I have always thought that online nit-picking was silly.
I mean, Twitter wars? Facebook fights? Grow up, people.
I enjoy social networking, mostly for keeping up with friends and family, funny one-liners from my favorite writers (Moms Who Drink and Swear!) and photos of picturesque places around the Midwest. But if I want bickering, I can just tell my sons to mow the lawn or clean the bathroom in the real world. I don't need the internet for that.
But then I stumbled on a seemingly innocuous question (it's always the innocent looking conversations that get me into trouble . . . ) in the Book Publishing Professionals group on Linkedin.
"I was accepted into an M.F.A. in Creative Writing program, at a senior stage of my life, but a junior stage of my writing," asked a group member named Phillip F. "I feel I am starting at the right time; others say I'm too late. Ideas?"
Bring on the warm fuzzies, I thought to myself, and the responses were almost all encouraging. "Sometimes it takes a lifetime of experience before you have something worthwhile to say," was a standard reply.
Then, this reply showed up in the discussion: "DO NOT PAY FOR AN MFA," someone named "Amy Charles" lectured. (Amy, lowercase letters are your friend.) "Unless you really want to make a gift of money to the university and the professors in the writing program, who make more money than you likely ever will from writing."
About this same time, I clicked over to some blabbering in the London Review of Books that advised writers considering an MFA to get a real degree.
And I am here to tell you, I nit-picked. And I bickered. Since when does someone named "Amy" know what's right for every single writer? Since when does the London Review of Books get to compare Master of Fine Art in Creative Writing programs to "Stuff White People Like" and get away with it?
Not here and not now. I'm paying for an MFA, I'm white, and you know what? I don't like that stuff. Not at all.
Blanket statements get me riled up because no matter how well intentioned, they are the voice of the oppressor. Do as I say, or else.
Well, my life to date is practically a living, breathing monument to doing the exact opposite of what people in authority have demanded. And you know what? Things have turned out even better than I could have hoped for. And, unintentioned side benefit? My struggles have made a half-way decent story.
Looks like I've made it this far; there's no reason for me to start listening to bad advice now. Guess what, Amy? I'm currently a tuition-paying MFA student in Queens University of Charlotte's low residency program. When I graduate in another couple of years with my MFA degree, I plan to be a Maelstrom of Future Action. If I really apply myself, Marshal of Funky Authority is not out of the question. And maybe, just maybe, if I keep up with all the required reading, this intense and devoted study of writing will truly make me a Master of Frigging Anything.
You don't earn a title like that by paying attention to blanket statements that begin with "don't," "can't," or "won't."
Hey, stranger things have happened. And you know what? Most of them have even been good ones.