Let’s Start at the Beginning

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Writing

The first step to creating your DIY MFA is to take stock of where you are right now.  Some of you might be just starting out on your writing journey, while others may have been writing for years.  Either way is fine.  While some of you might have plenty of time to devote to this project, others may have to carve out nooks and crannies between various life responsibilities.  That’s OK too.

The great thing about DIY MFA is that there’s only one person you can–or should–compare yourself to, and that’s you.  Everyone’s journey is different and unique.  This is why it’s so important to understand where we’re starting from.  Otherwise, how are we to know where we’re going, much less how we’re going to get there.

Today, take a few moments to answer the following questions about where you are right now.  You may want to keep them to yourself in a private notebook, or you might want to share your answers with writer friends.  You may even want to post them on your blog (in which case, leave a link in the comments!)  Just make sure to jot the answers down so that in a few months you can see how far you’ve come.

Weekend Writing Prompt:


  1. Do you read regularly? If so, how many books per year, on average?
  2. What are your Top 3 preferred subjects or genres?
  3. List the last 5 books/magazines you’ve read.


  1. How long have you been writing regularly?
  2. Do you have a project you’re focusing on?  Or are you experimenting with various things?
  3. How often do you write?  Is your writing schedule regular or sporadic?


  1. Do you belong to a writing group or have writer colleagues who read your work?
  2. Do you participate in workshops at conferences or other live or online events?
  3. Do you take time to evaluate the feedback and implement what resonates with you into your work?


  1. Do you have writer friends?
  2. Do you engage with other writers either face-to-face or online?
  3. Are you a member of any writing associations?

Note:Don’t worry if you answered “No” to many of the above questions or left some answers blank.  That’s actually very valuable information because it shows you which areas of your writing life are in need of a little extra attention.

Now, I want you to draw a circle and divide it into slices, like a pie. The slices don’t have to be exactly even because they correspond to how much time you will spend on each of the areas of DIY MFA.

Once you’ve created your pie, estimate how many hours you plan to spend on DIY MFA activities each week.  Be realistic, here.  No sense in saying you can dedicate fifty hours per week to DIY MFA when really all you can squeeze in is five.  Pick a number that works within the constraints of your life and responsibilities and write that number down.

Now, with a little middle school math (or if you prefer, you can just “guess-timate”) budget out how much time you’ll spend on each slice of your pie.  This will tell you exactly how many hours or minutes you should spend on each part of DIY MFA.

Remember, your pie can shift and change depending on your priorities in a given week. Don’t feel like you have to be locked into this plan forever.  Depending on what’s going on in your life, your pie can change.

The point is, none of this is set in stone and it’s important to keep updating your pie in response to what’s going on in your writing life that week, month or year.  Maintaining a flexible outlook and reevaluating your plan are central components to DIY MFA.  After all, life happens, and your DIY MFA plan will have to adjust to fit.  The flexibility and continuous evaluation process are what help make DIY MFA a program that you can sustain for the long haul.

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