When You’re a Writer, Every Day is a School Day

This is what my brain looks like all the time. And those arms? Those are my characters. We don't ever stop. (Image purchased from Adobe Stock.)
This is what my brain looks like all the time. And those arms? Those are my characters. We don’t ever stop. (Image purchased from Adobe Stock.)

My name is Niki and I’m addicted to learning. Seriously. I’m convinced there’s a part of my soul that never left school. I would be a lifelong student if someone would pay me to go to school. I think that’s one of the reasons I gravitated toward historical fiction as my main genre. I love the research and learning new things. Sharing them on my blog is like a never-ending book report or research paper – my idea of heaven. (Yes, I know I’m odd.)

Every year around the end of August/beginning of September, I get the urge to further my education. I really think it’s because I associate the change in weather with learning. I still have major anxiety freak outs according to the school calendar (August, December and May – seriously, like clockwork), so it’s possible. In past years I’ve looked at Masters/PhD programs in history, religion or writing, my three favorite subjects. But since I can’t really afford tuition right now, I decided I can probably learn basically what I need to on my own. (Although I can almost promise there is more formal education in my future as soon as time and finances allow.) So a few years ago, I started my DIY MFA program.

If you bothered to look at that link, you’ll see that I am crazy. It contains a list of 78 books, DVD courses and webinars. (The crossed out ones are ones I’ve finished.) I started it in 2015 and have been adding to it ever since. It started out pretty short and balanced between categories, but now, with my transition to indie author, is heavily leaning toward marketing and history, which reflects where my brain is now. I learned how to research in college as part of my undergrad thesis in English, but I’m really curious as to how historians are trained, so I plan to read those books next. After I finish the pile of marketing books on my kitchen table. (You have to remember that marketing is my day job, too, so I’m doubly interested, even though internal health care communications is totally different from marketing a book).

Sadly, there are about 20 more books on my Amazon wish-list that I didn’t add to the DIY MFA because I’m not sure they’d be worth my time. And plus, I have 70-something books to read first. (Yay, library!) I’m also in the process of making my way through all the Netgalley books I’ve requested and never read (10), books I started but haven’t finished (10) and all the reviews I’ve promised people (3, I think), not to mention the 400 something books on my TBR list.

I think my recent trip to Oxford made me worse. It’s a city founded on learning with more than 30 libraries. How can it not bring out my inner student? If I had known in college what I know now (and had the maturity I have now) I would have gone to Oxford and studied history. But in reality, I wasn’t ready to move away from home, much less to another country, and I didn’t yet know how much I love history, so that wasn’t even on my radar. And I guess it’s good because I’d be a totally different person. My college experience was one of the most formative of my life.

You would think my crazy schedule over the last year – publishing and marketing four books in seven months with a full-time job, plus five conferences and a ton of speaking engagements – would have worn me out, and it has, physically. But I don’t think anything short of death (which I’m hoping won’t happen for a long, long time, like in 50+ years) will stop my brain from whirring. I know I can’t write right now (none of my characters are talking) and since I can’t fathom the concept of doing nothing, I’ll be gorging my brain on writing-related books and the occasional fiction for levity.

If you need me, I’ll be under a pile of blankets and books with two cats. Likely to emerge sometime in early 2017.

What do you think of my DIY MFA program? Have you read any of the books on the list? What do you do when your brain won’t stop?

3 thoughts on “When You’re a Writer, Every Day is a School Day

  1. You and I are kindred spirits. I find myself starting–and stopping, and starting over–self-designed curricula with great frequency. I, too, wish I had studied more history in school, but I didn’t realize I liked it back then.

    One podcast (and book) you might be interested in is Gabriela Pereira’s DIY MFA. Meanwhile, I’ll be pulling together my own latest-and-greatest study plan. I’ll let you know when it’s done and we can cheer each other on to brilliance. 🙂

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