Creative Writing On Change

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The world was black and white and the Bible was a prescription for whatever ailed you. Writing was the imperfect medicine for my broken soul. In other ways it didn’t, but writing helped me heal.

I was one of those people who had the answer to everything. You would think a scientist would understand the Law of Entropy, that instead of being predictable and organized, life becomes messy. The world becomes a scary place when the one thing you felt certain of completely falls apart. I found myself on a journey that I had never intended to travel. I started writing because if I didn’t, I would explode.

NYC,” “the university now rivals, if it hasn’t surpassed, New York as the economic center of the literary fiction world.” If there are indeed “two literary cultures” in Harbach’s words, we should be able to detect it.

We began by looking at writers’ diction: whether the words used by MFA writers are noticeably different than those of their non-MFA counterparts.

As a senior in high school I decided to become an orthopedic surgeon.

For the most part, life went according to the plan. I was forced to choose between a family member, someone I loved, and my church. Suddenly, like a tornado that reaps devastation in just a moment, I found myself standing in a heap of rubble, all of my answers laying at my feet, ripped to pieces. My heart was burdened, and I wrote to get what was in me out. Changed me for good: I am still an orthopedic surgeon. The debate has shifted from whether creativity could be taught to how well it can be taught and whether it be taught.The stakes are real: Creative writing has become a big business—it’s estimated that it currently contributes more than 0 million a year in revenue to universities in the U. Today’s debate falls along predictable fault-lines: One side eyes the teaching of writing suspiciously, and concludes that MFA programs may produce some good fiction, but they don’t produce enough “great literature.” The other side defends the institution by saying, if nothing else, that programs give aspiring writers the time to “dedicate oneself” to the craft of writing.So we decided to examine to what extent writing from MFA graduates differs from writing by non-graduates.We collected a sample of 200 novels written by graduates of MFA programs from over 20 leading programs (including Columbia, University of Texas at Austin, Iowa, and others) that have been published in the last 15 years.This year, about 20,000 people applied to study creative writing at MFA programs in the U. It’s a funny fact to consider, given that the idea creativity could be taught used to be widely mocked—the literary scholar John Aldridge once said the programs produced “clonal fabrications of writers.” For a time, MFA programs were oddities on college campuses: In 1975, only 52 existed. Today, there are more than 350 creative writing programs in the U. alone, and that number doubles if you include undergraduate degree programs.The rise of the MFA has changed how both writers and people in general talk about creativity.To test whether this was the case, we used a method called topic modeling that examines themes instead of individual words.And while MFA novels do tend to slightly favor certain themes like “family” or “home,” overall there’s no predictable way these topics appear with any regularity in novels written by creative writing graduates more than other people who write novels.


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