Here’s a secret no one ever tells you. The typical MFA (Master of Fine Arts) boils down to one simple formula:
This means that to create a do-it-yourself version of the MFA, all you need to do is: write with focus, read with purpose, and build your community. Read on to learn more or use the menu above to explore each category. We also highlighted some key DIY MFA articles below to help you get started.
But first, this video will give you a quick overview of what DIY MFA is all about.
Learn how to make writing a priority while still fitting it into your existing life. Boost your creativity through prompts and writing exercises. Hone your craft and master writing techniques. Discover tools to help you keep up your motivation so you can finish that project you’ve always wanted to write.
Make the most of your reading time, by focusing on reading things that will help improve your writing. Build a reading list so you can read with purpose. Learn techniques so you can read like a writer. And save shelf space by investing only in books you actually need (we’ll help you choose).
These days, it’s not enough anymore to just write a book, send a query and hope for the best. Maybe you’re hoping to publish your novel, or you want to see your story grace the pages of a literary magazine, or you plan to self-publish your work. Whatever your goal, you need to build a community of readers. You need to find your audience.
In addition, you also have to find a group of trusted writers who will give you feedback and challenge you to be the best writer you can be. Whether you find these fellow writers through a workshop, writing conferences, or online, DIY MFA can be support network that will help you build a community of readers and writers specific to your own needs.
The beauty of DIY MFA is that while it covers most of what you’d get in a traditional MFA, you get to decide how to structure your writing, reading and community so you can reach your goals. Want to write thrillers? Good news! You don’t have to spend hours studying eighteenth century parlor-room novels (unless you want to, of course). You read the books you want to read, books that will serve your writing. When it comes to community, you connect with other thriller-writers. No one’s going to force you to go to a poetry reading or a romance writer’s conference. Of course, branching out beyond your chosen genre will always enhance your writing and can open your mind to new ideas, but you choose how you invest your time in a way that serves your goals.
Balancing the three aspects of DIY MFA can be overwhelming, but if you make a plan it’s easy to stay on track. The best way to keep track of your writing, reading and community is to draw out a pie chart. Each slice on the pie represents how much time you spend on the three parts of DIY MFA. Depending on what projects you have on your plate, your pie may emphasize one area more than another. I find that the best balance for me looks like this:
Of course, sometimes you have to adjust your DIY MFA plan to fit with other things that are going on in your life. For instance, if you’re researching material for a new project, you might find that reading needs to take center stage. On the other hand, during a writing conference, community will probably get the largest slice and the other pieces will shrink down to make room. Be flexible and tweak your DIY MFA Plan. No matter what challenges life throws your way, you’ll be able to keep writing.