Last week on LinkedIn, Hunter Walk posted an article called “It’s Fine to Get an MBA, but Don’t Be an MBA.” Walk, Director of Product Management at Google and Stanford MBA alumnus, tackles part of the “should I or shouldn’t I” debate surrounding business school. As we creative folk are aware, the same conflict applies to MFAs, on which I’ve previously discussed the reasons for and against earning a master’s in creative writing.
Walk argues that this advanced degree should not define you but, rather, should be one of your many attributes. I particularly liked this section:
Getting an MBA means you shoot out of school wanting to prove yourself and see what you can contribute to others. Being an MBA means thinking the world owes you something and that your value 10x’ed just from spending two years on a campus.
This article achieves the same results if you substitute “MFA” for “MBA.” An MFA, or lack thereof, does not make you a writer more or less worthy of being read. Certainly, the workshop should improve your craft. What matters in the end is the work on the page and who you are as an individual.
To be clear, I have an MFA in fiction from USC. Walk’s article struck a chord with me because the farther I’m removed from graduation, the less necessary it feels to publicize this degree—not from lack of pride but from having published titles that serve as my credentials instead.
My current bio says that “I earned my BA and MFA from the University of Southern California,” while the longer version spells out my BA in English and philosophy and my MFA in professional writing. I’ve long stopped using the lengthy distinction anywhere other than this website. My business cards still say “writer/MFA” because they were printed right after grad school when my recent achievement was most important. I’ve been wanting to change those for a while because, frankly and as Walk agrees, it’s good to have an MFA, but the degree is only part of me.
Grad school was a whirlwind of pages, books, and full-time employment. I had zero time for anything other than work and writing. I wrote a lot. Really, a lot. Yet after graduation, I finally had the time to stop, assess, and re-learn what made my particular brand of writing distinctive. Only then could I plan my next move.
Now that I’m well into a post-MFA life, I’m thinking of changing my official bio to “Daniel Gardina is a graduate of the University of Southern California.” Short. Simple. To the point. Because my introduction is no longer my pedigree; it’s my writing, as it should be.