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Don't Just Wait. Do Something.

Photo by MILKOVÍ on Unsplash

It’s been more than a year a half since I completed my MFA in creative writing. It’s been on my mind lately because my program—the Mile-High MFA—recently held its summer residency, and I was able to connect with a few people who were in town.

One was my former workshop mentor, Sophfronia Scott. We had a good conversation at lunch about writing, publishing, and all things literary-career related. One thing that stuck with me is what she said about how she’s never waiting on something to happen. If an editor is reading her book proposal, she’s not waiting for a response before starting the book. If a book is awaiting publication, she’s already got another in the works. In the publishing world, where everything moves at the speed of molasses, proactivity seems really smart to me.

She didn’t necessarily offer this up as advice, but I took it such anyway. My brain often gets caught in all-or-nothing thinking. I think that if I’m not writing for at least two hours every day then I’m not doing anything. I think if I don’t write a new essay once a month, it’s game over. Or, if I’m not querying agents 24/7, then what am I even doing?

But one of the things I’m learning as I navigate a writing practice without the structure of deadlines is that writing is a long game, and that creativity ebbs and flows. So I’ve made a list of things I can be working on at any given time—something I can refer back to if I get stuck. Some items call for more creativity than others. Some can be done when I’ve only got 30 minutes. Others require a block of several hours. But the point is that depending on time and energy levels, there is always something I can be doing.

Here’s my list. What’s on yours?

  • Revising essays

  • Writing new essays

  • Submitting essays for publication

  • Working on my book proposal

  • Blogging

  • Reading/researching

  • Researching potential agents and publishers

  • Pitching/querying

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