2017, Archives, November 2017, The MFA Years

My MFA People Pleasing Problem

In my September post, I wrote lofty goals for my MFA program at Seton Hill University. Those ideals still ring true, but when it came down to declaring my genre specialty, I choked.

Okay, I didn’t literally choke, but I did waffle back and forth on the type of novel I wanted to write.

The MFA program at Seton Hill is unique in that it focuses on genre fiction. The typical genres are: science fiction, romance, historical, young adult, and horror. However, my thesis novel doesn’t fall into any of those categories. It’s more of a women’s fiction with romantic elements. Depending on how my story develops, it may be set in the past. So that would make it a historical too.


So what did I do when given the opportunity to name my genre? I picked romance. Why? Because everyone else was writing romance.


I didn’t get a warm and fuzzy when I sent in my paperwork to declare my thesis specialty. In fact, 48 hours after I had sent in my choice, I received a list of the other students’ genre choices. Guess what some folks were writing? Women’s fiction.

I immediately changed my choice to women’s fiction with romantic elements.

Ever since I started writing with the aim of selling my work, I’ve had to battle this inner pressure to appease the market and to write something that would sell. When faced with the option of writing for myself in a MFA program, I still battled that instinct.

I’m hoping that as I continue through each semester at Seton Hill, I’ll feel more and more free as a writer to simply write from my heart. That’s part of the reason why I applied for the program in the first place. I wanted to be in a supportive artistic environment.

I think this is part of my MFA journey: learning to take artistic risks, learning to step outside of the established norms, and not caring about what other writers are doing. At least that’s my writerly hope.