start something that’s just as awesome and exciting as what we’ve started.
Warning: Social interaction can be dangerous. Proceed with caution at your own risk.
Some Practical Suggestions
Research: A great first step is to find out who teaches in the program you’re interest in and to read their work. You may hate their style or you may love it! Either way, you will have a good idea of what to expect and if you’ll fit in.
Experience: Some instructors will allow you to sit in their class. If you shoot them an email, with ego stroking in it, they’ll probably let you. Another great opportunity for experience can be found at your local community college. Take a creative writing workshop class. They are structured very similarly to those fancy 4yr schools but save you on the green.