03 Oct

Commencement Means Beginning

Posted in DIY MFA, Writing

There’s a reason I called this week “Commencement Week” and not “Graduation Week.”  The latter implies an ending, a big accomplishment, reaching of a goal.  But that’s not what DIY MFA is all about.  This past month here at iggi U, we’ve been working on the pre-DIY MFA, the preparation of it all.  Now it’s time to implement it.  Commencement is about the start of something new, and that’s exactly what DIY MFA is all about.

Here are some things I’ve learned on my journey and I hope by sharing them with you, it will help you as you embark on yours.

Embrace the open road.  We’ve got an empty road ahead of us, which can be both terrifying and exciting.  Sometimes all those endless possibilities might seem scary, but remember this: they’re just possibilities, not absolutes.  You can always change your mind.

Get good at juggling.  Sometimes it will seem like you’re juggling a lot, between all the reading, writing, critiquing and community.  But each piece of the DIY MFA program is key to developing a well-rounded writing life.  Just remember, it’s not about quantity in any one area, it’s about the overall balance.

Learn to recognize when you’re in the Fun House.  Not everyone will understand DIY MFA.  They might treat you like you’re crazy for following your writing dreams.  “Well, if it’s not real school, can’t you just skip a day?”  Learn to see when people are distorting your vision and stand up for your writing life.

Develop a thick skin.  Writing is tough.  Having people read your writing is even tougher, but you can’t spend your life protecting your work from critics.  After all, what’s the point of writing it if no one will ever read it?  Whenever your work is picked to shreds, remember: “It’s not me, it’s the work.”

Recognize when the work is “excellent enough.”  Just as in golf you cannot get a perfect score because you can always do better, so it is with writing.  I had a teacher once who’s catch phrase was “make it better.”  Whatever we brought in, she’d say “let’s see how we can make it better” and so the critique would begin.  Sure, you could play the “make it better” game forever and never submit any of your work, but sooner or later you have to decide if the work is “excellent enough” and accept it as it is.

As you embark on your DIY MFA, I can promise you two things:

  1. It might be a lot of things, but DIY MFA will never be boring.
  2. iggi and I will still be here, posting away to help inspire–or at the very least, amuse you–through the days that aren’t so much fun.

Thank you all for making the DIY MFA project so great and I’m looking forward to hearing how your DIY MFAs develop.

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