January brought social media announcements of disabled writers going back to college. Between those posts, I saw others lament their lack of degrees. A lot of us, it seems, desire(d) a college education without the ability to obtain one. If what you want is knowledge (and not necessarily the paper), there are alternatives out there.
The eight options below take a variety of approaches. For the best results, mix and match. There are probably more positives or negatives for each option than listed.
If you're continuing your creative writing education without a traditional college path, how are you accomplishing it?
Alternatives to an MFA:
1. The library.
Pros: Free, numerous resources, librarians to assist you with research, Internet access, most libraries are at least somewhat accessible, go at your own pace. Some even have Gale Courses.
Cons: No consistent guidance, finding what you need might prove tricky, no critique or mentorship.
2. Auditing college classes.
Pros: Real college experience, guided learning, no pressure to turn in assignments. Reduced cost (but not free).
Cons: Accommodations might not be made for your needs, no participating in discussions, limited (or no) access to professors if you're struggling, timed commitment.
3. Online courses.
Pros: Stay home, certain classes have group discussions, more flexible schedule, guided learning, instructors may be available to help you.
Cons: Time commitment required, some classes cost money, technology used might not be right for every disability. Some places allow anyone to post a "course", so you have to be cautious.
4. A critique/writing group.
Pros: Free, feedback/advice, possible support outside the group.
Cons: Time commitment required, local groups might meet in inaccessible places, you might end up using your energy on other people's work more than your own.
Pros: Connect with industry professionals/other writers, interesting panels, possible pitch sessions, readings.
Cons: Most conferences cost serious money and aren't accessible. Online offerings are meager. Not great for long-term education.
Pros: Literary magazines can expose you to new work and styles; reading them also gives you insight into what they publish. Writing magazines can keep you updated on publishing news and give you editing tips. Some services submit for you and/or keep track of where you've submitted. Delivered to your door.
Cons: Costs money (and, with submission services, a lot), limited information, no interaction, you'd need quite a few different resources to cobble together a well-rounded experience.
Pros: Feedback/advice, instructor-lead sessions, some instructors might be writers you admire.
Cons: Same as conferences, except there seem to be more workshop opportunities available online.
Pros: One-on-one advice/feedback, more relaxed interactions, can help open doors or shape a career. Free (hopefully).
Cons: A bad mentor can mess you up worse than a bad conference because of the trust and proximity of the relationship. Finding the right one is difficult.