Last night I turned in my final assignments for my final semester in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts:
Creative thesis, self evaluation, faculty evaluation, bibliography, and abstract. . . Finished and submitted!
This morning, as I clicked into my weekly write-in with two other writers in my program, I realized that I no longer have a deadline. For the past four semesters, I have constantly had at least one deadline. Typically they’ve been about once a month, and it’s been an immense amount of reading and writing work to juggle alongside my regular work life as an educator.
Something I’ve learned over the past two years is how to meet all those deadlines—no matter what—even during times when my regular work life is overwhelming. (I wrote a topical post for #TWTBlog on this topic earlier this spring.) I’ve learned how to be intentional in carving out space for those things I value most—and my writing life is one of those things.
As my writer friends and I chatted about our plans for writing this morning (the way we begin each write-in), it was so strange to set an intention for the day that was not bound or influenced in any way.
It was a wide open space.
I’ve discovered that making plans for the reading and writing that I will accomplish within time boundaries helps me to be productive and motivated.
So I created a new Google folder, and added the first document: “By July 4, 2022.” I made a list of work to complete between now and then. After this date, I’ll be traveling to Vermont for my graduating residency at VCFA (!!!). Some items on my list are residency-related (e.g. practice grad lecture, prep grad reading, write thank yous), some are writing project-related (e.g. figure out the structure of novel x), and some are industry related (e.g. draft query letter, research agents, make a list of the first five to query).
It felt great to put it in writing, to share it out loud with fellow writers. The energy generated by working hard toward goals that matter is exactly what I need. I don’t want to slip back into pre-MFA habits of letting writing sit on the back burner. I need to keep it front and center.
I can imagine this folder growing, and I love the idea of leaving tracks of my own intentions over time—setting short term goals, making plans, and celebrating when I meet those self-imposed deadlines. One of the best things I learned in this MFA program is how to be a productive writer AND [insert professional and life commitments here].
I do think the term “deadline” needs some re-imagining. . . This MFA program saved my sanity during the pandemic. Having something so important to ground myself through all the crazy was a lifesaver, no question.
Maybe instead of “deadlines,” I can think of them as writing lifelines.