As part of my efforts to improve my skills as a writer and storyteller, I have always thought getting my Master's Degree would be a great option. I could get an MA in Creative Writing, meet some great mentors, read some great books, take some great classes, and really learn more about writing as a discipline.
The thing is... grad school is expensive. Not only is it expensive, but Josh is already enrolled in business school, and taking on another absurd amount in student loans seems less than prudent, at least based on our current situation.
But the other thing is, we live in the Age of Information! There are so many ideas available to me at the tip of my fingers. All I have to do is go to Google and type in "Books on Writing" and voila! Every book on writing, pretty much ever, is available to buy (or download for free, in many cases).
So I decided to invent what Josh and I have been lovingly calling, my "Fake Master's Degree." I perused the books we already own as well as several books recommended to me by other authors, and came up with a list. Each book falls into one of 7 categories:
If you'd like to take a closer look at the books I've selected and their associated assignments, here's a link to my Google Doc. While I know I'm going to read the entirety of each of these books, I'll be honest, I'm definitely winging this. I haven't read most of the books yet, so making up assignments to go along with them was a shot in the dark. I consider this a guide as much as anything, and will adjust as necessary. My main goal was to continue to educate myself in my field, while also finding a way to engage with the materials I'm working through. I wanted to expose myself to other individual's perspectives, and give myself some non-publishable writing assignments, to keep me on my toes.
The major thing that my degree is lacking is grading. I don't really care about grades, ultimately, but not having feedback on this sort of thing is definitely a downside. So I'll be posting some of my assignments here, on my blog, just in case anyone is interested. This will also force me to review and edit the things I write, furthering my skills in that area as well.
I may be adding some books to the list as time passes, but for now, I'll start with this.
Let me know what you think, or if you have any suggestions.
I couldn't find a first day of school picture, so instead, here's a first day of summer picture with my brother and I shucking corn.
I'm going to share my first assignment now. WRITING SMARTS written by the American Girl Library, is probably the most confusing book I have on my list. It was written for twelve year old girls, and I think I was about that age when someone gave it to me. But I added it to my list because, no matter how basic the activities in it are, they still have value. Besides, sometimes what we really need is to go back to the basics. So I thought I would start at the very, very beginning.
My assignment for this book was to choose three exercises and do them. I chose three: to write two sets of dialogue based off the pictures they provided, to free write for a page (or I did 10 minutes, in my case), and to write four haiku.
The dialogue one was really bad, so I won't torture you with that. But below you'll find 4 haiku and 10 minutes of free writing (with some personal stuff edited out). Fake Master's Degree, here I come! :)
Octavius’ Long Day
Doggo sleeps and snores
Running in his vivid dreams
He will wake for treats
Wilfred the King
He rules from his tree
Fat, orange, covered in fur
Water droplets in the air
Too humid to breathe
Elegant and poised
She sits, gazing through the glass
Dreaming of murder
In the book I’m reading it talks about something called BHAGs, which translated means “Big Hairy Audacious Ideas.” It says that visionary companies have and follow through on BHAGs, and even though I’m not a company, I can still have BHAGs and I can still try new things, experiment. Two definitions pop up when I search the meaning of the word “audacious:” showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks, and showing an impudent lack of respect. I’d like to do both of those things, take bold risks and be impudent towards the way things “are” or “are supposed to be”.
It says in the book that in order for BHAGs to work, they have to be derived from a company’s true, deep down beliefs (which are of course based off of the beliefs of the people working there). So I also need to figure out what my beliefs are. When I was thinking about it yesterday, I really got stuck on the idea of giving my work away for free. I just never want money to be an issue, I never want it to get in the way of someone being able to read my work. But aside from that, what are my beliefs?
Josh suggested independence, and I agree with that. I would call myself fiercely independent. I would rather starve and be free, than have everything I could ever want but be trapped. So yes, independence. Definitely a trait I learned from my parents.
I’ll start with just a list of things I value: Family, hope, hard work, patience (I’m still working on this), excellence, intelligence, pushing forward, overcoming odds, embracing originality, embracing yourself, not caring what everyone else thinks (I’m not good at this), walking, trees, open mindedness, not being afraid to change when you know you’re wrong or at least not being afraid to at least consider the possibility that you’re wrong, being able to accept things that I can’t change (also not good at this), cats, words, writing.
Okay there’s a few, though I probably could come up with more. I think hope is one that stands out to me, and intelligence, and overcoming odds, or at least just keeping going. Persistence is probably a good one too. So the next question is how to build a goal off of one of these concepts that is BH and A (big, hairy, and audacious).
I was thinking about my Patreon plan as well, yesterday. That seems BH and A. It’s the biggest plan I’ve ever tried. It takes a lot of work and time. It’s hard. But at the same time, it’s very much stalled, or at least it feels that way. So persistence would definitely play a role in this case, as would hope, working hard, patience, intelligence, and excellence. So maybe instead of jumping into the idea of giving all of my books away for free, instead, I should focus on following through with just one BHAG at a time, and see where it leads. I’m hopeful. I just have to keep writing for thirty four more seconds, lol. But seriously, I’m hopeful and just have to keep writing Land of Szornyek. It has value. I really believe it. I guess, faith comes into play here, at least a little bit. We’ll see where I end up a year from now. We’ll see.