Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lit Seminars, a Necessary Evil

I’m bogged down these last few weeks of the semester with what feels like an uncomfortable load of reading to do (of course, a fair amount of my stress comes from the fact that I’ve been spending too much time on my thesis and workshop stories and so, now that the semester is almost over, I’m realizing how much I have ahead of me to get my final paper ready for the lit seminar I’m taking --- poor time management is what I call that). It brings up an interesting issue related to MFA studies – literature coursework.

When I started my MFA program, I was actually a little surprised to see how much of the program was involved with not only studying and practicing the craft of creative writing, but studying and analyzing literature. That’s not to say that studying writing isn’t also part of it, of course there are workshop credits, thesis credits, forms credits. . . . And I suppose I expected, in a back of the mind sort of way, that getting a master’s degree in English would involve advanced levels of literary analysis, but I think I thought that it would be a minimal part of the program, that most of my time would be spent on creative writing.

What I’ve realized is that you gain an awful lot, as a writer, from analyzing and reading literature, too. While a lot of the ability to write well boils down to how much practice you put into it, I think a fair amount of improving as a writer comes from just reading as much as you can and analyzing it not only for craft, but in the same way that non-writers are going to analyze your work – as a work of literature.

So, while on some level it’s frustrating to look at my next few weeks and have to tell myself I probably shouldn’t be spending time on my fiction right now (and I know full well, even as I write this, that I’m going to spend time creative writing anyway and kick myself later when my final paper isn’t as good as it could have been…) at the same time, I know that I get something out of this other coursework – the non-creative writing part of a creative writing program – as a writer.

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