Especially for Creative Writers

Creative writing at UMW

Writers at UMW have many opportunities to work on their craft. Courses in creative writing include Introduction to Creative Writing, Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir Writing, Creative Writing seminars, and special topics writing courses. Students can also work on publications like Aubade and Polemic. English majors can choose to enroll in the creative writing concentration, thus establishing a solid background in both literature and writing that will serve them well after graduation.

Graduate Work in Creative Writing

Very few creative writers make a living by writing or by teaching creative writing. Before going on to graduate work in the field, ask yourself why you want to earn an MFA (Master’s of Fine Arts). Are you hoping to get rich or become a famous writer or get a job teaching creative writing? The odds are against you, and an MFA won’t magically make it happen. But an MFA program can give you the time and space in which to write intensively for a few years, and provide you with a community of fellow writers who will push you to do your best work. You should be pursuing an MFA because you want to be a better writer. Anything else is gravy.

All creative writing programs require writing samples; for some schools these outweigh other criteria such as GRE scores and your GPA. Save your best work from the creative writing classes you have taken so that you can use them when you apply.

Employment for creative writers

Some creative writers teach high school English. Some teach on the university level, but it’s important to know that unless you have at least one book published, getting a full-time, permanent (tenure-track) college teaching job is nearly impossible. Some writers teach part-time, teaching an occasional class here and there, although such “piecework” seldom pays enough to live on.

Most creative writers do what everyone else does: find a job that pays the bills, but make sure to find one that leave you time to write. You can find a job entirely unrelated to writing if you want to save that part of your energy for your creative work, or you can find a job that involves professional writing. Remember: hospital newsletters need editors and writers, airline magazines need editors and writers, corporations have newsletters and reports and internal documents that have to be written . . . you get the picture. Free-lancing is another possibility, but it takes time to build up enough business on which to live.

Not everyone is going to write the Great American Novel or take home a Pulitzer in poetry. Even if you do, almost no one is going to pay you to be a creative writer. But you can still create a life in which you write regularly and well, get published, and get recognized for your writing.

Useful Resources for Creative Writers

Posted on the bulletin board on the first floor of Combs is a useful article about choosing the right MFA program (Sandra Hurtes, “How to Choose a Writing Program,” Poets and Writers Magazine 32.6 [2004].) Other potential resources include The Creative Writing M.F.A. Handbook and The Poets & Writers Guide to MFA Programs. Poets & Writers has a helpful web site as well.