Twelve Lessons from The DIY MFA BOOK

by Robin Lovett
published in Writing

I knew I was a devotee of Gabriela’s DIY MFA philosophy, but I didn’t know by how much until I read her book. I joined the team and started writing columns for the site a year and a half ago. My writing has gone a wild ride since then. When I started, I was a lowly writer whose only achievement was NaNoWriMo, whose voracious need to write acted more like an addiction than a discipline.

Now I have an agent, my first book is coming out in two weeks, and I just signed a new book deal with a digital first imprint at a big five publisher. To say that DIY MFA has been a helping hand along the way is an understatement.

I’m not the type to take classes or follow discipline plans or devote myself to study. Not that I haven’t worked—writing upward of twenty hours per week ain’t slouching. But in my previous career as a musician, I spent so much time studying in academia, by the time I graduated with two degrees, I was burnt out with no tools for how to survive in the real world.

I’ve been terrified this would happen with my writing: a crippling block toward my creative process that would get so bad I’d be forced to quit so I could move on with my life. I’ve been scared about whether I could do this the only way I could—by following my own directives and no one else’s.

And not only has it worked, I’m more successful as a writer than I ever was as a musician, even though I’m still paying off those student loans. Following my gut with my writing without ever taking a formal class has been the best thing I’ve ever done.

And DIY MFA has given me the strength and confidence to do that. And reading the ARC of Gabriela’s book has been like reading a manifesto for how much I believe in this process of self-directed learning.

Here are some of my favorite moments from the DIY MFA book. Little tidbits of places where I sat up and went, “YES! This is why I love DIY MFA.”

“When you finish reading this book, you’ll not only be a better writer but a better thinker and learner as well.”

I have felt this throughout my process with DIY MFA. The more I’ve learned here, the more I’ve felt confident in other things. Being a writer is about far more than putting words on the page.

“The only reason writers don’t write is because they just don’t want it badly enough.”

My need to write is something I haven’t been able to stop. But Gabriela gives concrete tools for those days when getting the creative engine going requires more fuel.

“Don’t blindly follow someone else’s best practice.”

This is what I did in music school. This is what I’ve resisted like a plague with my writing. If something I learn doesn’t feel right or I just DON’T WANT TO DO IT, then I don’t have to. Gabriela says so 🙂

“Everything you learn from DIY MFA will be useless if you don’t make adjustments to fit your life and writing style.”

It’s a manifesto for helping us be our own writers and finding ourselves in this torturous process we love so much.

“You need to adjust this iterative approach to fit your writing and your personality. […] don’t let the steps constrain your process.”

Seeing that invitation written out was like a “duh” moment for everything I’ve believed about my “follow my gut” additive. Finally, a writing book that has this written down!

“This is a marathon not a sprint. Your goal is to develop a sustainable process, not one that you’ll abandon after a few weeks.”

I think I’m putting this one on my wall for all the days when I push myself too hard and need to take a chill pill.

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, that’s okay.”

Like having a supportive writing coach from between the covers of a book, I was engrossed in turning the pages. How is she going to help me next?

“Constraints often release more creative thinking, not less.”

So many things in this book I’ve found true, but I’d never seen them in writing. Constraints on my creativity, like giving myself an idea, “What if I wrote a book about this?” have yielded my best writing.

“Truly creative people apply a method to their madness.”

Tee-hee, *insert maniacal laughter*. This is definitely how I work most days.

“But if we let ourselves get too comfortable, if we don’t push ourselves with a new challenge, then we’ll never grow as writers.”

So much of this book is about how to live the life of a healthy writer. It’s an antidote to burnout and a road map to career longevity.

“Make sure you set a check-in point as you’re writing so that you know when to step back and look at your project as a whole.”

This book has filled in holes in my writing process I didn’t even know I had.

“It’s never too early to start learning the business of writing.”

It’s a book about how to be a writer, not just how to write a book. A comprehensive plan for how to live the life and forge a career. I couldn’t be more grateful to have this book now. I’ll be keeping it on my shelf for years to come as a reference. My amateur hobby is fast becoming a career, and the true definition of the word “amateur” is what I don’t want to lose. The love of writing.

As writing becomes a job, I’m going to need this book. When things get tough, when I hit road blocks my gut doesn’t have the answers to, the DIY MFA book will be there. I can pull it out and no matter what process I’m having trouble with Gabriela will have a strategy for it. From finding write time to creating a world to building a plot, from shaping characters to starting a business to finding an audience, the DIY MFA book is there. My companion book on my writing adventure.

Robin Lovett, also known as S.A. Lovett, writes contemporary romance, and her debut novel, Racing To You, will be released in July of 2016. Her forthcoming series The Bad Boys of Blackmail will release with SMP Swerve the summer of 2017. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency.

She writes romance to avoid the more unsavory things in life, like day jobs and housework. To feed her coffee and chocolate addictions, she loves overdosing on mochas. When not writing with her cat, you can find her somewhere in the outdoors with a laptop in her bag. Feel free to chat with her on Twitter @LovettRomance.

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