We live in a magical time. No really, we do. This age of information makes learning a new skill, improving your craft, and finding your tribe remarkably accessible. All you have to do is a quick Google search and you’ll be flooded with more ideas and connections than you could have time to work with if you spent the rest of your life sifting through them all.
So it amazes me when people stay stuck in a rut, when they don’t reach for what they’ve always wanted. It’s right there in front of you! Grab it!
I am one of those people sometimes. It took me nearly a decade after I graduated from college with a BA in English Literature to branch out and decide to reach for my dreams. Still, the more I connected with others who were doing what they loved, the more I realized that it was possible. And one day I just couldn’t sit idly by any longer. I had to give my dreams a try.
Now, just because all of the information you could possibly need is there for the taking doesn’t make the process of achieving your dreams easy. But you can do this thing called being a writer, and you can do it successfully, if you own your process.
What Do You Need to Succeed?
What do I mean by own your process? I mean know yourself. Know what you need in order to be successful. Do you need to enroll in an MFA program and have some external authority riding you to make sure you meet your deadlines and work on your craft? Go enroll then! There are plenty of programs out there willing to teach you what you want to know, willing to give you the structure that you need to make the most of your writing.
But if you don’t have the funds or the flexibility in your schedule to make an MFA program work, does that mean you’ll never become the writer you want to be? No way! You just have to know what you need and then go out and get it.
Do you need writing instruction? There are blogs (ahem) like this one that give you tips and advice for crafting a better narrative or strengthening your main character. Do you need inspiration? Cultivate a reading list of authors you love and authors who can teach you something about your own writing as well.* Do you need motivation and accountability? Look for writer-friends who will make sure you put your butt in the chair and do your work. They might be people you know in your hometown, or they might be people you know on the web.
When I decided it was time to seriously pursue my dreams of writing and owning my own business, I went straight for whatever advice and help I could find. I found the DIY MFA community, to level up my writing game. I began intentionally setting aside reading time for books on writing and editing. I connected with the Editorial Freelancers Association to ask questions and get advice from other editors who are out there doing what I want to do. And I have an accountability buddy who meets me on Google Chat at least 3 mornings a week, to make sure that I get up and write/revise/outline, whatever I need to stay on target for my goals.
Whether you go to a traditional program or cobble your own MFA together (like I am) in the space you have to do it, you are the one doing the work. The writing is yours, and the ideas are, too. You don’t actually need the permission or validation of an outside party to get started. You just have to have the willingness to try something new, to take a risk, learn a new skill, to fail and try again. As I said, these are magical times. All the resources you need are at your fingertips, just waiting for the spark that YOU give them to come to life.
*Just FYI, the fab Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA is releasing a BOOK in June. Learn more about it here.