#WriterWednesday What Your MFA Program Didn’t Tell You

Every Wednesday The Neophyte Author will share some advice on writing–this may include tips on creativity or the business side of writing. Sometimes the tips will come directly from the Neophyte Author and some weeks they will come from other authors. To launch #WriterWednesdays the Neophyte Author will be sharing some tips. 

Back in December I bumped into someone who I’d completed my MA in Creative Writing and she was overjoyed to see me and my book. Of course, she had a ton of questions about how I got from being a writer in theory to being an actual published author. It that moment I realized my writing program didn’t tell me that and I bet yours didn’t either. Now without God on my side I would still be asking the same questions she asked me to my favorite author, “just how exactly did you do that,” but here are a few things I learned along the way. 

Get Your Manuscript Together

Unless you’re a trust fund baby you didn’t invest in studying writing at this advanced level for it to sit on your thumb drive. You pursued an MFA with the hope of earning some type of money with your writing–whether it’s to studentssupplement your regular stream of revenue or as your sole stream of revenue you were hoping to earn something from workshopping all of that writing. Here’s what you need to do: 

  • Find out the requirements of your genre and make sure your work is up to snuff
  • Have your manuscript professionally edited before you think about sending it anywhere
  • Join some kind of writing community, guild, or group in your neighborhood. You’ll be connected to other writers, readers, and some places like The Center for Fiction includes access to a writing cave as part of your membership

Break Out of the Writing Cave

It’s great that you’re this deep existential thinker and your characters can transcend space and time, but…

  • You need to start promoting your work
  • You need to start learning the business (publishing, marketing, tracking sales)
  • You need to start building your brand (who are and what are your books about). Even if you have a publisher they will not come up with this stuff for you. 

These are just the basics to get you going. A starter pack in a sense. Now, talk to me–what do you need and/or want to know about writing? The Neophyte Author will do it’s best to get you some solid advice and tips. 

Don’t Ditch the Dream–Do the Dream

So, the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled and I am sorry, but Shonda Rhimes commencement speech at Dartmouth wasn’t

From Rollingout.com
From Rollingout.com

“epic” as some say and I don’t think she “gets it”. 

Were valid points made? Yes. Important points? Yes. Life does suck after college graduation. We all should commit some of our time to a cause that we care about and it is true when trying to multitask in life whatever apparent professional success you have foreshadows some failure elsewhere in life. After writing a butt kicking lesson or meeting a writing goal I’ve set means I’ve neglected my husband or I didn’t do my daughters’ hair. But that’s just proves the old adage to be true a jack of all trades is a master of none. 

Before writing this post I contemplated writing this post several times. I don’t want any beef with Shonda’s followers. I sat down and watched the whole speech rather than glean off of what others had already written. Challenging Shonda and the residents of Shondaland is entering dangerous and hostile territory, but a week later I really think she should stick to her territory (writing for television) because telling people to ditch their dreams and diminishing dreams into momentary flights of fancy isn’t a lesson. It’s condescending. 

Granted, she’s right we all need to have our own dreams and not desire to be someone else or live their life and their successes. We can’t step on the scale of life and hope that someone else’s weight shows up. But then again we must all begin somewhere. The truth and the lesson to be learned about dreams is we shouldn’t ditch the dream–we should, we must do the dream.

Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action chalk drawingDo what you are dreaming of doing. Don’t just get “any job” so that you can be happy “doing” because according to Shonda all of the truly “happy, really successful people, interesting, engaging, and powerful people” are “doing”.

You don’t have a job…search and wait for the one you want in the field you want otherwise you’ll end up bitter, unsuccessful, and disengaged with very little power over your life let alone those around you.

I know because I tried it once.

I had a dream. It was bright and glitterly…it was bold and fanciful…it was poetic…it was magnetic…heck, other people even bought into my dream of becomning a writer. I started out on the right track after I graduated from college. I sent out my articles–a professor even set up an interview for me at Parents Magazine. I was on my way, however after a couple of rejection letters from some magazines and a little pressure from my then boyfriend to just “do something” now that I had graduated college I ditched the dream.

I went and got a job. Not the perfect job…not even a job close to what I wanted (I was selling sneakers) and my life sucked more than a Dyson. My life sucked for several years as I did, did, and did…until I realized I was doing, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. 

Then something happened. I began teaching. Ahhh…they were just writing workshops for kids, but I was getting closer to the glitter. Turned out I liked teaching, so I found out how to “do” that. I was happy until someone challenged me and asked whatever happened to your dream. Why are you teaching? Why aren’t you doing your dream?

After some prayer, after some prodding, after some writing…my dream returned to me. It was bright and glittery…it was bold and fanciful…it was poetic…it was magnetic…it was alive and I was doing it. Once I began doing it…the Lord began opening doors and avenues for me that I hadn’t even dreamed of. I began to learn and to see things that I could not imagine not even in a dream, but I had to begin somewhere.

Dreams are beginnings. Dreams are diving boards. Dreams are road maps. Don’t ditch your dreams–do your dreams.8ccbeb54-bb2b-49b5-b531-c91f2cb4b177

How do you feel about dreams? Do them? Ditch them?

Join the conversation.