I know some big names (Chuck Wendig among them, bless his soul) have responded to that MFA Dude. The article came rolling through my social media feeds a couple days ago, at first being shared with lots of praise and "This is what I've been saying for years" sort of comments. It was shared by people I like and people I respect and people whose work I love.
So I read it, and I read it thinking it would be a positive experience. Here are my reactions, as they came to me the first time I read it.
We are either born with talent or we aren't. Well, that's not so bad. I mean... I could have been born with a talent that I just didn't recognize until I was older. That happens all the time, right?
Oh. I had to have discovered it and started using it by the time I was a teenager? Welllll... I had an easy time writing essays in high school. That counts, right? I'm sure it counts.
If I complain about not having time to write, I should drop out? Well, I'm not in an MFA program, so I don't have anything to drop out of. *keep reading* Oh. He means I should quit altogether. I guess I don't really "complain" about not having time, it's just that I'm nursing a colicky newborn and had a failed adoption last fall and my husband lost his job twice in the last year and that's not really an excuse for not writing, I guess...
Oh, I AM a serious reader! I have something going for me! Yes!
I never read Infinite Jest. I should get on that. It'll improve my feminist fantasy writing, I'm sure. I should also read Tolstoy. It's shameful that I never have, honestly. I should never admit that to people. Maybe I should give Jane Austen another chance. There's more there for me to try to love, I can get smarter. I just need to try harder.
Well. I'm not trying to be a sh** writer and I'm not writing memoirs so maybe this part doesn't apply to me.
MFA professors don't help people get published. That's good to know, I guess. Money wasted? I don't know. I'm getting confused by this.
Nobody is supposed to think highly of me and I'm supposed to keep my writing a secret.
I've done this all wrong.
Yes. I'm sort of kidding. But mostly not. I really did have these thoughts, and I really did doubt myself for a day or so after reading the original article. Serious doubts. The kind that are so loud you can't hear anything else so you go vacuum the house just to drown out the noise. I'm overwhelmingly grateful that published writers, people a lot farther down the path than me, responded to this guy. I needed to hear those voices.
And we all need to know how words can affect people around us.