November 23, 1994
The Limited Value of Master's Programs in Creative Writing
How does one learn to become a writer? The answer now put forward by many universities -- and one that I must question -- is: Enroll in a master-of-fine-arts program in creative writing.
The old answer, of course, was that you learned the writing trade in the marketplace, under conditions that forced a certain economy of style and fostered self-discipline. Charles Dickens worked as a parliamentary scribe. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck began their careers as newspaper reporters,