Omigoodness, do you know what today is? Do you, do you?
Of course you do, because it's the day we've all been waiting for...
DIY MFA at iggi U is finally here!
For those just joining us, we've been enjoying a few days iggi U Orientation, which will continue through Friday. Don't worry, classes will be starting on Saturday and go for a full four weeks, through the end of September.
To register officially for classes (and be part of our super-exciting contest), check out our Course Catalog and then fill out the Registration form.
As you put together your DIY MFA, you can find links to past DIY MFA posts and more information on the iggi U page.
Now that we've reviewed those details, let's get down to business. Over the last week I've been writing a lot about goals so today we're finally going to get started on planning specific goals for the DIY MFA. I'm a firm believer in the idea that a full writing life must include the four main strands of the MFA in writing. The trick is finding a balance between these strands, and this balance can vary from person to person.
Reading: Writers who don't read are at a serious disadvantage because they're working in a vacuum. Reading, both in your genre and outside it, helps put your work in context. In DIY MFA, Love of Literature represents the reading component.
Writing: This one's a no-brainer. If you don't write, you can't be a writer. It's that simple. The trick here is not just the quantity of your writing, but the strategy of it. I've seen writers who are so prolific it makes me want to pinch them to see if they're human, but then when I look closely at their work it reads like variations on a theme. The idea of a DIY MFA isn't just to produce, but to challenge yourself and choose projects that will force you to grow as a writer. I'm also a pragmatist and I believe that it's important to make the most of my writing time. To that end, my suggestion: focus on writing smart and strive for projects that make you grow. Because this is such a big topic, we've got two classes that deal with the writing component in DIY MFA: Craftivity, which focuses on craft, and Brain Bootcamp, which places more emphasis on sparking ideas and creativity.
Critique: Giving and receiving critique can be one of the most valuable parts of the writing life. Of course, there are several caveats with critiques--many of which we'll cover over the next few weeks--but when handled strategically and constructively, critique can be the difference between a book being so-so and it being great. Working the Workshop is the DIY MFA class that covers this topic.
Community: Reading and writing are a solitary business and it's important for writers to connect with other writers. But community isn't just about socializing with writerly folk. It's also important to be informed about what's happening in the business so you can make smart decisions and can avoid pitfalls. One of the best ways to get this information is through publishing talks, conferences or writer associations. Another wealth of information is the internet, though you need to be more discriminating because not all information on the internet is true or helpful. In the end, as we talked about yesterday, it's about finding the right writing network(s) for you. These can not only help you meet interesting writers, but can give you access to important information about the publishing business. Creative Community is where we'll be talking about finding and building our writing communities.
Now I imagine your wondering: "how on earth am I supposed to find time to do all these things? Some of us have lives, ya know..." The trick here isn't just about quantity of time, but quality and balance. The balance I've found that works for me is a ratio where writing gets about half of my writing life time, reading gets one quarter and the rest is divided between community and critique, since the latter two tend to run together. Like this:
Your Task for Today: Don't worry, you don't have to list out a specific schedule (rigid rules often just end up getting broken anyway). Instead, pull out a sheet of paper and draw a big circle. Now divide the circle like a pie, giving a different slice to each of these four areas: reading, writing, critique and community.
The pie represents the time you plan to dedicate to DIY MFA. Some people might be able to dedicate several hours a week while others may have to rely on "borrowing" snippets of time between their many responsibilities. In the end, the focus here is not on quantity, but on balance. Find a balance that works for you, then divide whatever time you have accordingly.
Hint: Post your diagram somewhere in your workspace, or paste it in your writing notebook.