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Saturday, April 23, 2011

There Is No Finish Line
We've been working our way through DIY MFA and suddenly it has occurred to me that this is our the last week of April (and therefore also the last week of DIY MFA 2.O).  I have to admit, I panicked a little.
"OMG, what am I going to do in May?" I thought as I hyperventilated and gasped for air.  And then I remembered: there is no one finish line in writing.  You finish one phase and you start a new one.  Once one goal is met, you move on to the next one.  There are small victories along the way, of course--and we should definitely celebrate those--but ultimately there is no finish.
This news might be hard for some of us to hear.  After all, it can be nice to think of one writing project as this big goal and once we finish it, we're done.  It's the same way with traditional MFA programs.  Some students focus on the thesis and the program as the end-all-and-be-all, but it doesn't work that way.  You need to see beyond that finish line to the millions of projects that come after.  It can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Ultimately, I like to look one or two steps ahead.  If you look at all the millions of possibilities, it can make you freeze up.  I prefer to look at just the next step.  Here are a few quotes that have always inspired me:
 "My idea of life is the next page.  The next paragraph.  The next sentence."
~Charles Bukowski
"Writing is like driving a car at night.  You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
~E.L. Doctorow

Homework:  Go to a writing space that's comforting to you.  Bring a beverage or snack that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  The point is to coddle your inner writer a little today because you'll be doing some hard work.
Before you start your sprint, take 10-15 minutes and think about the next step.  This is not a time for stressing, but a time for dreaming.  Let yourself imagine the possibilities of what could be next after your current project.  Once you've finished brainstorming, bring yourself back to the present, set the dreams aside and do your sprint for today.  (Sprint badges are posted in the photos section of our Facebook page.)

Here in NYC it's rainy and disgusting so I thought it would be a nice day to write "in."  I'll be curling up with my notebook and a pot of hot vanilla-coconut tea and will be brainstorming what's next after this round of DIY MFA.  I promise to fill you in on the details once I've figured it out!

Would anyone like to share what they think their next step is?  I know I'd love to hear it!


ash said...

Just had to say, thank you for all the posts and the awesome exercises. It's been rough keeping up and actively commenting/tweeting with work (hooray daily newspaper) and the night shift (hooray night owlness), but I've got a character forming and a story brewing, and the WIP is slowly/surely/steadily coming together!!!


Gabriela Pereira said...

Ash--No worries! I know DIY MFA can get a little intense, but I figure I'll just keep putting the exercises and activities out there they'll be waiting for all you DIY MFA-ers whenever you have time to get to them. So glad to hear your character and story are taking off. Write on! :)

Kerryn Angell said...

Eek! I had a little panic then realising DIY MFA was coming to a rush of an end and my plan was to get back to my novel. I need to transition myself between the two.

I wrote a bit about the process and journey of writing, taking the scenic route, rather than rushing from goal to goal on my blog this week. So it's definately something on my mind right now.

Gabriela Pereira said...

Kerryn--Fear not, the "DIY MFA vs. WIP" dilemma is definitely not a zero-sum game! You can do both together. A lot of DIY MFA can be applied to your WIP, in fact, many of the activities and exercises we've discussed this month can be tweaked so that you're still being productive on your WIP.

In fact, the whole idea of DIY MFA is to help writers establish a satisfying and sustainable writing life, and that means building in time for the WIP too!

I love the image of taking the scenic route in your writing! I myself have been trying to focus more on enjoying the process rather than rushing to the finish.

Kerryn Angell said...

You're so right. Thinking of the exercises we've had this month they could all be applied to my WIP or enhance my writing experience. They could be warm up exercises to a writing session or help with brainstorming. Thanks.

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