I’m fresh off of WANAcon this weekend which was AMAZING! Seriously, if you get a chance to go (and it’s all online, so there’s no reason not to) you should go!
Rumor has it there’ll be another one in February…
WANAcon is an online writers conference hosted by social media guru and writer shepherd, Kristen Lamb. WANA stands for We Are Not Alone, which is the title of her first book. Big thanks to Kristen and her partners in crime – Jay at Tech Surgeons and Jami Gold – for helping host WANAcon this month.
The conference had a mixture of craft and business classes for writers with a slew of awesome presenters. One class alone made me sign up.
Several months ago I made the drastic decision to quit my job in sales management with the intent of getting my Master’s Degree in writing.
Like a good little student, I researched schools and programs, made lists of extracurricular writing opportunities, and talked to people who had completed the programs.
Then May rolled around and I jetted off to the Dallas/Fort Worth Writers Conference. Over lunch one day, with several of the WANA tribe, we were talking about our current writing plans. In my best puffed-up, “I’m not having a quarter life crisis AT ALL!” voice I shared my brilliant plan of going back to school and getting the education I needed to move forward. *hands on hips, matter of fact-style*
And then my friend, Rachel Funk Heller, asked me a question…
Why do you want to pay all that money for a glorified critique group?
I was stunned.
You mean, you don’t think my plan is brilliant??!
Note: This post is not a bashing of academia. I would never tell someone not to pursue their graduate degree if that was important to them. This post is my story about MY decision to pursue a different path on my road to publication. If you’re considering going back to school, then research it! Get all the information you can before making your decision because it matters.
Rachel’s point to me was that everything I had stated I needed help with was available…in our WANA community…for a lot less than that $40,000/year tuition I was looking at. She pointed out what’s available to learn at conferences and who to get in touch with online.
She was right.
All I want to do is write a book. I don’t need a Master’s Degree to do that.
If my goals had been to teach writing in a college environment or to open my own publishing house someday, then YES, a Master’s Degree would be necessary. To write a book? It’s just one path of many.
Making an Action Plan
Back from DFWcon, unemployed, and desperately wanting everyone to believe I’d made the right choice, I put together my action plan.
That was step number one. And in a little over 3 months, I completed the first draft of my book.
I found support all around me. I got a writing partner, one that I knew and shared a work ethic with *Hi Gene!*, I used social media to boost my word counts, and I joined a local writers group to get feedback on my work.
Now, I read books on craft. I devour books in my genre to get a sense of pacing and voice. I read through Writer’s Digest and blogs about writing.
A bonus to not paying tuition money – I have money to attend conferences! It’s my plan to attend more writing conferences this next year.
Balance…As Much As Possible
In my past job I worked 50-60 hour work weeks where I was on my feet presenting “happy manager” face all day long. When I got home, I was exhausted! I wanted to write, but I never had energy to get far.
My unemployment, though incredibly difficult on my budget and my relationship, was a gift. It was time. Time to finish my book. And not having a paycheck was a damn big motivator to plant my butt in the chair and get that page count up, let me tell ya! Little things like Crystal Light packets became a huge treat when I got my writing done.
Before I was offered “Awesome Job,” I accepted “Get’s Me a Paycheck Job.” It was a drastic pay cut, where I was overqualified, and still putting in more hours than I asked for.
The Regional Manager literally spent half a day’s training discussing “The Importance of Using a Planner.”
It was another push. Take the job that is less stressful, and puts food on your table, and GET THAT WRITING DONE!
In order for that to happen, I had to let go of my pride and stop worrying what people would think of me.
Gabriela Pereira’s DIY MFA
Is that not the coolest sounding program ever?!
Gabriela Pereira is the instigator behind Do It Yourself – Master’s Program for Writers! She has an MFA herself because she wanted to be a creditable individual that can teach Master’s level education to others having experienced the programs first hand.
After sitting through her presentation on the core areas of MFA programs, I was psyched to realize that I was already doing 75% of them! Adding in a few other elements and getting tips from Gabriela’s program will be a great resource to build my skills in the rest!
Check out her website DIY MFA: Tools and Techniques for the Serious Writer
She even offers a FREE DIY starter kit with over 30 pages of techniques and tips, so I encourage you to get more info if this interests you!
I’m grateful that Rachel took the time to ask me my true goals in life. I would much rather spend my hard earned money traveling across the country to network at writers conferences than rack up more debt in student loans that may or may not get me any closer to publication than I am now.
I realize that I was only able to make that decision after years of dealing with the things I knew I didn’t want.
I hope my blog post helps at least ONE person out there make a drastic change in their lives for the better. If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve made these changes a lot sooner.
I’ve read the books written by happiness experts and life coaches and the problem with those books is they gloss over the gritty parts. They quit their jobs like it’s no big deal while at the same time start a collection and go shopping for trends! Most of us cannot do that. I couldn’t do that!
It was a learning process the whole way. But ultimately, a good one.
If anyone wants more details or you’re looking for a listener who’s been there, please reach out to me! I’m more than happy to chat with you all in the comments, message me on Facebook, or send me an email (jessi(dot)witkins(at)gmail(dot)com)! You can vent to me in 140 characters or less on Twitter!
Knowing you have choices is an incredible empowerment, and you deserve that!
What were the tough decisions that you struggled with? What helped you survive?