Columns > Published on June 5th, 2020

The Gabino Iglesias Online MFA: Fourth Semester

Original image by mentatdgt

The last semester of the Gabino Iglesias online MFA is here! If you made it this far, chances are you have what it takes to tackle the last semester and call yourself a writer...and you'll also know that, if you write, you are a writer anyway, regardless of your education or lack thereof. Anyway, let's get to it!


Huge Advances, Netflix Deals, and Other Things You Might Never Experience

In this class we will teach you to constantly remind yourself that you write because you have to, not because your first novel is going to be a bestseller. Maybe none of your books make it to the NYT bestsellers list. So fucking what? You write to tell your stories. You write because you have to. You write because not writing is not an option. You write because you love the feeling of having finished something. You write to scream and hit things that aren't physical. You write because it's the only way to let the anger out and the only coping mechanism that works for you. You write because creating worlds from nothing is a beautiful miracle you can do at any time. You write because it keeps the demons at bay.

Yes, you should hustle and try to get the best agent and the best publisher for you. You should aim for a decent advance because you know your worth. Yes, you can try to get a Netflix or a movie deal. However, if none of that happens, it doesn't mean you're not good at what you do; it doesn't mean you should stop. Accept you could make a lot of money or very little money and then get back to writing because the writing is everything. Writing is the only thing that matters.

Yes, You Must Keep Editing

The only thing you can do is get better and better so the time you spend editing and rewriting is less and less. That said, you will always edit. You will want to edit things after they are published. You will want to go back and work on your first novel a decade after it comes out. Get used to it. Editing for writers is like water for divers, fire for firefighters, kids to teachers, and paperwork to lawyers: it will never not be there. Embrace it.

Writing will destroy you because it's something you will never master, but it will also build you back up and give you reasons to keep trying.

Someone Said What Online? Let It Go

Seriously, let it go. You don't have time for that nonsense. If you can bang out a thousand words responding to some ignoramus online, don't you ever complain about not having time to write. Someone insulted you? Kill them in a story. Someone got on your nerves? Block their asses. Someone threatened you? Report them. Do whatever you need to do so you can move on and get back to the writing. Obviously there are special cases (I tweeted about a racist asshole twice this week), but in most cases, letting go and focusing on your writing is the best option.

Sleep Deprivation: A Tool

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." - Hunter S. Thompson

Listen, this is my MFA , so I'll teach whatever works for me. I don't sleep much. "Oh, that's bad for you!" you say from behind your cigarette or your triple bacon cheeseburger or your fifth cocktail of the day. "Live your life, not mine," I reply, It's all good. I go to bed late and I wake up early. That allows me to have multiple jobs, read like a maniac, write reviews and essays for a plethora of venues, etc. Sleep deprivation is a tool. You were going to stay up anyway, watching Netflix or writing and then deleting texts to your ex; at least this class teaches you to use those hours productively. 

Developing Thick Skin

Nope, this isn't a second version of Someone Said What Online? Let It Go. This is about professionalism. This class is about dealing with negative reviews, harsh editorial feedback, angry fan emails that actually make a point, and little things like one-star Amazon reviews. One of the best things you can have as a writer is skin thicker than a rhino's. If you don't have thick skin, publishing will fucking destroy you. It will drag you into a dark hole, identify all your insecurities, and then pump them full of coke and steroids until they make you run away from writing. This is a class about staying strong when you don't feel like it and accepting that editors who destroyed your work moved on to the next thing in their pile and didn't want to shatter your fragile ego.

How to Wait

You write and then you wait. You wait for emails. You wait for responses to submissions. You wait for agents to get back to you. You wait for reviewers to say something about the book you know they read. You wait for sales. You wait for readings. You wait for events that are half a year away. You wait for feedback. You wait and then you wait and when you're tired of waiting you sit down, refresh your email, and wait some more. There is no time in writing in which you aren't waiting. In fact, if you're not writing and submitting, you're waiting for the writing to come back. In this class, we sit there in silence while someone reads your work and makes different faces. They will never say a thing to you. That's only the first two weeks.

You Will Never "Master" Writing: Anger, Frustration, Acceptance, and Healing

Any class telling you it will help you master writing is bullshit. You never master writing. You can get better. You can be great at what you do, but there is always room for growth. Your best book is one you haven't written yet. In this class, we will teach you to accept your anger and frustration and then write through it so you find some peace and can get to work. Writing will destroy you because it's something you will never master, but it will also build you back up and give you reasons to keep trying.

Always Remember: You Did This to Yourself

Story you're working on got you in a mood? That's on you, homie. Angry about a deadline? You're the one who wants to submit, so stay cool and treat everyone who's not your enemy accordingly. Novel not progressing? Your significant other(s), kids, pets, friends, whatever aren't to blame. Being an ass because the writing is affecting you is something you did to yourself. When writing is making us happy, it's on us because we are doing the thing. When the opposite happens, the same thing applies. Always remember: you did this to yourself.


Happy graduation! Now go write!

PS: Turns out I started teaching some workshops since this series started. Get at me if you want in. Hah.

About the author

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist, Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbicide, and many other print and online venues. Y

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