I first read about Shaunta Grime’s 1000 Day MFA DIY challenge a few months back. It’s not an actual program, and it certainly doesn’t boast a real degree. But what it does offer is an experience that will make any reader/writer more prolific.
To undertake the 1000 Day MFA, you must:
- Read one short story, one essay, and one poem every day
- Watch three movies every week
- Write one short story every week
- Read one writing craft book every month
- Read one novel every month
- Write one novel every year
- Repeat for 1000 days
There’s an official facebook group for those participating. The cost is $10 a month, and although I haven’t joined myself, I’m sure it’s worth it if you can come up with the money.
I was intrigued and inspired by this challenge, so much so that I read Shaunta’s article no less than five times. It was something I told myself I’d maybe do someday, but couldn’t handle at the moment. When I kept going back to it, and back to it again, eventually I bit the bullet.
I’m now three-plus weeks into my MFA journey, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t very far. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
Writing Every Day Is the Best Idea Ever
Every writer waxes poetic about the benefits of developing a daily writing habit. It’s not like I thought they were wrong. My problem was that as much as I wanted to be a writer, writing was often painful for me. IF I managed to shut off my inner editor, as one is supposed to do, I couldn’t shake the thought that every word I typed out really sucked. I hated my perceived lack of control over what I was producing.
Notice I wrote that daily writing was painful, because it’s not so bad anymore. On the ever-famous scale of ten, my writing has gone from around a nine to about a four. I’ll take it.
So not only am I actually producing a heck of a lot more, I’m doing so much more willingly. I’m braver now. I’m less afraid. I have a voice. I even bit the other bullet and joined the Medium Post-a-Day challenge.
I don’t know what else to say about this, so I’m going to leave you with…
Short Stories Are Awesome
I’ve never been a short story person. Writing-wise, I’ve never been a short kind of person at all. If an essay had to be five pages long, I’d often wind up in the vicinity of eight.
Since starting the challenge, I’ve written four short stories. Four. The first of these was around 3500 words, but the others have averaged in the 700s. You have no idea how freeing this is.
Like anything else, writing is motivated by accomplishment. Writing a short story every week has given me a rapidly-growing portfolio of completed work in seemingly no time at all. I’m not giving up on novels, but I’m certainly a short-story convert.
You can read one of my stories, The Violinist, on Medium.
Essays Can Be Awesome. Sometimes. Maybe.
Does anyone read essays for pleasure? Somebody must, as I’ve seen anthologies of them at bookstores.
I’ve never been tempted to pick up one of those books and read it. Not even once.
Maybe this is because my understanding of essays is somewhat limited. After all, my American education on essays consisted of a) writing them on some (often boring) assigned topic or b) forcing myself to read them in order use them as a resource for said assignment.
Not a very encouraging standard, I’m afraid.
Since beginning this challenge, I’ve forced myself to read maybe ten essays. Another ten were okay to read – they at least had an interesting premise. And then there were a few I surprisingly enjoyed.
I’m convinced now that essays can be pleasurable, and I’m determined to educate myself on the different types of essays and which kinds and which authors I find appealing. Who knows: maybe I’ll even write one someday!
In case you’re interested, the essays I enjoyed are:
(I feel it’s important to note the not insignificant possibility that I read essays every day and enjoy them and don’t know they’re essays.)
That’s all on this for now, friends, but if you’re interested in this challenge, please do read more about it. I may or may not share personal progress updates in the future!