DIY MFA in Creative WritingFor those of you new to DIY MFA, I thought I’d give a short guide to help you get started with the program.

As I mentioned in my last article, DIY MFA is all about helping writers simulate the MFA experience without the rigid requirements and constraints of school.

That said, how exactly can writers get that experience?

In this post, I’ll discuss the basics of DIY MFA and share links to a few articles that will help you embark on your own DIY MFA.

Let’s dive right in, shall we!

1. Are You Ready for DIY MFA?

First off, you need to determine if DIY MFA right for you and if you are right for DIY MFA.

The program doesn’t have that many requirements; in fact it has very few.  The idea is that DIY MFA participants must be accountable to his or her goals and that these goals are different for each writer.  There are a few traits, however, that make some writers more likely to succeed with the do-it-yourself approach than others.

  • Writers who are self-starters and independent workers will do much better in an independent program like DIY MFA than writers who depend on professors or colleagues to motivate them.
  • In addition, writers doing DIY MFA must be able to honor self-imposed deadlines.  Sure, it’s easy to push a deadline back and give yourself an “extension” when the only person getting hurt by it is you, but to stay on track with DIY MFA, it’s important to take those self-imposed deadlines seriously.
  • Finally, writers who do DIY MFA need to know when they can’t go it alone and need to ask for help.  That’s the challenge for any independent-minded person; it’s easy to rely on yourself so much that you forget when you need to reach out to mentors, colleagues or friends for support.

2. What does DIY MFA have to offer?

At the moment, DIY MFA offers a number of ways for writers to connect with the program.

The most basic way to become part of DIY MFA is to visit the website and read the blog posts.

Want to get more involved?  Join the mailing list.  By joining this list, you’ll receive a weekly email boost called Writer Fuel, which includes a round-up of the week’s posts on the website as well as other creativity-sparking goodies. While you can always check the site Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for new content, Writer Fuel sends it all to your inbox in one neat package, just in time for weekend reading.  Also, by joining the mailing list, you’ll receive exclusive content like the eWorkbook Jumper Cables and advanced notice about DIY MFA products and events.

Speaking of products and events, DIY MFA has also started offering online seminars and this spring, we’ll be bringing those back with a whole series of webinars and companion eWorkbooks.  In addition, you can always connect with DIY MFA through various social media options like twitter (@DIYMFA) and our Facebook page.

For more information on DIY MFA check out the welcome post which introduces some of the features being launched (or already launched) at the site.

3. The DIY MFA Structure

Perhaps the most important part of starting the DIY MFA program is understanding the structure behind it and how it works.

Essentially, all traditional MFA programs offer 4 main benefits:

  • Study of Literature (Reading)
  • Study of Craft and Creativity (Writing)
  • An Opportunity to Get Feedback (Workshop)
  • Networking Opportunities (Community)

The idea behind DIY MFA is to build these four components into a do-it-yourself program so that writers can get the benefits of an MFA without actually going to school.

While a traditional MFA can offer all these benefits in one standardized package, none of these are things that writers cannot find on their own.  Studying literature is simply a matter of being well-read and learning the craft is as simple as sitting down to write (perhaps with a good book or two on writing by your desk).

When it comes to workshops, there is no law that says MFA programs hold the monopoly; in fact, my current critique group consists of writers all of whom I met long before doing an MFA.  Finally, while it’s convenient to have an MFA bring in speakers and publishing professionals to meet students, there are ways that writers can make those same connections themselves.

When it comes to simulating the MFA Experience it’s important to include all four areas represented in traditional MFA programs.

A lot of writing guides and books focus on one or two areas but neglect the others.  For instance, a writing book might be great at teaching the ins and outs of craft, but will skip over reading, workshop and community altogether.

The key here is to find balance.  You can’t just lock yourself away in a room with a computer and a dream, and expect to become a great writer.  You need to understand the greater context into which your work fits, and that means reading the literature receiving feedback on your work, and becoming informed about the constant changes in the publishing world.

Want to know more about DIY MFA?

Read the DIY MFA Manifesto which will tell you all about what DIY MFA stands for.  DIY MFA is all about empowering writers to take ownership of their writing life.  And it’s about making MFA-level knowledge available to ALL writers, not just an elite few.  Finally, unlike traditional MFA programs that end after 2 years, DIY MFA helps writers build a plan that is sustainable for the long-haul, not just a short spurt of time.

As always, if you have questions or feedback about DIY MFA, you can contact me at contact.DIYMFA[at]gmail[dot]com

Write on!



About the Author

Gabriela Pereira
Gabriela Pereira
Gabriela Pereira is the Creative Director at DIY MFA where she develops tools and techniques for the serious writer. She has an MFA from The New School, with a concentration in Writing for Children and she is also a freelance writing teacher, leading workshops throughout New York City. Gabriela has taught at organizations like 826NYC, Everybody Wins and the East Harlem Tutorial Program, as well as a local writing workshop she built from the ground up. Her work has appeared in several literary magazines and in a lesson plan anthology by 826 National. For more information, visit DIYMFA.com or follow her on twitter at @DIYMFA.