If you want to be a writer* I don’t think you need to go to school and earn an MFA. It’s not a bad idea and you’d probably get a lot of value out of it, but necessary? I don’t think so.
That being said, I do think that if you invest in yourself as a writer, you stand a greater chance of fulfilling clear and specific professional goals related to getting published.
Some writers realize this. Alyssa Martino of The Pen and Paper Chronicles is one, and she wrote about the investments she’s considering in making to promote her development as a professional writer here.
If I were making recommendations to Alyssa or other writers just getting serious about publishing, here are the resources I’d recommend investing in:
Media Bistro: For $55 USD, you’ll get a one year membership to Media Bistro’s AvantGuild program. There are many benefits associated with the AvantGuild program, but the best one for my money is the How to Pitch board, which provides detailed specifications for pitching dozens of publications. Most of those publications are based in the US (and hint, hint Media Bistro- I’d pay double the price of membership if you expanded your listings to include a respectable representation of international publications).
MatadorU: I’m obviously biased about MatadorU, as I work for Matador and helped develop this 12-week travel writing course. But apart from the lessons themselves, which were written by published travel writers, one of the most valuable aspects of this program is the instant access you get to other writers who are eager to support and promote your writing and share resources, as well as instant access to a market leads board, which lists paid and unpaid gigs and assignments. And a special insider’s tip? I’m working on developing paid travel writing assignments for U students and alumni. It’s a hefty investment at $350 USD, but we offer a payment plan, and the long term return will be worth the investment.
Poets & Writers: I started reading Poets & Writers as a teenager and then abandoned it throughout my 20s. I happened to pick up the most recent issue a couple weeks ago and found myself so taken in by almost every single article that I was underlining sentences as if reading some important academic text. A subscription to Poets & Writers is an excellent investment not only because you’ll gain insight into your craft, but because the magazine (and its equally useful website) give you access to submission guides, contest calendars, and other ways to actually get your work out into the world.
What are some of the ways you’ve invested in yourself as a writer? What resources do you view as indispensable? Share your recommendations in the comments.
*which I’ve always thought is a somewhat silly articulation of an aspiration. You’re either a writer or your not. You’re not an aspiring writer (or a “budding” or “burgeoning” writer)… you’re just a writer. Perhaps you’re aspiring to be a published writer, but that’s different.