A Hill I Am Willing To Die Defending

Hi everyone. I just wanted to offer these authoring thoughts on this overcast and rainy Sunday English morning…

[Photo by me, Potton, England, at about 7 AM, February 21, 2021.]

Writers are, almost by definition, riddled with self-doubts and “imposture syndrome.” We are at times therefore easy prey for those pushing the latest “fad” that we are told will make us “better.” And we are apt to fall for such especially if we think “everyone else” is (supposedly) doing it so we had better too because we do not want to be left in the writing wilderness.

However, we have to learn also when to hold the line…

…and particularly when to SLAM SHUT our wallets.

On THAT subject, about which I got into a productive and friendly (how rare is that, eh?) exchange yesterday on Twitter, I am absolutely UNCOMPROMISING.

My (now late) uncle completed only two years in a U.S. university before dropping out, and became a novelist in his early 40s after he took one or two creative writing classes. Not long before he died, he read my first two books and liked them. He also told me he had not had the higher education I had had and had felt that to write he needed some “remedial” help first. University graduates, he was emphatic, had that basis on the whole already… and just needed to practice, practice, practice.

I worked in higher education as well for over a decade and have two postgraduate degrees. I groan when I see a writer who might have less experience with a traditionally published novelist and/or with postgraduate education possibly being manipulated into undertaking an EXPENSIVE waste of their time that will only fill a university’s pocket and probably NEVER justify the cost to that writer. So when I see that subject mentioned, I tend not to scroll by:

We are told even one Stephen King agrees:

So do NOT doubt yourself:

Again, I re-emphasize: If you have a MASTERS degree… you are fully capable ALREADY of writing a book ALREADY.

Do not allow ANYONE to infer that you are somehow “unqualified” or “underqualified.”

I note that because we also know how the U.S. by now functions and it HAS TO STOP. “Degree creep” has become endemic and has helped foster a society of haves and haves a helluva lot less. Most decent-paying jobs by now require a pricey state license/course and/or expensive university degree pre-employment… because that supposedly “proves” you are then “qualified” and “official.”

Of course in some fields – medicine or flying a 777, etc. – demanding high-level training is fine. However, most work is on the job learnable and NOT a profession, so most pre-employment (paid out of pocket) educational additional occupational requirements beyond high school create UNNECESSARY hurdles to entry and therefore are classist, discriminatory, and as a result keep many in underemployment and even poverty due to the fact they cannot manage to obtain those over-inflated credentials in order to be hired in the first place. In some U.S. states, for example, just washing hair in a salon requires a state license.

That must NOT be allowed to begin to impact fiction writing.

Because I can almost picture it now…

Dear Ms. Writer:

Your book is enjoyable and thought-provoking. Unfortunately as our web site states, we require proof of an MFA with every query and your letter does not include one. For the benefit of our readers so they are fully confident we publish only to the highest literary professional standards we must therefore pass on your manuscript as we publish only those with the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, giving preference especially to those completed less than a decade ago.

Upon submitting to us your proof of having earned that educational qualification, we may reconsider your manuscript at that time. To assist you on this exciting path, the state university for example offers an excellent and affordable MFA program for $15,000 a year that you may complete in two years of full-time day study, or for just $7,500 a year in four years of part-time evening study.

Best regards for your authoring success,
Mr. Publisher

If we ever get to that sad point, stories that should be told will never be told. We will receive only a steady diet of fiction written by those who can AFFORD that degree, while those of lesser means will go unpublished and may even be financially ruined seeking one. And all because ***someones*** – particularly in universities that will always be happy to take your money – decreed a degree is required to write a novel… WHEN IT IS NOT.

To repeat: writing is a craft, not a degree-requiring profession.

So this is A HILL I AM WILLING TO DIE DEFENDING. Jane Austen DID NOT have one, so neither needs anyone else. Yes, you may need an MFA to TEACH creative writing in a university, but YOU DO NOT NEED AN MFA TO AUTHOR A BOOK AND DO NOT LET ANYONE – AND I DO NOT CARE WHO THE HELL THEY ARE – TRY TO TELL YOU OTHERWISE.

Have a good what is left of the weekend, wherever you are. 🙂


  1. I agree with you that writing is a craft or talent, not a profession otherwise there will be no passion in every sentence or paragraph in his/her writings. Though I understand we must learn the basics if we want to write BIG time. I cannot be a book author as I lack the fluency of English and other technique that I need to learn to be one, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Writing fiction is, I feel, best learned by doing it… a lot. A degree does not make one an author, yet I am seeing more and more authors talking about doing an MFA as if that is some “professional qualification” for being an author. They would, in my opinion, better spend their time writing stories and manuscripts and being critiqued for free among their peers and readers. A university degree (3 or 4 years) is MORE than enough preparation to begin a writing career.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Agree. I take classes, but I take them at a greatly discounted price, at my own pace, and when I have the cash. At least the classes finally got me a teaching gig, although my days as an adjunct may be over thanks to Covid. Honestly, at least for me, life experience served me better, but that can’t even be applied to everyone as so many young people churn out incredible work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t like the slippery slope tone I keep bumping into – particularly on Twitter. I keep coming across writers announcing they have an MFA, and they have been thus far ALWAYS Americans. Our national obsession with unnecessary “credentials” moving into yet another realm. They are obviously implying it is an official stamp that declares them “formally” an author – and clearly implying if you do not have one, well, uh, you may write nice stuff, but you are not “trained.”


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