Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, City University of HK
My wonderful MFA in Creative Writing is nearly over. After two years, precious, hard, sometimes unhappy, often revolutionary, pregnant, now things are accelerating towards the end. On July 15 I’ll get my formal certificate and in November, they told me, there will be a graduation ceremony and the “penguin walk,” about which I’m very curious, of course, and just a little worried. But it will be only a ceremony, months after the conclusion of the MFA, and I cannot imagine the taste.
Now I’m just sorrowful because I’m not young anymore and the roads and the opportunities are becoming dramatically narrower. I didn’t sleep so much in these nights; I don’t like ends and departures. The experience of the Master has been rich and deep from every point of view, and moving too: it enhanced my life, sensibility, and humanity. I can say that I’m a fully different person from that one who entered the all of the University, two years ago, with the same bold attitude used in business activities around the world. But now the Master is finishing, and today (it is still raining and raining, what a strange season in Hong Kong!) the sentiment is bitter.
The lessons and the workshops often had the power of touching something delicate, something that would require a sort of raccoglimento, a religious meditation. Sometimes I was out of the tone, I know, sometimes over and sometimes below the right line. Sometimes I didn’t understand, I confess, or I was critical or disconcert because the paradigms changed and the changes hurt. I appreciated the mission (because we are talking of mission, nothing less) of my teachers and the only regret I have is that I needed to enter slowly, maybe too slowly into the stream they were drawing and leading, into the web the MFA was creating, session after session.
Some disordered points I’d underline, hoping to have the opportunity to come back to them in the future:
– Language, form, craft. Extraordinary topic: more, more, and more, please, more. I need these discussions and openings again, and this rude discipline. It is the Calvinist job I was in need of to discipline my disorder and especially my arrogance, my distance from the reader. Especially the workshops “Reading like a Writer” were useful, important. Great indeed.
– Brain, heart, and passion, & muscles. Writing is a rude discipline that also requires perseverance, determination, and tenacity. You have to write every day despite difficulties, crisis or delays. You must build your muscles and enter “the zone,” as Junot Diaz (who received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his wonderful novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”) explained in one of his brilliant lessons. Goals, plans, milestones and never give up, if you want to be a good writer.
– Comparison with the market. There are many good contests for new writers at highly ranked literary journals. The MFA opens this kind of window and pushes you to participate. You have to compare your scripts with the market, with other writers from all over the world and to learn from your defeats. This is a parallel learning experience well instructive – and hard.
– To the market, because art is also communication, but in the meantime: from market to “from”. The most revolutionary concept indeed. Actually a kind of ideology, a flag that fits with the deep sense of culture that pervaded the air. I liked it, and I’d be happy to discuss more this issue. I had a lot of positive doubts and thoughts, and I have to interiorize it more, I know, even though it has been one of the keys of my improvement.
– Freedom. Very delicate matter that requires the right audience, by the way. You have to be free in writing and to accept several constraints, of course. Vice versa, you have to follow some rules, sure, but who made the rules? Is it possible to change them? I got interesting points of view and insights from many teachers and external lecturers, some of them incredibly smart. The contact with different cultures, with people coming from all over the world, with writers so unique and at the same time so universal has been one of the main assets of this MFA. What splendid people are in the world, incredible characters and individualities, wonderful voices, astonishing writers, touching poets! I love literature; I’d like to be part of this world.
– Intellectual colonialism. The most interesting new topic, to me. Can I submit my application for the new Master dedicated only to it? I could witness, I could teach too how to survive greedy colonialists. I agree with Juan José Morales when he says, “our country is our language.” And what happens to your identity when a foreign country imposes its own language? Fantastic matter of study and reflection: also from this perspective, the Master has been the window I was dreaming about.
– Quality. A writer without quality is like a person without compassion and humbleness. There are many formulas and models in writing (as well as in business, by the way), but they are all useless if they don’t encompass the concept of quality, or rather if Quality doesn’t drive them. If we don’t defend quality and beauty will be dead. I’m glad that the MFA touched with great sensibility this transversal matter, taking care of personal sensibilities and difficulties but firmly marking the absolute necessity of this feature.
– Culture. And finally here is culture, after a due long path. Not knowledge, not information or research but culture. Only two years are nothing to reach and develop this issue, what a pity, but we widely touched and faced it, understanding the difference!
What can I say at the end?
With gratitude and affetto to all my teachers, my colleagues and the wonderful, professional and nice staff of the MFA,
First of all to Ms. Xu Xi, Writer-in-Residence & MFA Program Leader Department of English.
Thank you so much.
I strongly recommend:
Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Department of English, City University of Hong Kong