Become a Writer in 50 Words a Day.
Online Writing Course from August 11 – September 15
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with an idea, or found yourself obsessing over a phrase you just can’t wait to write down, only to find that, when you finally try, you have absolutely no idea how to get it out?
Do you dream of working on big projects—like completing NaNoWriMo, or cranking out that amazing concept for a screenplay, producing a memoir, or finally putting together your poetry into a manuscript for book prizes—that sound thrilling and inspiring…but also paralyzing and overwhelming?
Has the everyday grind meant giving up on making art? Do you miss the days when creativity was part of your regular life? Are you hungry for a way back?
Is the little kid version of you bummed that your brilliant writer/astronaut dreams didn’t pan out? Do you sometimes still watch or read someone else’s work and think “Pffft, I could do better,” and then wonder why you didn’t?
What’s holding you back from making the stuff you wanna make?
Is it fear of disappointment or of getting it wrong? Is it a lack of structure or the support and discipline it takes to build up your creative muscles? Do you just wish you trusted yourself more to get started?
You don’t have to stay stuck when the path ahead seems too difficult or risky. You’ve just got to let your inner Mad Scientist lead the way.
You know who I’m talking about when I bring up the Mad Scientist, right? Beaker from The Muppets? Marvin the Martian? Wile E. Coyote? Well, their real-life counterparts aren’t getting crushed by anvils or going hungry in the desert, that’s for sure.
Mad Scientists make the world go round.
…and not just the evil ones. Where would we be without those wild-haired, white-coated supergeniuses shouting “EUREKA!” and advancing human technology after hundreds of fizzled experiments finally culminate in an epic BANG? And how would humanity avoid destruction if they quit?
I could just be speaking literally (I mean, lasers are great). But in truth, the spirit of the Mad Scientist is the driving force in human of innovation and growth. Art, politics, education, business, the culinary arts, health care, and (that’s right) science and technology—you name a notable leader in any of those fields, and five bucks says it’s someone with “MAD SCIENTIST” printed as the title on their business card in invisible ink.
So, if it isn’t about smoking vats of chemicals and the occasional severe electrical shock, what makes someone a Mad Scientist?
It’s about tenacity and tinkering, and a commitment to see each venture as an opportunity to learn.
It’s aboutknowing that no idea is too crazy to explore, and recognizing that a whole new way of looking at the big picture is always just one more modification and test away.
It’s about taking risks…and then brushing the soot of your lab coat and getting back in the game when you accidentally burn down the building.
Because—and this is the most important part—a true Mad Scientist knows that there is no such thing as a failed experiment. There’s just another trip back to the drawing board, wiser than you were before.
I’m not just spouting cliché’s here. I’m talking about my life.
Introducing your Lab Director:
Hi there. I’m Tatyana Brown.
NINE YEARS AGO, transcribing meeting notes at my criminally boring day job was the closest I ever got to feeling like an artist. The most evolved creative question of my day was Should I sign this email with “Best,” “All the best,” or “Regards,”? Also (because of what must have been some kind of psychological allergy) every single “corporate appropriate” piece of clothing in my closet was itchy. Even my shoes.
Behold: My life *before* becoming a Mad Scientist.
This was what I thought “making it” in the Big City had to look like for someone like me. And yet I was cursed with an imagination—one that refused to accept grownup life meant perpetual small talk and medicating my white-collar exhaustion with lots and lots of primetime TV.
I dreamed of dedicating my life to creating for a larger audience. I just didn’t know how to get there.
Today, I am a writer by trade. My stories have aired on NPR, I publish an annual anthology and produce a monthly poetry show in San Francisco (a city legendary for its literature), and I count some of the most inspiring poets and thinkers in the country as dear friends and peers. I’ve read and taught at universities that likely would have laughed me out of admissions. My work has carried me across North America and the Pacific—teaching, performing, and discovering more and more to write about every day.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Life after the Lab.
It’s been a long road from itchy, despondent automaton to bona fide professional artist, one that was fraught with many experiments and explosions along the way. But looking back, I can pinpoint the exact decision that opened me up for a more fulfilling, creative life: the commitment to write every day, and to do it within a manageable, simple form and structure that would encourage me as I discovered my own voice.
I started playing a writing game that kept me feeling excited without overwhelming me. It was a small commitment–just 50 words a day. After a few days I was putting together stories that I liked enough to share with my friends. Eventually, to make my job more survivable, I began recruiting my coworkers to write along with me, and all of us were amazed at how quickly a little daily practice sharpened our minds.
Suddenly the folks in my small cluster of cubicles were enjoying our time together at work, thinking more clearly and thoroughly, and generally feeling more pride in ourselves. We weren’t just office trolls anymore. We were writers.
That experience made it clear to me that watching folks who’ve felt blocked creatively for years (and in some cases, decades) begin to stretch and write with confidence and excitement was just as important to me as pursuing my own art. It’s that exact game and commitment (with a few upgrades I’ve learned along the way) that I’m offering to teach as the central focus in The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab.
I believe creative people are happier, more aware, and more compassionate than passive consumers. So whether you just want to get started writing for yourself or you dream of crafting the next Great American Novel, I am here to encourage and inspire you. Call it a selfish impulse. I just want to live in a world where more people make stuff.
Tatyana’s insightful comments, enthusiastic energy, and her way of summing up helpful critiques with good humor and grace were all hugely inspirational.
I loved the daily writing challenge, and it has helped me realize that there is time…. is time… is time… is time… I really loved reading other people’s work, and being in a community full of such amazing talents. TMSWL is great for writers complaining about lack of time, people who want to hone their craft, people gearing up for a 30/30, NaNoWriMo, or anyone coming off a conference or retreat and looking to keep writing through the withdrawal. ”
— Kathy Paul, Seattle, WA (TMSWL Alum, 2013)
Brave writing is about knowing that creating something terrible will not kill you.
And that knowledge can set you free.
Maybe you’ll cringe when you read through old rough drafts years from now (and trust me, everyone does), but you’ll live to write another day. And that means you’re learning.
The Mad Scientist’s way of looking at the world is attainable for everyone. And if you want to consistently pursue your own creativity (whether you want it to be a source lifelong personal fulfillment or eventually income), one way or another, you’re gonna have to get into the lab.
What would you write if you were curious instead of scared?
What if instead of freaking out or despairing as you stared down the blank page, there was a low-stress, inviting way to jumpstart your writing practice that involved experimentation, experiential learning, community support and celebration?
If there was a simple, repeatable, manageable set of writing practices that could help you heighten your dexterity with language, hone your voice and vision, and try out as many ideas as you can think of without having to commit more than five minutes of creative time every day… You could do that, right?
This is what The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab is all about—both for the duration of the course and for the rest of your life.
Before The Lab, I was stuck in Writer’s Hell. TMSWL taught me a lot of different exercises that I worried were pointless, but shattered barriers once I did them. I joked that Tatyana is like Mr. Miyagi, teaching me karate by having me wax her car.* I found that The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab was a sort of “rehab” from a lot of counterproductive lessons on I got about writing in college that dictated a more rigid structure.
*DISCLAIMER: Taking the Mad Scientist’s Writer’s Lab will not require you to wax Tatyana’s car and will not earn you extra credit even if you do.”
— Aaron Claypool, Houston, TX (TMSWL Alum, 2014)
What is the Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab?
The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab is a six week writing course built around a small and simple daily practice of composing 50-word stories called “mini-sagas.” The form lends itself to a myriad of creative lessons without becoming overwhelming or intimidating. And the incremental, consistent attention you pay to writing inevitably generates exponential results.
The course will run from August 11 – Sept 15, 2015, and since it’s a teleclass, you can participate from anywhere in the world. We’ll hold six Tuesday night teleclasses (plus a short orientation video) in addition to the daily writing commitment.
As a student, you’ll learn how to write mini-sagas, and then you’ll be given both the resources and support (including personalized instructor’s attention) to fuel your own discoveries as a writer in any field.
The genius behind the course is the combination of a tiny (and therefore manageable) daily writing commitment with knowledgeable, constructive facilitation, fantastic examples of compelling writing across the genres, and an encouraging, friendly community of like-minded students taking risks alongside you every day.
And since this installment of The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab take place during the summer of 2015, you can use the lab as an opportunity to warm up and feel confident before doing some heavy creative lifting throughout the year. Set yourself up to have 2015 be your most creative and exciting year yet.
Even when life got exceedingly hectic and the thought of writing felt more like a chore, The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab was essential in my maintaining momentum as a writer. It didn’t just help me improve my writing, but my greater understanding of my own language.
I now have 31 short stories that I may be able to polish up and submit to various journals/publications. I have a better understanding of my own ticks and habits, and to an extent my voice and the themes I write about. It definitely reignited an old spark that I was struggling with. And more so than anything, the culture of “Assume everyone likes your writing” and “give yourself permission to fail” combined with the small format, allowed me to explore places I wouldn’t have otherwise. I think The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab is great for people who to be writing, but sometimes become disenchanted with it.”
—M. Snyder, St Louis, MO (TMSWL Alum, 2013)
Writing every day will become an achievable goal, and you’ll be surprised how fast your abilities and awareness will grow.
In addition to having the chance to ask questions and share experiences, the course curriculum will get you ready to take your experiences as a Mad Scientist Writer into the real world.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Orientation! (free video)
Wherein you’ll get a chance to learn the structure and agreements for the class, receive your first assignment, and begin setting goals for the rest of The Lab. Watching this video is mandatory for all Lab Mates before the first Call
Call One (August 11, 2015, 90 min): How to Stop Worrying and Love Your Bombs
Wherein your Lab Director proves that “writer’s block” is a dirty, dirty lie. You’ll wake up on the second day of The Lab ready to savor all of the writing you do from here on out.
- Meet your Labmates and have a brief chance to get to know one another
- Introduction to flash fiction and other tools we’ll be using throughout the month
- Immunization against common fears all writers face
- Games to get out of your head and into your body with your writing, so you can let your imagination take over
Call Two (August 18, 2015, 75 min): Nuts, Bolts, and Dynamite (Characters, Imagery, and the Element of Surprise)
Wherein we examine the anatomy of great storytelling. This call will give you the basic tools to construct and tinker with your own tales so that they come to life on the page.
- Survey the elements of great storytelling, and tools for implementing literary devices in flash fiction and beyond (including how to recognize a good opportunity to tell your story in a way that’s fresh and exciting)
- Examination of the basic strategies for compelling writing, and prompts for its construction
- Tips and tricks for writing with specific, evocative, and engaging language
- Exercises to keep you fresh instead of formulaic, and to keep the unexpected driving your work.
Call Three (August 25, 2015, 75 min): Surgical Precision and Spotting the Rabbit Hole
Wherein you’ll learn to be ruthless and generous in all the right moments with your second drafts, so that you’ll know where to push yourself to guarantee profound improvement from even the most subtle adjustments. You’ll also know how to take your best and most interesting ideas deeper after this call.
- Editing theory and technique to help you give your readers the experiences you’re aiming to create
- Introduction to critique and collaboration
- Prompts to highlight what excites you in your own writing, so you can develop it further
- Secret weapons for noticing and controlling the impact of precise language in your everyday life
Call Four (September 1, 2015, 75 min): Turning Your Lab Monsters Loose
Wherein you’ll learn how to translate success in The Lab into exciting real world projects, setting yourself up for a lifetime of discovery and fulfillment of your own making.
- Life After the Mini-Saga: applying your writing practice in the lab to a sustainable, fulfilling, regular creative life
- Advanced collaboration: how to find your own inner circle of writers
- The benefits of brevity and economy (beyond flash fiction)
- How to find your family of Mad Scientist Writer role models
Call Five (September 8, 2018, 75 min): MY GOD, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!
Wherein you get tools to analyze everything you’ve accomplished this October, and the fuel you need to keep going with your practice so that the effects of your time in The Lab last for months and years to come.
- How to examine your mini-saga collection for the things you didn’t know about yourself as a writer (and, even creepier, as a human being)
- Critical analysis tools for looking at art without getting intimidated, overwhelmed, or blocked
- Challenges to help you transition some of your more exciting ideas from their mini-saga inceptions to larger scale projects
- The ever-mysterious audience: how find them, relate to them, and keep yourself from going crazy wanting to please them
Call Six (September 15, 2015, 75 min): Reporting our Results
Wherein we wrap up our experiences in The Lab with careful, personal analysis of the body of work of each writer, set goals for the rest of the year, and share our final “ah-hah!”s from the course.
- Information about great places to publish your favorite pieces of flash fiction from The Lab.
- Tools for keeping in touch with your favorite Labmates.
- Going away gifts and bonuses to keep you inspired for the rest of the year.
100% money back guarantee if, at the end of successfully completing the course, you don’t feel satisfied with the experience. And you get a lifetime of creative possibility in the bargain.
BYOLC (Bring Your Own Lab Coat)
It is easier for me to sit down and write, and it’s easier to be okay with first drafts not being perfect. I am better at taking critiques less personally, and to see the flaws in my word-children. It was an amazing experience, and I’m so very glad that I did it. I may do it again!
—Shawna Jaquez, Seattle, WA (MSWL Alum, 2013)
I believe: If you join me in The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab, then you will learn how to:
- Get out of your own way and enjoy making stuff.
- Edit your raw material down to a fierce, compelling final draft.
- Spot great ideas in your writing and amplify them.
- Identify the story you’re trying to tell, and what detail/development will best support it.
- Take critique without compromising your vision.
- Collaborate with people who inspire you in ways that leave everyone satisfied and invigorated.
- Spot and analyze the way language is being subtlety used around and on you in the world every day.
- Keep inspiration at your fingertips (and know how to keep going when you just can’t seem to find it).
- Experiment until you sound like you.
Lab Materials and Supplies
Writing every day for six days is the kind of journey that goes better with a little fuel for thought. Here’s what you’ll get to keep you going along the way:
- 6 weekly 75 min calls (plus an orientation video) which will also be recorded and sent to you to help you direct and develop your progress.
- Professional eyes on all your writing and personal written feedback on your work from your Lab Director
- Friendly and encouraging Daily Check-Ins for to help everyone keep up with the writing commitment.
- Lifelong access to an online community where you’ll post your mini-sagas, ask questions, read work from other classmates, and generally find other writers you’re excited to make stuff with.
- Specific and repeatable skills for building writing community that will come in handy for the rest of your life.
- An hour long, one-on-one post-Lab analysis session where you’ll get a chance to dig into all the things you didn’t realize your work says about you as a writer, and also get feedback on how to transition everything you’ve learned into your real life/longterm projects.
- A standing invitation to take The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab once more for free any time it’s offered.
- Optional writing/critique circles for further practice
- A digital copy of An Act of Submission (the collection of Tatyana Brown’s first 3 months of writing mini-sagas, guaranteed to leave you feeling vindicated for your earnest beginnings)
- Regular bonuses/opportunities to directly interact with your Lab Director
- A 100% money back guarantee if, at the end of successfully completing the course, you don’t feel satisfied with the experience.
I always hated reading/writing as a child. I was the kid who tried everything within power to avoid both. I used Sparknotes extensively and knew exactly which fonts and settings would take up the most space at 12pts to fill in the page quota on any given paper. At the end of the day, reading and writing was always a chore, and I wanted to just get it over with as quickly as possible.
And that’s why I really wish I had taken a class like this when I was a child, because the way The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab is structured makes it hard not to love writing. It’s just so much fun! I enjoyed writing my mini-sagas tremendously. Getting to fifty words was easy, and all that was left was experimentation and discovery! Likewise, the community built through the class was an excellent source of motivation. Reading everyone else’s mini-sagas was just so inspiring and entertaining! So just wanted to say, thank you for making this.”
—Manoj Dayaram, San Francisco, CA (TMSWL Alum, 2014)
But wait! There’s more.
(And not just because I’ve always wanted to write that.)
If you register before June 15th for The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab you’ll get a complimentary 50 minute call with the Lab Director to discuss goals/projects, personal obstacles to creativity, and where to go next. You’ll get a customized reading list and set of writing prompts sent to you based on the conversation as well, and you can take this call either during or after the class. You’ll be able to wrap up your month in the Lab with close, specific attention from a celebrated instructor.
NO STUPID PROMISES.
I can’t provide you with the roadmap for an instant bestseller.
Though I am clear The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab will get you writing, I can’t guarantee you’ll finish your first book. Only you can do that.
I also won’t teach you how to be formulaic, trendy, or anyone you’re not. And I most certainly am not telling you that writing is easy or that you won’t have to work for yourself.
I am a terrible liar, and those aren’t even interesting lies.
Writing every day for six weeks is not something that just anyone would do. It’s going to be uncomfortable and challenging and flat-out weird at times.
That said, I can promise you that you can do it. And it will be a worthwhile investment. There’s a very good chance it will change your life.
I’ve watched it light up everyone from garbage men to cubicle-dwellers, college students to grandparents. So I know the tools inside The Mad Scientist Writer’s Lab can work for you.
You will surprise yourself. You will look at the world differently. And you will walk away from our time together with more writing than you would have if you’d never taken the course. If that sounds like a worthy challenge, I’ll see you in the Lab.