Tools to Start Your Writing Journey

by Lori Walker
published in Writing

Hi, my name is Lori. I’m recovering from “shiny object syndrome.”

Hi, Lori!

This is my new non-fiction column for DIY MFA. I’m thinking of calling it Lori’s World, but we’ll see how that goes over. 

I wanted this first post to lay out my bona fides and close with a few words of wisdom.

The Bad Beginning

For as long as I can remember, I’ve gravitated toward words. The consumption of them. The arranging of them. They’re just delicious. Over the past nearly two years, I’ve found myself in the position of having large swaths of unfilled time on my hands. “I’ll be a writer!” I said to myself.

What do you think I did for the last two years? Just about anything but writing!

There were some flirtations, some dalliances with writing. My now husband, Steve, would come home for lunch and ask what I’d been up to. “I had the best idea for a novel!” I’d say. “That’s great!” he’d say. “Go for it!”

And I would.

Until an idea for an essay would start winking at me.

On a Wednesday, Steve would ask how my novel was going and I would tell him that novels were soooooo two days ago. Essays are where it’s happening!

And they were. Until it was short stories. No–novels! No–essays! Around and around I’d go until…


I didn’t want to write. I barely wanted to read. I just wanted the time to pass so I could move on to the next day, then the day after that.

Miracle One: DIY MFA

Finally, earlier this year, a miracle happened: I got hired at DIY MFA as the Admin Wizard, which morphed into the Operations Maven mantle I wear today. Being around writers and writing so frequently makes it really kind of impossible to stay disinterested in writing. As I heard my coworkers discuss writing and books and craft issues, while I say silently with nothing to contribute, I began contemplating my plight. 

I began to miss writing!

But I knew I couldn’t carry on as I had, falling prey to “shiny object syndrome.” I needed to enter into a committed relationship with my writing. I needed to settle down with one genre until I really mastered it.

I thought long and hard about my favorite genres, my favorite books, my favorite writers. I began noticing some commonalities. Most of my favorite writers started out as journalists, either at a daily or freelancing for magazines, before crossing over into fiction (if they ever did). And of those genre-crossing writers, often their non-fiction work was my favorite. So non-fiction became the frontrunner.

Miracle Two: A Column Is Born

Then another miracle happened: DIY MFA needed a non-fiction columnist!

I went out on a major limb to pitch an idea that would help both of us. They would get their non-fiction columnist and I would get a structure that would force me to write non-fiction so that I would have something to write about in my column. Win-win.

And here we are.

Some of my columns will be experiential. I’ll fill you in on the good, the bad, and the ugly of my writing journey. I’ll make mistakes so you don’t have to. And if I learn any secrets along the way, I’ll let you know those too. Some of my posts will be advice on various non-fiction topics, like research methods.

Constant Companions on the Journey

Before I sign off on this first column, I want to mention a few of my companions as I begin this journey of a million pages. These are some tools you probably want to gather too.

  1. News Sources–Part of writing non-fiction is engaging with the world. Find a few sources you trust to at least skim the headlines. For me, these are The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Reasonable minds can differ, so just pick a couple you like that have a reputation for being well-written.
  2. Note-Taking Apparatus–I prefer pen and paper. It’s aesthetically pleasing to me. And for drafting, it keeps me focused. I just can’t open Instagram on my Moleskine, no matter how hard I try. You might have better self-control or just generally prefer the notes app on your phone.
  3. Writing Resources–Craft books can totally be a rabbit hole of procrastination. But some can be useful. My favorites are The Elements of Style, On Writing, and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.
  4. A Sense of Humor–Yes, take writing seriously, especially if you’re trying to make it a part of your livelihood. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. But life is absurd and you have to laugh from time to time in order to stay sane.
  5. Good Books–I really think that in order to be a good writer, you have to read and read widely. Plus, how else are you going to pass the time and/or avoid unwanted conversations?

Tell me in the comments below–What did I forget? What do you have in your writing journey toolbox?

Lori Walker

Lori Walker is the Operations Maven at DIY MFA. Though she’s fallen off the wagon as a writer, she’s hoping to return to writing essays (perhaps even a novel!) through her involvement with DIY MFA. She also teaches yoga part-time in Smalltown, Oklahoma, where she lives with her husband and their cat, Joan Didion. You can follow her on Instagram at @LoriTheWriter.

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