I stole that title from Eudora Welty. I like the book, but I have stolen the title not because it’s one of my all-time favorites but because if I’m going to talk about my beginnings, I want to be clear. I’m just one person. I’m just one writer out of thousands and thousands. I’m going to be giving my opinion, but much like most advice you can find on the web, you should consult a better source. In the case of any writing or publishing advice I give, you should consult many many better sources. That’s what the internet is good for, anyway. That’s what books are good for.
You’ll hear this a lot from me: Your mileage may vary. I say it with regards to things I like or don’t like (movies, books, articles, web sites) because I happen to believe that there is—to go against the idiom—accounting for taste. I’ll tell you what I think, but I won’t pretend that you might feel differently. Maybe that makes me the worst critic in the world, but who ever said I was a critic? I am not.
But I’ve been a writer forever. I started in the second grade. It’s not the same as being a violin prodigy, but when you start something that early, it has to come from somewhere. For me, it started in books. I read a lot. I still do. We’ll talk another time about how reading is the only way to become a writer. So age six was my first beginning, but I’ve had a second beginning of sorts, and since this one has resulted in my getting published, let’s just skip there.
My second beginning was when I started an MFA program in creative writing. I feel sort of dumb to keep saying We’ll talk all about that later but here’s another instance of that. What I think about MFA program in general and my own in particular could fill up a lot of pages. For now, I just want to say that jumping into an MFA program—even if I had to pay for classes, even if I hadn’t spent a lot of time preparing or stacking up pages to bring into workshop, even if I had no idea what I was doing—was the best thing I ever did. It was about getting started. It was about taking a chance. I left a rather well-paying job to do it, and I still believe it was the right choice. (FOR ME. Mileage may vary, blah, blah.)
Every few years or so there’s a high profile article about Whether Or Not Creative Writing Can Be Taught. This year’s specimen is from the New Yorker. All I have to say is that if you can get through the entire article, you A) Love creative writing and maybe don’t need a program to get started and B) No longer need to buy the book the guy was reviewing.
Some might argue that I could have taken the leap without leaping into a program, but that’s how I decided to fly. And it’s been great. (I just graduated. Yeah, I’m floundering a little. It’s to be expected.) My point in this post isn’t pro-MFA or con, it’s just pro-leap. It’s pro-risktaking. It’s pro-justgettinggoing. No one will ever talk me out of this. This was one writer’s beginnings. What will your beginning be?