I really think that writing, especially creative writing, even if it is nonfiction, is ultimately an autodidactic pursuit. I don't think I have read an interview of any writer, successful or not, who while crediting parents or friends or an MFA program or some other motivator has not in some way exposed that their skills are the result of spending time facing and conquering the blank page.
It seems to me that writing is best learned through experience rather than by being taught and I would imagine that the very best sources of writing education are based on allowing the writer the freedom to create and then bring what they create to people with an openness in sharing what it is that works and how to support that. I can't imagine writing being something that is even passed on from one generation to the next. There are certainly sons and daughters of great writers who write and competantly so, but they maybe lack the craftsmanship of their parent. The flip side of that coin is maybe true as well in that a moderate writer can give birth to a great writer, but was it parentage that caused the love of writing and the ability to be so good at it?
There has been a new rucous lately within the big debate over MFAs and their value and impact on writing that is rather long and, frankly, too annoying to give a huge explanation of, but you can find one of the cannon shots here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n18/elif-batuman/get-a-real-degree. It is worth reading for a bit, but not too long as the writer, Elif Batuman, goes on endlessly in a really pompous attack on MFAs and their impact. She could of and perhaps should of condensed it to: MFA? Don't bother. However, she gets a lot off of her chest.
The reason I mention this is not to become the chronicler of the MFA debate, but to raise the issue that came to my mind while reading Batuman's piece, which is that writing is mostly self-taught. Even with a high school diploma, BA and MFA or even a PhD, writing is something that comes from the love of doing. And I really like that. In fact I like that a lot because in a way writing is maybe the last place where a person can simply study in their own right and place themselves into the world as a writer. You may not be any good at it, but you can do it without the need of certification.
I think this cuts to where I see the value of an MFA, it will help you, but it absolutely should not be the ticket to admission. I want writing and publishing to be open to as many people who can string together a good story as possible.
Yes getting some help is very good and helpful, but you can do it on your own.
Causes James Buchanan Supports
Expanding health care in the US, ending war as a viable tool of foreign policy, and issues related to social justice in general.