Saturday, September 18, 2010

A degree in writing

Sometimes I think that the most immediate benefit of the graduate workshop isn't becoming a better writer, but becoming a better reader.

I believe this is mostly from forcing yourself to understand other people's work, to understand what's working in other people's work. Perhaps the poem isn't even doing something you haven't seen before, you just thought it was uninteresting, or not useful (and you were wrong).

Do other people share this view of the graduate workshop, i.e. becoming an even better reader than you are becoming a writer?

A corollary: a poet I know likes to ask people whether they are readers first or writers first, and he thinks that if you say writer first then you're not going to become as good a writer as you otherwise would. I tend to disagree. Thoughts?


  1. I'm definitely a reader first, writer second.

  2. I totally had these same thoughts last year that reading all of the different writing styles in workshop was making me a better reader, which was an unexpected benefit of an MFA program for me.

    I think your friend's interpretation of his question's answer is unfair. Reading makes me want to write and now I read mainly to benefit my writing in some way. Am I a writer first since I'm reading to be a better writer? Or am I a reader first since writing follows reading for me? Ask your friend lol I would say writer first because I'm proud to assert myself as a writer.

  3. I totally agree that the MFA experience made me a better reader and editor of my own work and the work of others.

    I tend to think of myself as a reader first because reading is what made me want to write, but I'm also trying to assert and admit that I am a writer so I like to say it like JT: I'M A WRITER!

  4. I also agree that the MFA program is making me a better reader in a lot of ways: more careful, more patient, more thoughtful, and more critical.

    And I would echo Jessie above. I was a reader before I was a writer, so if that's what your friend means by "first" then I'm a reader first. But they're inseparable for me now; my reading inspires writing, my writing sends me back to reading.


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