The Write Life Articles

Start Your Passion Project Right Now by Taking 5 Small Steps

You’ve had a passion project (or seven) rattling around inside your brain for months now.

Maybe you love telling people about it, or maybe you’re keeping mum — either way, you can’t stop thinking about how amazing it will be when you finally start working on it.

But for some reason, you just haven’t taken the first step.

Sometimes we put off getting started on passion projects because we’re waiting for just the right time, when we’ll have the energy or the spare time to tackle it. You know: After the kids go to college, or after you meet that big deadline at work.

Why your passion project doesn’t have to wait

Meanwhile, we end up ignoring all these fabulous little fragments of time we do have throughout our days, while we’re waiting for the dentist or checking Facebook on our lunch breaks.

Sure, it would be great to have generous amounts of uninterrupted time every afternoon to draft your novel or work on your magnum opus, but if you put off getting started until “the right moment,” you may never get started at all.

Here are five small steps you can take to light a fire under your passion project today.

1. Visualize why it matters — and then commit

What’s so special to you about this project? What makes it so important that you’re willing to give up staying current on the latest TV series, or say no to happy hour?

If you can identify why completing this project is so important to you, you can hold it like a beacon of light when darkness and frustration threaten to close in.

Many of us have multiple dream projects and boundless optimism about how much we can actually accomplish. Maybe dreams of writing your grandmother’s recipes into a cookbook are warring with visions of that screenplay you’ve been dying to write. Maybe you’ve thought of starting a blog, but you also have a seven-book fantasy series plucking at your attention.

Trying to work on all these projects at once will just result in none of them getting done.

Some day you might get to them all, but right now, you need to commit to the one that feels most important.

Write down the name of your project and the reason it’s so important to you, and put it where you’ll see it regularly.

2. Get organized

The thing about passion projects is so often they’re very, very big. We’re not talking “bake a cake,” we’re talking “open a bakery.” We’re not talking “write an email to grandma,” we’re talking “write a novel.”

In the face of projects that will span multiple months — and maybe even years — it’s easy to get caught standing like a deer in the headlights, frozen by just how much will be required to get it done.

It’s time to get organized. Create a new file or open a new notebook (I like to create a new Evernote folder). Now, and over the next few weeks, it’s time to brainstorm everything you know about your project:

  • What research will you need to do?
  • Can your research be broken down into several parts or phases?
  • Will you need to enlist anyone’s help?
  • What materials do you need to get started?
  • Do you need to learn any new skills?

By dumping your project out of your brain and onto paper, it becomes more than just a dream. Now it’s something you’re actually doing.

3. Make a plan…

Start organizing your brain dump into action steps, breaking down every element into bite-sized chunks.

Every project is made up of building blocks: Novels can be broken into chapters, chapters into scenes, scenes into beats. It’s time to find the building blocks of your own passion project.

The best way to make a plan for completing your dream project is to get as granular as possible until you have a list of discrete, actionable tasks.

For example, one aspect of your goal to turn your hobby travel blog into a memoir that’s ready to pitch to agents might be to network with other writes who know how to write a memoir. It’s an important task, but it’s not an actionable goal.

Break it down into its components: Smaller tasks like identifying five memoirists you want to meet and becoming an active commenter on their blogs; or joining a popular weekly Twitter chat.


4. …Then make a schedule

Once you know what steps you need to take, build project time into your schedule. It’s not enough just to wish for the time. If you really want to do it, you need to make the time.

Treat your passion project time as sacred. You wouldn’t put off a job interview or dinner with your best friend because the house needed cleaning, so don’t let that get in the way of your project progress, either.

Remember, you don’t always need a big window of time! You’d be surprised how much you can get done in five minutes here in 30 minutes there — “throw away” time you might currently waste scrolling through your phone or checking your email (again and again).

Instead, why not give yourself the gift of using those spare minutes to work on your project?

5. Write something

You didn’t think I was going to let you get away with just planning, did you?

Research and planning are deceptively productive. You may need to know the history of the Chinese banking system in order to write that scene, but it’s way too easy to spiral into a Wikipedia rabbit hole once you’ve found the information you need, taking more and more notes but never actually writing.

Don’t wait for the day when you get to retire into a beautiful cabin in the woods or attend a writers retreat without any other obligations. Don’t wait for the muse to come visit. Don’t wait for a more flexible job to come along, or the weather to get better, or the house to be completely spotless.

If you ever truly want to finish your passion project, you need to train yourself to write even when there is no muse, even when there is no babbling brook, even when you’re tired, even when you only have five minutes.

If you can write 300 words in half an hour and you do that every single day, at the end of the year you will most certainly have the first draft of a novel.

What one thing will you do today toward your dream project? Tell us in the comments!

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via nd3000 / Shutterstock 

The post Start Your Passion Project Right Now by Taking 5 Small Steps appeared first on The Write Life.

The Write Life Articles

Do You Need an MFA? 3 Important Elements You Can Replicate On Your Own


Want to DIY your MFA? We’re partnering with Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA to bring you a free webinar on Thursday, February 27 at 1 p.m. EST about How to Survive and Succeed as a Writer.

Click here to sign up for the webinar

Gabriela’s course, DIY MFA, opens for enrollment February 27 through March 6.


If you’re like me, you spent most of your childhood in school. That’s where you learned how to learn, and you’ve probably come to associate improvement with school. So, when it comes to improving your writing, it’s natural that you would consider a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. After all, what better better way to give yourself time to write and a structured place to do it?

But MFAs are time consuming and expensive, and it’s certainly possible to significantly improve as a writer without them. How do you know if an MFA is right for you? And can you reproduce the benefits of an MFA without enrolling in a program?

My take on the MFA debate

Full disclosure: I have both a BA and an MA in writing. It’s hard for me to regret those years; they were a lot of fun and I gained an enormous amount of experience. I also met my husband, so I can’t say my MA was useless. However, I think I could have taken another path, perhaps one that didn’t require so much of my time, money and inner calm.

Based on my experience, I don’t think having an MA or MFA is necessary to become a great writer. This should be obvious to anyone who knows anything about literary history: Many famous and influential writers did not begin in academia.

Instead, to become a better writer without a set path, replicate important aspects of the MFA. Basically, the money you spend for your MFA (and it’s a lot of money) insists upon discipline and buys a few elements crucial to the writing process. Recreate these elements on your own to strengthen your writing skills without enrolling in an MFA.

1. Read across genres

Great writers need to read; there’s no way around this one. Language has to start in your brain to end up on the page, and the best way to get it there is to read. (Or listen to audiobooks on tape, whatever works for you).

Expose yourself to past developments in your genre, as well as what’s happening now. This is where you acquire the tools you’ll use, as well as improve on, later.

While reading may seem like a simple task, it’s not. With hundreds of millions of books in the world, it can be impossible to know where to start. An MFA program will not only give you an organized, vetted list of these books, but it will also force you to read them and analyze them thoughtfully. The program will expose you to new styles and authors you may never have come across otherwise, expanding your toolset and allowing you to contextualize your own work.

You can discover new works and authors without an MFA, of course, and you should continue to do it after one. Read everything — not only in your genre, but in completely new ones. Step outside your comfort zone. Read extensively and often. Listen to books on your way to work, and always have something new to read.

[bctt tweet=”Read everything — not only in your genre, but in completely new ones, says @inkhat”]

Don’t know where to start? Published authors often give examples of their favorite works in interviews. Look up one or two of your favorite writers, and try a few of their recommendations.

2. Meet word count requirements

Writing is craft, and craft requires time and effort. Carving out this time can be difficult. Unless you’re the incarnation of discipline, you’re going to have trouble hitting your word count goal every day.

An MFA program will insist on that word count. It requires you to produce, and to produce at a fast pace, something that is necessary to learn your craft.

This pace also helps you develop the ability to stop thinking of every sentence as precious, let go of your inner editor and move on — which can be harder than it seems. The less you’ve written, the more valuable each word becomes, and the more difficult it is to edit them. As you keep writing, you’ll realize that your ideas, no matter how poetic, aren’t perfect. Editing and writing become easier the more you do the work of hitting that word count goal.

Of course, you can achieve daily writing goals without an MFA, but the process involves a great deal of discipline and focus. You have to push yourself to meet daily, weekly or monthly word counts. It’s hard to do this alone, which is where the final element comes into play.

3. Find a group of supportive, committed people

You need to foster a group of peers with whom you can discuss and trade writing. These should be people whose writing and opinions you respect, and who aren’t afraid to offer constructive criticism. If you find yourself in a group that only praises your writing, leave. It’s not going to help you at all.

An MFA will give you this group gift-wrapped and ready to go. You start with a critique group on day one, writers vetted and approved by the same people who selected you. It’s likely that these relationships, both as friends and colleagues, will continue long after you’ve left the program.

Again, a writing critique group is something you can create on your own, but it can be challenging. Writing is a solitary art, and many writers tend to be independent by nature. Finding a group means fostering professional relationships, and that can take time and effort.

Look online for local groups, or attend local conventions and conferences in your genre. Go to signings and readings. Chances are you’ll find intelligent, like-minded people who can help you learn to write, and vice versa.

Do you need an MFA?

If you’re having trouble with these elements, or the discipline of writing itself, an MFA might be the right choice for you.

Enrolling in a program also buys you dedicated time to write, which is often difficult to find when you’re working a full-time job. It’s also a socially acceptable time to write, which translates fairly seamlessly into a resume when you leave. It may not land you a job, but it’s an easy story to explain. A program also exposes you to research tools and professional pathways you might not otherwise be able to access.

On the other hand, pursuing an MFA is a serious undertaking that requires a great deal of time and money. Now that you know what you’re looking for, you may be able to recreate the most important elements on your own. Then you can focus on the fun part: writing!

If you’ve pursued an MFA, what elements most helped you evolve as a writer? If you’ve chosen not to enroll in a program, how have you developed your skills?

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

Photo via LStockStudio / Shutterstock 

The post Do You Need an MFA? 3 Important Elements You Can Replicate On Your Own appeared first on The Write Life.