If you (or someone you know and love) have ever thought about applying for a creative writing course, may I take a moment to recommend a particularly helpful little book we've just published? It's called, with the kind of imagination that so many writers lack these days, The Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students.
Sounds dull, doesn't it? Remarkably, it's not. And this is due to the book's author, Tom Kealey - who has managed the rare feat of writing a practical, useful handbook that's actually funny, charming, and provocative at the same time. Tom has also created a wonderful blog to accompany the book, which you can find here. The book is written largely in a question-and-answer format, and the whole thing is refreshingly honest.
Working in book publishing can be intermittently entertaining. It's truly rewarding, though, on those occasions when you can help an author to bring a book to the world that will be of genuine use to those who read it. This is one of those books.
Here's an extract from the first page:
Why apply to a creative writing program?
This is an important question, and one to which you may already know the answer. I'd like to offer my own answer, though, and I hope you'll keep it in mind throughout your application experience.
People often apply to programs for a variety of reasons: to complete a manuscript, to qualify themselves to teach on the college level, to live and work within a community of writers, and/or to escape back into academia from the "real world." But here's the real reason:
You're drawing a line in the sand, and you're saying, I'm going to be a writer for the next few years, because I've always wanted to do that, and I'm going to see what I can make of myself. Any reason above and beyond that may actually be a good reason, but that promise to yourself - that you're going to follow your muse and (at my risk of being melodramatic) your dream - is the key to making your experience work for you. If you don't have that, then there are a lot of other options in life, and perhaps you should consider them instead. By choosing the graduate program route, you are staking a claim to being a writer, and you're letting everyone around you know it. Lots of people talk about being a writer; you're doing something about it.
And of course on a more practical level you'll be developing your skills as a writer, you'll be studying your craft closely, and you'll be interacting with other students, writing teachers, and lots of good books in order to find your writing voice.
You are buying yourself time. And time is what a writer needs.