A couple years ago, I attended the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) Conference. I was an undergraduate at the time. As with most conferences, I took away plenty of ideas and tips for improving my writing. I also met people with similar interests from all over the country. What struck me, though, was the way the conversation went with every person I met. They ask me where I’m from. I tell them I’m from Atlanta, the host city. They ask me which MFA program I’m in.
I had never considered going on to an MFA program before. I thought that graduate programs were for MBAs, or future doctors, or future lawyers, or maybe even for teachers.
But not for writers.
Well, I’ve been out of college for four years now. And in those four years, I basically stopped writing. Because, for sixteen years, I wrote when I was prompted to write, when I had an audience. I wrote for assignments, for literary magazines, for scholarships. I wrote for creative writing classes and workshops. In fact, in my four years in college, most of my writing came in those semesters when I took a creative writing class.
It’s dawned on me now why people go into MFA programs. They keep you writing. Then again, not all of us have the luxury to drop our nine-to-fives and re-enter the world of student loans and unemployment. So, in the meantime, here are 4 ideas to renew your creative energy:
1. Look online for writing prompts
The reason creative writing classes were so great for my creative juices in college was because of the prompts. Write a story about a dream. Take a great first line out of an existing story and turn it into something else. Without these prompts, I didn’t have a jumping off point to get me going. I had a blinking cursor on a blank canvas. I had that feeling of irritation that comes with not knowing where to start. But you don’t have to take a class to get an assignment. PW.org is a great resource for writing prompts. If you’re so inclined, you can even post what you come up with online for some feedback. Which brings me to…
2. Find a local workshop group
And if there aren’t any, start one of your own. You can find like-minded writers in your area through Twitter. Befriend them, and suggest a weekly workshop at your local Barnes & Noble. Meeting with a group on a regular basis will encourage you to write on a regular basis. You’ll get the critical feedback you need to make your writing even better. And you can learn from reading and critiquing your fellow writers’ work.
3. Get a mentor
A mentor relationship will mean you have to be creative on a regular basis. Find a writer or writing teacher you admire in your area. Ask them to mentor you. Get together once a week. Treat your mentor to coffee for their time, and ask them to help you improve. Take your mentorship seriously, and they’ll likely be happy to take you on. And taking your mentorship seriously means writing regularly and writing well. And this will be good for both of you.
4. Start a blog
It’s the most immediate way to publish what you’re writing. Blogging by nature imposes a strict schedule; the best bloggers update several times a week, if not daily. Writing frequently, regardless of your topic, will get your writing muscles going and stimulate you creatively in other areas as well. And in case you haven’t noticed, all of these points result in writing on a schedule. Which is part of the reason why creative writing classes and MFA programs are great. Keep a schedule, and your creativity will keep up.
About the Author: Anna has a BA in English, a husband, and two cats. She’s spent her entire life loving language and literature. In the past three years, she’s developed an especial love for connecting with other writers, like Susan. She’s just started her new blog, Literanerd, in hopes of following her own advice and getting back to writing. You can follow her on Twitter, and check out her other hobby, photography, on Flickr.
Anna is taking part in a two-month guest series featuring writers across the blogosphere here on twenty(or)something while I take a brief hiatus to focus on upcoming projects. Want to participate? Email me at twentyorsomething[at]gmail.com or say hi on Twitter!
Note: Keep an eye out for other writing-related posts as I phase out my former creative writing site, Typescript. Repostings and more can be found under the category “Writerly” beginning in mid-April.