102: Write More, Write Better, and Write Smarter with Gabriela Pereira

Welcome to episode 102 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks to Gabriela Pereira about becoming a better writer and building a community around your writing.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork talked about what he learned after writing income reports on Pinch of Yum for five years. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How to Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, and Build Your Community

Gabriela got her MFA in 2010, and after she graduated, she realized that a lot of people don’t actually need a formal education process in order to write. If you give yourself permission to own your creativity and writing, and if you learn a few key skills along the way, you can be a writer.

She started DIY MFA to teach others how they can do exactly that.

By focusing on the work at hand, Gabriela has been able to practice, evaluate, and fine-tune her craft and teach others how to do the same. Gabriela’s strategies about finding the right writing system, tracking productivity, staying inspired, and understanding strengths and weaknesses all play into finding one’s voice and writing style.

In this episode, Gabriela shares:

  • What an MFA is
  • Why she considers herself an instigator
  • How she calculates and tracks her productivity
  • How to find a writing system that works for you
  • How she stays inspired
  • How she writes personal posts
  • Why it’s important to get input from the right people
  • Why you should know your strengths and weaknesses

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If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

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If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.


Bjork Ostrom: In this episode, we talk to Gabriela Pereira about optimizing your writing sessions, how to level up your writing, and tips for building a community and why that’s so important.

Hey everybody. It is Bjork Ostrom, and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, and today we are talking all about writing, which is kind of ironic. We’re not writing. We’re talking about writing. But there’s actually a lot to talk about when it comes to writing. If you are publishing content online, which most of you are doing, one of the most important skillsets that you can have is writing, especially if you are putting a lot of content around recipes. A lot of people that listen to this are food bloggers, and they are creating content around their recipes, so they may be sharing stories or even if it’s little snippets here and there, one of the most important elements is the writing element of it.

How do you infuse story and engaging writing and how do you make your content conversational? All of that stuff is a nuance to art, but it’s the thing that helps to engage and attract readers to your site. People like to read content that is gaging and interesting and pulls them in.

Today, we are talking to Gabriela Pereira from DIY MFA. Two acronyms that you may or may not be familiar with. We’re going to talk about how those work together and why you don’t need to have some type of fancy schmancy degree in order to be a really good writer.

I’m super excited to share this with you because I know the importance of communication online, especially in written word for so many elements of it. It’s an interview that was really fascinating for me because I don’t consider myself a writer, but I’m really, really interested in becoming a better writer.

Let’s go ahead and jump in. Gabriela, welcome to the podcast.

Gabriela Pereira: Hi. It’s great to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I’m excited to talk about all things writing with you. We were chatting a little bit before we started this podcast, and we have a mutual connection. Danielle, who, for those that listen to the podcast know that we interviewed Danielle all about things legal, all things legal as well as sponsored content is a great podcast, and she said, “Hey this would be another great interview for you, so I wanted to line that up and make that happen,” so, excited to have you here.

Gabriela Pereira: I’m very excited to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. This is also nice because you have your own podcast, and I always am reassured when people have their own podcast and do speaking and stuff, it’s like, this person is going to be a great podcast guest. So it’s-

Gabriela Pereira: Oh, no. Now you’ve raised the bar. I’m terrified.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right, exactly. You don’t have a podcast, and you’ve never spoke before. Maybe that would be a better way. We can lower the bar.

Gabriela Pereira: I’ve been living under a rock.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’re going to talk about all things writing, and we’re going to talk about how people can apply that whether to a food blog or to a creative process or maybe writing a book, but before we do that, I’d be curious to talk, or I’d like to talk a little bit about the brand that you’ve developed. The brand is DIY, which we know, and then there’s MFA. For those who aren’t familiar, what is MFA and how does DIY MFA all fit together?

Gabriela Pereira: It’s funny that you say that DIY is the part that most people know, because when I founded DIY MFA, I always assumed that the one that people would know was the MFA piece, and the DIY was the piece that I’d have to explain.

Bjork Ostrom: You’d have to explain, yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: But, so DIY, do it yourself, and MFA stands for Master of Fine Arts, which is the degree, the graduate degree you would get in any of the fine arts, including creative writing.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Gabriela Pereira: It’s a degree that I earned back in 2010, and it was sort of the, the degree was the impetus for creating this do it yourself alternative to that.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. It’s interesting even with DIY, I feel like there’s been a rise of the DIY movement, so maybe that’s why, even in the past, probably 10 years where people are becoming more familiar. I think there’s like a DIY channel? Isn’t there a DIY, like a construction channel or … I use the phrase all the time because I’m a terrible DIY guy so anything around the house, I’m like, “Sorry Linds, I’m not a DIY guy,” so it gets used often, but I-

Gabriela Pereira: Well, you know, when I started DIY MFA back in, what, 2010, I thought about DIY before it was cool, because it wasn’t as big back then, right?

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. For sure. Yeah, for sure. The idea behind it is for those that are interested in getting their MFA or interested in this idea of the fine arts, it’s kind of this statement that, you know what, you don’t need to necessarily go and have this formal education process because you can do it yourself, right? The DIY MFA. Would you say that that applies to everybody or is there this subset of people where you say, “Hey if you want to do this, maybe it’s write a book or start a blog or be a published author in some way, you don’t need to get your MFA in order to do that,” or would you say, “Hey, this applies to everybody. Everybody can kind of have a DIY MFA.”

Gabriela Pereira: Well, I guess I would say that the people who I think need an MFA are probably the very small minority, but I’m always very careful not to bash on the MFA system for a few reasons.

First, because I have one. Now, I am the first to admit that I went back to school and got an MFA for all the wrong reasons, but those were the reasons that most people get MFAs. The reason most people go back and get a degree in the arts, it’s not because you need the piece of paper in order to do your job. It’s not like a medical degree where someone’s not going to let you cut a person open and do a heart transplant if you don’t have an MD, but it’s one of those degrees where people will get it because they don’t feel like they’re really an artist or really a writer or really a musician. It’s that whole aspiring syndrome. People call themselves aspiring, but they’re not the thing. They get a degree because it’s a way to sort of … It gives you something to point to, that you can say-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and it’s a validation.

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly. It was really when I graduated from the program that I realized, first of all, hey this was great. It was a good experience but I could have learned a lot of this stuff on my own, number one, and number two, I kind of don’t need that external validation. I just needed to own it myself.

The whole idea of DIY MFA is to kind of give people permission to own it, and if, obviously there are a few people, a small minority who do need MFAs. If you, for instance, absolutely will never write a single word unless you have a professor breathing down your neck and giving you a deadline, then you should probably go back to school; however, I would challenge those writers to think about what they will do with themselves once they graduate and they don’t have a professor breathing down their necks. That’s the other side of the problem.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things you said was “owning it.” I’d love to hear you talk about that before we get too far away from it. What does it mean to own it when it comes to writing or producing content.

Gabriela Pereira: I think it’s not, in my mind, I mean, I think it means a little bit, is something different to each person, but for me it means just doing the work and not being so hung up on the label that goes on the work or on the person who does the work.

It’s funny, I actually, if you look on DIY MFA, the website, I don’t call myself a writer or a entrepreneur. I mean, I’ll say it, but like my title, my official business title is instigator.

Bjork Ostrom: I saw that. Why is that?

Gabriela Pereira: Because I think titles are ridiculous. I don’t think I need a label to say what I do. I’m just doing my thing, and if this was some big corporate hierarchy, and we needed labels so that people outside the organization would know who’s in charge, then fine. I get it. But when I’m with my team, everyone knows that I’m the ringleader and everyone knows what they’re supposed to do, and we don’t need those labels. It’s sort of become a joke at DIY MFA that when someone needs a title, I’m like, “Just make something up.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.

Gabriela Pereira: It really doesn’t matter.

Bjork Ostrom: So and-

Gabriela Pereira: I just got instigator, like that’s mine.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. That’s interesting that you say that. On my LinkedIn, which I am terrible at updating, it actually says that I still work for the nonprofit that I stopped working for like four years ago, and I need to update that, but one of the things I thought about is for my title, it was kind of the same thing, and I put something like Internet marketing ninja in training, which is, it’s one of those things where any time you use ninja, it’s a little bit embarrassing, so that in and of itself is like, eye roll at myself.

But one of the things I wonder sometimes is when I try and connect with people, it wouldn’t be you because you get the title thing, but sometimes I wonder if I lose credibility in the eyes of other people because of my lack of assigning CEO of whatever site that we have or brand. Do you feel that-

Gabriela Pereira: So-

Bjork Ostrom: Do you feel that as a potential issue at all, like when you’re reaching out to other people that aren’t inside your like, that know you as the ringleader?

Gabriela Pereira: Absolutely, and that is why I have different business cards with different titles with them. And I will-

Bjork Ostrom: What does your business card say?

Gabriela Pereira: I will tell you, like my whole title strategy because I’ve thought long and hard about this. I have my instigator title, and that’s sort of the one that I use within my people and the people who know me and like DIY MFA and people in the book world who know what I do, yaddy yadda.

But I also have business cards that say creative director. Notice that they don’t say founder. They don’t say CEO. They don’t say whatever president. That’s deliberate because I want to look like I’m just high enough on the totem pole that I can make decisions on behalf of the company, but that there could potentially be someone higher up on said totem pole. This is super important because sometimes, I need to buy time when I’m trying to negotiate something or talk to someone about something and so I if can say, and now of course I’m saying this on a podcast, so everyone’s going to know what I do but whatever, at this-

Bjork Ostrom: We won’t, yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: … point, no one really cares.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. Yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: But it’s very useful to be able to hand someone a business card or whatever, and I’m like, “You know what, I just need to check with my people, and then I’ll get back to you,” and that buys me enough time to sit with whatever the decision is and decide if that’s what I really want to do or figure out how I’m going to say no to that thing. Usually, it’s the figuring out how to say no to the thing that I need to do.

Bjork Ostrom: That is really interesting, and it’s one of the things I’ve thought about adopting for my own decision making process is like, the ability to build in … Specifically, like if I were to ask you, like pitch you on an idea, sometimes that’ll happen in a conversation or phone call or something like that, I feel like I need something in my back pocket that I’m able to say, “I’ll get back to you,” and it sounds like that’s essentially what it is for you is like-

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … it’s saying buying that gap where you can download, you can process. A lot of times, you can actually bring it back to your people and run it by them and then come back and say, “Here’s the decision we made.” I totally get how that works for you. You want to process through something as opposed to making a decision on the spot.

What you’re saying is, if you had CEO on your card, it would make it look like you could make that decision on the spot. Technically you could-

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … but you need to buy some-

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … in order to process.

Gabriela Pereira: And it’s also about like, a lot of times, I don’t even need to ask my team about it. Sometimes it’s legitimate, like right now, I have someone on the team who is the web editor, and she handles everything that goes up on the website. The only posts that I control at this point are the podcast show notes because I’m the one sort of producing that, but everything else, she’s got the calendar, she knows whose post is going up when, and I literally would mess things up if I went in there and changed things around.

In some cases like now, I actually do need to check with someone before giving someone else a definitive answer, but 9 out of 10 times, I’d say it’s just to give myself the distance so that I can make a smart decision. A lot of the times, I’m still going to say yes, but there’s a difference between saying yes in the moment and on the spot and saying yes after you’ve thought about it.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. Really interesting. You were talking a little bit about the business side. I’m excited to actually talk to you about two things today. One of it, one thing that I want to talk about is, of course, the writing, and for people … I have no idea, we’ve never actually surveyed to see how many people, but this is so me based on interactions with people via email. I would assume 50 to 70% of people that listen to this are actually in the food recipe niche, and then I would say 25 to 50% of people that listen to it aren’t at all, but just follow along because they’re interested in hearing the conversations and hearing about different businesses.

Point being, I’m excited to talk to you about writing, and we’ll focus in, just to have an area to focus, writing within the food niche, but just writing in general, I think, is so important. It’s such a huge part of the communication process.

Second, I want to talk to you about your business because obviously those are two things that you are knowledgeable on. You have the writing piece that you’re knowledgeable on, and then you also have the business that you’ve build around the topic of writing. Let’s jump in to the writing topic first. You have your blog, the website, which is also business, and then you also have a DIY MFA book. With each one of those, I’ve noticed that there is this focus on three main areas. Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, and then Build your Community.

Would that work for you if we kind of a deep dive in to each one of those areas?

Gabriela Pereira: Absolutely, and I would say, actually, given the sort of more outside of writing breath of your audience, I would even say those categories can be broadened. I’ve started playing with the idea that Write with Purpose, Read with Purpose, Build your Community, really what they are are Write with Focus is the creative output. It’s like ideas going out into the world. Read with Purpose is the writerly equivalent of ideas coming in, but in the food niche, that might be tasting foods or sampling other people’s recipes or whatever. Whatever way that you are taking in inspiration. Then Build Your Community is the exchange of ideas between multiple people.

If we think of it as those three trajectories, ideas out, ideas in, and then idea exchange, I think we can even broaden the-

Bjork Ostrom: Cool.

Gabriela Pereira: … discussion further.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, absolutely. I do think that … I’d be interested to hear from people, and I should start asking people this when we sit down and have conversations with them. How, as a food creator, food recipe, food blog creator, how big do you feel like writing is as part of the job? I know for Lindsay, my wife Lindsay, she has a blog called Pinch of Yum, writing is a huge part of it because she’s super passionate about connecting with people through writing. I also know there are some people who are like, I hate the writing part, love photography, love the recipes. I think even within the niche itself, it really depends.

Let’s jump in on this first area, Write with Focus or this idea of creative output. The part that I’m interested in specifically with that is this word “focus.” What does that look like and why, when you were branding these, why was focus such an important piece of it and what does that mean?

Gabriela Pereira: There is a difference between writing in the dabbler sense and writing or creating with a focus. It’s sort of the difference between someone who goes into the kitchen, kind of like the way I do, and they throw things in a pot and hey, maybe it works or maybe we’re ordering takeout tonight, and that’s just what it is.

In college, I was known for … In grad school, my husband, at the time we were dating, and it was a running joke that whenever it was my turn to cook, it could be phenomenal or it could be the most grotesque disaster ever.

Three’s a difference. When you’re creating with focus, there are kind of three pieces to it. There’s the ability to be motivated but also meticulous in the continuous practice of the thing, of the art. This has to do with the whole idea of iteration that I go in to in the book and that I talk about at length on the DIY MFA blog and everywhere else, but I’m kind of obsessed with this idea of do it, of creating as like little micro experiments where you create something small, and then you test it out, and you let people sample it or see it and experience it, and then you tweak it, and then you put it out there again, and then you tweak it again. You keep kind of iterating on the same concept.

This is different from practice where in practice, like if you think of a yoga practice or a meditation practice, it’s all about being very present in the moment and being present in the experience. Iteration means you have to be able to step back from that experience and that practice and assess whether or not it’s working. If you’re doing yoga and you’re really in to it … I mean, I’m not very good at yoga, I’m usually trying to analyze my yoga as I’m doing it, this is why I suck at it, but the way to do it is to be present. The minute you step out of the experience and you start assessing whether or not it works, that’s when you’re not really in the practice.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Gabriela Pereira: The first piece is the practice element, like the ability to have some sort of contained way to do the work, and then step back and evaluate whether or not you want to keep doing it that way or you need to change things up. The second-

Bjork Ostrom: Two questions with that just before we get too far away.

Gabriela Pereira: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say “contained space,” what does that mean?

Gabriela Pereira: Again, like I have a whole method with the writing piece of how writers can assess their own process. I talk about writing and collecting data. I literally, when I wrote the DIY MFA book, I collected data on myself. I would track exactly how many words I’d write every time I sat down to write. I’d also track how long I wrote, and then I’d calculate my words per hour because I’m just that nerdy, and I’d also make note to myself every time I sat down to write as to whether it felt like I had been effective or not because it doesn’t matter how fast I wrote or how productive I’d actually been. If it felt like pulling teeth, that’s something I needed to be aware of, and-

Bjork Ostrom: How do you … What do you do with that data then once you collect it? I imagine somebody that is … We’re in the middle of, we’re going to come up, Food Blogger Pro as a membership site. We have a lot of content that we share in a short amount of time including emails, and we’re doing a one-day boot camp, and all this different stuff. I’m writing a lot for it. It’s not like a, I’m not writing a novel but I’m writing more than I usually am because I’m communicating more, and I’ve noticed like, oh, I’m not very good at this. I don’t have a system set up for it.

Are you trying to revise your system when you are doing that-

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … and using the data to inform that.

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you have an example of how that data influenced you and then a change you made?

Gabriela Pereira: In fact, I do. When I was writing the DIY MFA book, I, at first, because I have two small children. At the time, my daughter was what, she wasn’t even one when I started writing it because I signed the contract, she was maybe eight months old. My son was like three, and he’s a very energetic child.

At first, I thought, oh, I know what I’m going to do. I’ve got all these hotel points, because at the time my husband was working at a law firm, he traveled a lot, so he had all these hotel points. I was like, I’m going to hole up in a hotel like every, you know, two three weekends, and I’m going to write like a crazy person, and then I’ll come home and be with my family the rest of the time, and it’s going to be perfect.

I did one weekend like that, and it was awesome. Then I started doing a few more, and they did not work as well, and I realized that very quickly this was going to become a ridiculously expensive ebook to write.

I started thinking to myself, like okay … And I was tracking this. It was by tracking my data during those springs that I was able to figure out, okay, it seems like I’m being productive, but if I really calculate how many hours I’m spending here, it’s not going to be sustainable for the long haul. Then I experimented again. I tried writing in my office, my home office. Apparently, my home office is really great for working and for recording podcast. It is not great for writing because when I’m in my work computer space, I feel like, it’s just too tempting to do non-writing work.

That’s when I came up with the idea, all right, now let me try this again, I’m going to go walk my son to school. He was in preschool in the mornings. I’d drop him off at preschool. I’d go to the Starbucks around the corner. I’d sit down with my teeny tiny laptop. I would not log in to the Starbucks WiFi, and then I would sit down and write for three hours until I had to go pick him up from school.

There were some days when I was like flying down the street, like you know, running, “I’m here. I’m here. Please don’t leave my child on the street.” Yes, I’m that delinquent mother, but I did it. I realized that this was the system that worked for me.

I think the thing with the practice element and the finding that system component of writing with focus, it has to do with two things. One, it’s about what works for you because there are way too many people out there, especially in the writing space who like to spout advice on “this is how I do my writing” and that’s great if it works for them, but it’s not a blanket statement that will apply to every single writer, and you have to test things out. By all means, if someone gives you a piece of advice, and you think it might work, use that as your starting point, but then from there, you need to experiment and figure things out.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the … I just wrote a blog post, and it was 20 things that we had learned over the past five years, and one of the things that I’ve learned is this concept of know other … This is like, I need to come up with a better catch phrase for it, but the idea is know other people’s paths, but walk your own, and the idea being inform yourself on how other people are doing things. As a writer, observe how do other people write and talk to other writers and learn about their process, but then don’t say, “Okay, and now I’m going to walk this exact same path as you,” because your path is going to be very different.

It’s like observing how people get somewhere and what their path is but then knowing that you need to then create your own path because that’s what’s going to work best for you, not just carbon copy of what somebody else has.

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly. The other component, just to sort of wrap up the creative output piece, one of them is find … The second piece of it is the creativity piece, and there are a lot of different ways that you can come up with new ideas. I have a whole bunch of ways that I teacher writers how to generate ideas, but the key thing is that you want to have a go-to stash of tools or techniques or things that can help inspire you. I actually have this treasure box next to my desk. I call it the oracle because back in the-

Bjork Ostrom: I love stuff like this, yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: Yeah, because back when the ancient Greeks needed inspiration, they’d go to the Oracle of Delphi. I go to my little oracle box, and in it are a ton of different random things I’ve collected that help inspire ideas. I have a stack of really weird postcards and photos, really cryptic photography that help inspire stories. I use dice a lot when I work because I find that when I get stuck, if I leave things to chance and I assign different options to the different numbers, it’ll force me to deal with whatever option comes up, and that forces me to think outside the box.

Bjork Ostrom: You roll the dice and then one option is like “record a podcast” or one option is like “write a short story on an Uber driver that gets caught in a scandalous affair”?

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly, or I mean, a perfect example, if-

Bjork Ostrom: Or record a podcast about a scandalous Uber driver that gets caught in the affair.

Gabriela Pereira: For listeners, if you wanted to try your hand at something random like using a random idea, we actually created an app on diymfa.com called the Writer Igniter.

Bjork Ostrom: I have it pulled up right now.

Gabriela Pereira: Yeah, so it’s like slot machine thing, and that actually used to be a physical flip book, like I actually made, because in my past life, I was graphic designer and a toy designer, so I made this little booklet, and I’d have the four different elements, and then I would just flick the book open and let it land, and whatever those things were that popped up, that’s what I would have to write, or I’d do that also in classes when I had students.

But the key here really is to have some place, like a safe space that you can go to when you hit that moment of drought because while it’s great to give yourself time to replenish the well and all of that, sometimes you’re on a deadline, and sometimes you just have to produce something and you can’t … I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to stare at a blank screen. If I need to produce something, I need to have a stash of ideas hidden away somewhere so I can produce on the spot.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. We won’t jump in to this, but you also had a great post called “Setting the Mood for an Optimal Writing Session” that I really thought was good. Even just reminders like one of the things is tap in to the five sense. There’s a time when I have gotten away from this but where I’d have a little candle on my desk and a cup of coffee, and then it’s such a small thing but it influences then how you create. I think it was a really good reminder so we’ll link to that in the show notes as well.

Gabriela Pereira: Absolutely. I actually had a playlist, and like with some writers get really nerdy and they have like playlists that are on the theme of their book, mine was just like motivating music, but when I got used to writing to that same playlist when I was writing the book, it started with the Lego song, Everything is Awesome, and so the minute that song turned on-

Bjork Ostrom: Time to work.

Gabriela Pereira: … it’s like my brain snapped in to writing mode. The stuff totally works.

Bjork Ostrom: I feel like it’s one of those Pavlov, is that, Pavlovian-

Gabriela Pereira: Yeah, Pavlovian response.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, where now if you go to the movie now, and you see it, then it’ll trigger you to just take out your computer and start working in the middle of the theater. You won’t have a choice.

Gabriela Pereira: Yeah, seriously.

Bjork Ostrom: We’ll link to that, the Writer Igniter you call it, which is fun just to look at. I just really like that idea of having this creative space that you can go to to be inspired.

One of the things, kind of as a wrap-up item that I really like about this idea of Writing with Focus or the creative output idea is … This is a concept that I’ve been thinking about too, but the idea of not viewing your work just as like sitting down and putting your head down and working, but also being observant of how you work, and then changing and iterating on that in order to get to a more optimal place so the work that you’re producing is more efficient or like of higher value and to not just assume that the old routine is the best routine, and I think that’s a really good takeaway whether it’s writing or just in general like you said, creative output. I think that’s great.

Gabriela Pereira: I would also add that whatever your medium is, whether it’s food or writing, there are going to be certain elements that are kind of the core elements of the medium. In storytelling and writing, it’s going to be knowing how to handle words and playing with words and language. It’s also going to mean character development and plot and story structure. It’s going to be understanding sort of how to put a scene together with world building and setting and dialogue and description.

Whatever those elements of craft are for your medium, you need to learn how to practice them, again, in a contained space. I call this the Petri dish technique where when writers get stuck on something, like let’s say I’m working with a writer, and the dialogue is a mess in their story. If you try to fix the dialogue within the story, you could end up breaking it. You could end up doing something to the dialogue that could end up messing up and the story kind of caves in on itself.

What I always suggest writers do is take the thing out that you need to work on, whether it’s dialogue or description or a particular character, and put it in a Petri dish, a contained space, and practice that thing. Write a whole bunch of different scenes using dialogue or use different characters and put that same character and make them interact with 10 different characters, and practice flexing that craft muscle, then go back and put it back in to the story and try to apply it there.

I can almost think of this on the food level, if there’s an aspect of food blogging, whether it’s photography or crafting your recipes or any other element of the food blogging process, if you’re struggling with it, how can you pull it out of that context and practice it in isolation so you can really make it sing?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It reminds me a little bit of when I was learning guitar, I had an instructor and he said if you mess up on something, don’t practice the whole song. Go back and just practice that one specific part and then put it back in to the song.

Gabriela Pereira: Yeah, I’m Suzuki-trained violinist, I played violin for like 30 years, so that’s where that came from.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. Same idea. Same concept, different creative endeavor. Yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. This second area, Read with Purpose, or this idea of ideas coming in. What does it mean for, to read … Let’s focus on reading specifically, but we can expand that out, like you said, what does it mean to Read with Purpose?

Gabriela Pereira: A lot of people, you know, people are always saying, “Well, writers, you need to read. Read, read, read,” but they never tell writers how to do it, or if they tell writers how to read, they do it by handing us a syllabus at the beginning of a semester and say, “Here, read these books and then write a big, smart paper on it and sound intelligent,” but they don’t actually explain A, the mechanics of how those books were selected, and B, how to actually look at the text and pull it apart.

Now, I was blessed to go to a high school where literally the idea of picking apart language word by word was drilled in to our brains. It was phenomenal. At age 14, we were reading Chaucer. We were … I remember my sophomore year, junior year in high school, we did a unit on Shakespeare sonnets where every single week, we were assigned a 14-line poem, and we were expected to write a 10-page paper on it. We were expected to look up every single word in the poem except for “and” and “the” in the Oxford English Dictionary because we needed to know how the language operated in the time that Shakespeare wrote the poem.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow.

Gabriela Pereira: I had this foundation before I went to college before I went to grad school, and for me, it was second nature. I just would sit down and look at things. I remember in college, we had to read this book that was like a thousand pages long, and I did not have the patience to read it because it was so boring, and so the day that we had to discuss it in class, the teacher would say, “Crack open the book to page 725,” and he’d start talking, and then literally in the time it took for me to read the page and then the two pages before and after it, I could then answer any question he asked because you learn what to look for in the text to be able to figure out what it means in that contained space.

Reading with Purpose takes basically three pieces to it. There’s the ability to select the work to begin with, to read the books that are going to help you because, I mean for writers, like we love to read. I mean, I don’t know about you but like-

Bjork Ostrom: Yup.

Gabriela Pereira: … as a writer, I love to read, I could read all day and still find things to read, but if you’re going to read in order to build your expertise and your knowledge and grow your understanding of the literature you want to write, you have to be smart and selective about the books you choose because life’s just not long enough.

Having a system for choosing the right material to read and then also having a system for being able to dive into it and really pull out the important nuggets from each of the books, and that just takes practice. It’s the same as the Writing with Focus. You have to practice and then step back and see, like okay, am I actually getting anything out of this reading experience? How can I adjust the way I read so I can get more out of it so that you can be as efficient as possible and get the most out of every book you read.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting because usually, we think of reading books together information about the subject about the book, but it sounds like what you’re saying is reading books as a writer in order to inform the writing that we’re doing. Is that right?

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly. I mean, the question that writers should always have at the forefront of their mind is how does the what, the subject matter, or the thing inform or support the “why.” How does the way the author says whatever they’re saying support the actual message or the sort of subtext that they’re trying to convey.

Bjork Ostrom: Would that be specifically with longer form content like a novel or a short story or-

Gabriela Pereira: It can be anything.

Bjork Ostrom: Do you have an example, let’s say when you are writing a blog post for DIY MFA, maybe it’s more on the informational end as opposed to the story end. Do you have an example of how you use that question to improve or use it as a filter maybe for what you’re talking about?

Gabriela Pereira: On the informational side, it’s very easy because it’s how does the what inform the “why.” You think about it, what is it, like why are you writing this post. What’s the game plan, the big purpose behind this post. Then you sort of reverse engineer from that and you think, okay, how am I going to structure the information or how am I going to frame the context of this post so that it makes sense for people, so that they engage with it, so that they take from it what I want them to take from it.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. In some ways, it’s starting with the “why,” or start with the end in mind and then say what do I want people to get out of this? So how about if you, not information, what if it’s more of like a post where you’re telling a story, and your “why” is entertainment. How does that look different?

Gabriela Pereira: I can share something. It’s a bit … It’s not quite as entertain-y as it is personal, but back in the fall, I decided I was going to share something very, very personal with my website, and I’m happy to share it here if you’d like.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: I have bipolar disorder, and it was something that I’ve toyed with sharing publicly for a long time, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it, and I knew that if I was going to share it with my readers and with my word nerds, my audience, that it needed to be in a way that really meant something. It couldn’t be flippant. It couldn’t just be, “Hey guys. This is a thing.” I didn’t want it to be something where I was flogging myself or where it was going to turn in to some big pity party. I literally agonized about this for like a year. Years, even. I even toyed with the idea of having a coming out of the bipolar closet party.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: Like, I’m not kidding, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yeah, like literally have people over and-

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: … like invitations and e-card, e-invites, and yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly. But I decided against it. Then back in November, the election happened, and in the writing sphere in particular, it was heavy, like people freaked out because a lot of the writing space tends to be in New York City. They tend to be very liberal. Even the ones who are more conservative were getting a lot of backlash from their liberal friends who were then maybe angry at them for not voting the way they wanted to, like all of that stuff. There was a whole lot of melodrama going on.

I started writing these newsletters, and I didn’t really know I was doing it at the time, but I started writing these newsletters just trying to temper the climate that I knew a lot my word nerds were facing. At one point, I realized that like … It was always in the back of my mind, okay, I need to share this thing at some point, it’s really weighing on me. Then somehow, I think I was watching the movie Frozen with my kids, and I realized all of a sudden that the story of Elsa in Frozen is kind of analogous to the experience of having a mental illness.

This whole idea of trying to clamp down on your emotions to try to conceal, don’t feel, and that whole thing, it all of a sudden just popped out at me, and then the fact that at the end of the movie, spoiler alert, she manages to control her ice powers by love, love melts the frozen heart, that whole thing. I realized that this is so parallel.

What I had always struggled with in sort of having the emotion and then the fact that it’s not about clamping down, it’s about embracing and loving the very thing that I’m fighting against, that suddenly everyone else in my space who was dealing with the results of this election was experiencing the same thing because they were trying to clamp down on their emotions. They were freaking out, they were angry, and yet the way to really be able to handle it and accept it and deal with it was to extend compassion and love.

I wrote this long newsletter on that and all of a sudden, it just broke wide open, and I shared the whole story. But that was an example of I knew that I had this thing that I needed to share, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make it resonate in a way that people would get, and then it was sort of a perfect storm of something timely happening that also coincided and reflected what I had been wanting to share anyway.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Gabriela Pereira: I don’t know if that makes sense, but-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. Even just on the, it’s interesting as a side tangent, just this idea of leaning into some of the personal stuff, not necessarily where we started but I think it’s interesting as a creator and as somebody who publicly publishes content, just the decision to do that. That’s one of the things for Lindsay and I that we’ve talked about, she has her blog, and she has more of the content, I have the podcast that I do as well, but just the idea of leaning into some of those personal things and be willing to share those.

I think the nuance that’s interesting, or maybe it’s not the nuance, but this idea of you knowing that you wanted to share this, and you wanted to share publicly, so that was kind of the “why,” and then it was, you knew what the “why” was or maybe had a general idea of it, but figuring out then the “what,” like how is that delivered and what does that look like as you distribute that content or inform your audience or loop people in, and it sounds like for you it was this combination of the newsletter, the movie Frozen, and then the election all coming in that “what” helping to support or inform the “why.” Is that-

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Gabriela Pereira: I would also add with the idea of leaning into the difficult stuff, that this is something that took me a very long time to be okay with. I just wanted to say that and put that out there for listeners because someone who maybe doesn’t know me might think, “Oh my God. She’s like totally like sharing all this stuff. I could never do that. This is too hard,” and I get it because if you look back in the archives, and I always encourage people to go back and look at the archives at DIY MFA, look at those early posts, I’m really good at getting into professor mode and relying on being in my head space because I don’t want to deal with the gushy emotions.

It’s only really been in the last year that I’ve been more open to allowing that vulnerability, so be okay with where you are and know that you can grow in whatever direction you need to-

Bjork Ostrom: Do you-

Gabriela Pereira: … or anyone who might be feeling that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Again, this is a little bit of a tangent, but it’s one that I’m interested in. DIY MFA, obviously it’s a brand and it’s a business, but it’s also, there’s a personal element to it, and I feel like in general, what’s happening is that even big brands are needing to be more personal because of how we communicate online.

Do you think … What are your thoughts on just vulnerability in general, whether it be writing or creative expression, especially as related to things online. The question that I ask is because, the reason that I ask it is because I feel like it’s becoming not necessarily more important, but it’s becoming more commonplace. I think people connect with people, and my favorite conversations aren’t the ones about the weather but are conversations about how somebody’s doing or the things that, maybe it’s the great successes or the great tragedies that they’ve experienced in their lives, but it’s the really personal stuff, and then it’s weird to transition that online, but I noticed a lot of creators or writers doing that. One of the writers that I follow, I don’t know if you’re familiar with, James Altucher-

Gabriela Pereira: Mm-hmm.

Bjork Ostrom: But he’s kind of like the extreme of … He just shares, he’s like … Super extreme life stories that he goes through, but I’m curious to know what your thoughts are with that in terms of personal elements being connected to the writing of maybe a brand or a blog or a business.

Gabriela Pereira: So … I have so much to say on this because it’s something that I’ve, I’ve struggled with this. Again, you look back at the archive, and like I was professor mode for a very long time at DIY MFA. It took me a long time to loosen up my language to be like, “Hey, hey word nerds,” you know, “O-M-G.” Even just the sort of … Yes, I have been called out for sounding like a ditzy teenager sometime, and you know what, I love acting like a ditzy teenager, like that’s who I am, so I’m okay with it.

But as far as the vulnerability goes, I mean, it’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, it was hard for me to be able to take those initial steps and to be more vulnerable, but the more I did it and I received feedback from writers … Especially in the podcast. I really started sharing things that were more personal in some of the podcast episodes because I felt like there were people I was speaking to, and it wasn’t just … There just feels like there’s something more personal when you’re listening to someone talk versus reading their words on a page. For me, as a writer, I know when I’m writing, I’m doctoring that up. That is crafted writing. I also come to other people’s writing with [inaudible 00:45:11], so I feel like it’s more personal when I’m listening to someone speak.

But on the flip side, I feel like there’s an element … There are a lot of people who are using vulnerability and “authenticity,” in quotes, like it’s some sort of marketing plan, and that is not okay with me. That was exactly what I did not want to do when I shared my story with my word nerds. I did not want it to be a shtick. I wanted it to be who I was, and then just put it out there and let it be what it was. I didn’t want it to become a thing or become part of the brand or whatever.

It’s that fine line, like you’re constantly dancing because if you talk about something too much, then it does become part of the brand, and then you’re starting to wonder, like well, will it be off brand if I don’t talk about it.

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Gabriela Pereira: … and then you just make yourself go crazy.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. The hard part with it is the overlap of personal and brand so like-

Gabriela Pereira: Yeah, that’s the other piece.

Bjork Ostrom: … as those two things are, they’re both separate but they’re both together, and so if you are being authentic, naturally, that impacts the brand, and it’s hard to separate those things.

Gabriela Pereira: It’s also interesting because like I have screenshots of the DIY MFA website over the years, and it was very recent, like 2014, 2015 when I started having my photo on the front page, like the homepage of the site. If you look at the photo that’s on the homepage of the site, it is no mistake that that photo a picture of me holding a book in front of my face.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, sure.

Gabriela Pereira: That is who … That is the brand, like I don’t want it to be all about me. There are other people, you see other people in the marketing space and the online digital info product world who very much are cool with standing in the spotlight and being on their homepage. I don’t want DIY MFA to be all about me. I think part of it is because I’m afraid that if it’s all about me, then if I, if at some point-

Bjork Ostrom: Everything relies on you.

Gabriela Pereira: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: There’s something about it, like the longevity of it. I kind of feel like a hundred years from now, the brand could live on without me if it’s not all about me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup. Yup. That makes sense for sure. Interesting. Well, it was something that I wanted to talk to you about because you got in to it, and it’s something that I think about quite a bit as it pertains to building a business and a brand, and a lot of the people that listen to this are solopreneurs, so it’s not necessarily like they’re trying built target.com or amazon.com. They’re building a blog where they talk about their lifestyle and their stories. I appreciate you sharing that. I appreciate the vulnerability with that and the openness, and I think that it’s encouraging and good for other people to hear that as well, so appreciate that.

Gabriela Pereira: Well, thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: I have all this stuff that I want to talk to you about, and I want to try and fit it in to a reasonable amount of time, so I’m going to keep pressing forward.

Gabriela Pereira: Okay.

Bjork Ostrom: I want to make sure to hit this next section here because I think it’s important, the idea of Building Your Community, and you framed it as exchanging ideas between people or multiple people. Can you talk about why that’s an important thing to do to built a community whether online or in person.

Gabriela Pereira: Well, I mean, as a solopreneur or as a blogger or as a writer, you spend a lot of time alone starting at a computer screen, not a lot of human interaction, and so it can be really hard to like … It’s very easy to get tunnel vision because you’re in this sort of echo chamber of your own mind. I think having outside, like being able to exchange ideas with like-minded people is really important, but it’s also important to find the right like-minded people because getting input from people that are not helpful is not, like could be more detrimental than not getting input at all.

Finding … I think of input as coming in one of four categories, and I think of it in terms of the acronym CASA because my family’s from Brazil. Casa is house in Brazil.

C is the critique, so people giving you the feedback or the input, like literally the people telling you this blog post needs to be this format or your SEO is just not working here, whatever, people giving you the nuts and bolts feedback.

A is the accountability. Sometimes you just need people who are going to keep you on task. These days, my accountability, most of it comes from my readers and my listeners. They’re going to be annoyed if a podcast doesn’t go live when it’s supposed to go live, or they’re going to be unhappy if I haven’t sent a newsletter out in like four weeks, so I have to get this done.

In the beginning, the accountability might just be like having one or two blogger buddies who you work side by side with. I actually have a friend, we used to open up Skype, and she’s a writer, she lives in Philly, I live in New York, we’d open up Skype, and then we’d both be sitting literally across Skype desk from each other in separates states and doing our work. But having that other person there sort of in the room as it were, means that you’re a lot less likely to check Facebook, you’re a lot less likely to goof around, or get up and get-

Bjork Ostrom: Vacuum the house or do the dishes or-

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly. I have a group of writers that occasionally we’ll get together at like a coffee shop and just side by side. When I was writing the book, I had a friend, and we’d meet at that Starbucks every day. Having people who are there sort of their only job is to keep you accountable, not to tell you if you’re doing it right or wrong. They’re just there to make sure you do the work.

The S is for the support. Those are the people who hold you up when you feel like you’ve been knocked down, and that is incredibly important. Sometimes you just need cheerleaders, and it’s okay to have … My mom is purely a cheerleader. She will not offer me feedback, and nor do I want feedback necessarily from her, but she’s there if I’m feeling miserable about something to pat me on the back and say, “Yeah, that newsletter was awesome.”

Bjork Ostrom: You’re doing a good job, yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: Yeah. “I read your newsletter. It was great.”

Then the last A is for having someone who’s an advisor. It’s so important, I think, to have mentors and advisors and people who you can … They could be someone that you can literally call up and ask for advice, and I have a few people like that in my life, but they can also be people that you don’t necessarily know personally that you can observe from afar. That same analysis that you do with the reading, you can kind of do that analysis by seeing how these people behave online and how they build their brands and how they craft their blog post, and then you can try to adapt some of those concepts.

I would never encourage writers to copy and paste. You do not want to be a copycat, but you can look at the process that these people are using, and then see what elements of that you can adapt to your own process, and then you are owning it. You’re making it your own as opposed to plagiarizing or something.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. It’s interesting. When I would first look at Build Your Community, I would think, oh, as an online content creator, you think of Building Your Community kind of like your tribe, the people that follow you, but important, maybe even more so but just as, is this idea of building a community of people that are supporting you, and you used this analogy of CASA?

Gabriela Pereira: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: And the people that are around you and supporting you in your content creation, not necessarily the tribe of people that are following you online, but it’s that core group of people that are supporting you in what you’re doing.

Gabriela Pereira: Well, and if you’re in the blogging space too, like I remember when I first started blogging, my friends were all, all of my writer friends are fellow bloggers. We’re all sort of friends and followed each other’s blogs, and we rose up through the ranks together. In fact, one of the people who’s on my team, she and I became friends because we followed each other’s blogs, and then we realized we both lived in New York City, and we started hanging out together.

Having people who are in the same boat as you, in some ways, you’re kind of each other’s audience, but you’re also each other’s support because in the beginning, if you’re just starting out, it’s not like you’re going to have hundreds of thousands of fans. Eventually, we hope, but in the beginning, maybe not.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. Cool. Well, thanks for jumping into those. That was really great to dive into each of those areas. Writing with Focus, so this idea of creative output, Reading with Purpose or the concept of ideas coming in, and then Building Your Community, that kind of group around you that’s supporting you with what you do, I think all really important things. Like you said at the beginning, for any creative endeavor, it really applies.

One of the things that I wanted to talk about, kind of the ending topic, the big, overarching idea of business and online business. We won’t be able to go super deep into it, but I wanted to know a couple things.

One of the things that I wanted to ask you and make sure that we had time to talk about was what it’s like for you as a creator, so somebody who likes to write, who writes books, but also somebody who is building a business, and how do you both build the business while also continuing to do your craft? I think that could be applied to people on the food space, whether it’s cooking and developing recipes while they’re starting to build a blog because those are two very different things. I’m curious for you as a writer, as a creator, how have you balanced that as you’ve gotten further along in your career?

Gabriela Pereira: It’s funny that you say that like they’re different things, because to me, the two things are exactly the same. It’s weird. When you were saying, “You’re a creator,” I was thinking, like okay, what am I creating right now? Well, right now, I’m working on creating or actually rebuilding a course because after the DIY MFA book came out, I realized that our flagship course now needs to be updated to reflect the book. That’s still creation, it’s just a different type of creation. It’s not writing a book kind of writing, but it’s writing content for the course.

For me, I find all of those pieces equally exciting. I think the only piece of the business that really just makes me want to cry is the balancing the books piece.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.

Gabriela Pereira: Like the filing my taxes, even launching courses, I mean, launching is stressful, but it’s also fun, and I end up meeting really great new students. Even if during the process of the launch, I’m always kind of a basket case, it’s still, at the end, it’s always really great.

In a way, it’s like I think if the two things are too far apart, then my suggestion would be is try to find ways to make them come together.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. The other thing, when you say “balancing the books” and stuff, is that something that you still do or do you have somebody that helps with that? What is your solution for that?

Gabriela Pereira: I mean, things like the day to day of paying the bills, that’s what I do, but my husband helps me with the taxes, and he’s also a lawyer, so every time I’m worried about something that might have to do with legal stuff, I’m lucky enough to be able to say, “Hey honey, will this get me killed or sued or something?” You know? But-

Bjork Ostrom: If it’s killed or sued, that’s kind of the two important factors, right?

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: I’m like, everything else, I’m good.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Gabriela Pereira: But no, but it’s very useful, I think, to have someone who can do that, but I would say that I’ve learned a lot. The other day, I was super excited. I wrote my own contract, and I wrote it in non-legalese language-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, which is such a gift.

Gabriela Pereira: … I was so proud of myself, and I showed it to hubby, and he’s like, “This is actually a real contract.” I was like, “Yes. I know.” I would say to people, I know it feels like this type of stuff can suck, but you actually … The more you do it, the better at it you’ll get, and then the ability to look at a contract and be able to say, “Hey wait, this is not going to work for me,” and then be able to make those negotiations without having to call a lawyer every single time not only saves you money, but it also makes you feel like you’re more in ownership with the business.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting when you say merging those things. I was reading an article about somebody that was going through hiring, and he talked about how he hated the hiring process, but he tried to create a game out of it and realized he really likes marketing. What he did then was viewed the hiring process as marketing and tried to merge those things are much as possible, and they made it so much more enjoyable. I think that can be true for a lot of things that we do.

There might be some things that you just come to the fact and realization that you just really don’t like them. Same for me with books and accounting and stuff like that. I’m really interested in numbers and how that applies to business, but I’m not super interested in jumping into QuickBooks and balancing the books, so we hired somebody to do that that’s able to come in and half. I think there’s kind of that merging and/or just totally passing off. There’s kind of those two options for those different areas.

Gabriela Pereira: I would say, I mean, there’s a lot that I delegate at this point, but you always want to know how to do the thing that you’re delegating, at least know how to do it well enough so that you can make informed commentary on it being done.

I mean, I’m in a lucky spot because I study graphic design. I was a toy designer back in the day, so I can manipulate my own Illustrator files, et cetera, but even for people who don’t have that background, you want to be able to look at what your web designer is doing or what your graphic designer is doing and be able to verbalize why it’s not working for you. Even if it means just reading up a little bit, like go to Barnes & Noble and get a book on basic graphic design, just so you know what the ideas are. That can make you so much more informed and able to make smart decisions, especially if you’re hiring someone to do it for you.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure. Last question, specific to the business side of things, I’m just curious to know, you’ve been doing it for a while. You’ve been able to refine your craft as an online business owner. What are the things that you feel like are working especially well for you and maybe people in the food space or maybe not if they’re not a food blog or a recipe blog that could maybe apply or learn from the things that you’ve learned over the years as you’ve built your brand and your blog.

Gabriela Pereira: What do you mean exactly?

Bjork Ostrom: I’m just curious to know like if you were to … Let’s say that you were to contrast to where you started things and where you are now, and you were to say, “These are the things that we do now because we’ve realized they work well.” Maybe it’s content production or you’ve realized that courses are a successful thing for you.

I guess basic idea of being like, if you were to start from scratch, if we were to disassemble everything, and you were to reassemble it maybe in another niche, it wouldn’t be in the writing niche, what would be the pieces that you’d be sure to assemble for that business?

Gabriela Pereira: That’s so interesting. That’s such an interesting question because in many ways, the whole process of building this business, and I’m not saying this to sound like I knew what I was doing out of the gate, because I didn’t, but I’m happy for all the mistakes I made, even the ones that felt like failures at the time, because for me, it’s always been about the iterative process.

The very first product that I launched was a tremendous failure, but it taught me so much about how to develop products, and it also allowed me to connect with some massive influencers in the writing space that I would not throw that away in a heartbeat. I would totally do it the same way again. Maybe not the same exact way, but I’d still do that thing.

I’d say for me, my advice would be for writers, find what you, or for bloggers, find the medium or the media that you really feel at home in and master those and refine those first. What I mean is, for me, the two things that I think are sort of the superpowers at DIY MFA, one of them is the graphic element, the fact that because I know a lot about graphic design, I put together worksheets and I make charts and I do things for … Especially when I’m asking and I’m giving talks at conferences, there’s a very visual graphic element to everything that we create, and that is something that I really love to do. I just love being nerdy and mucking around in Illustrator.

The other piece is I knew right away from the get-go that I hate being on video, and I love being on audio. I know that I like to talk to my audience, so I wouldn’t want to be writing all the time, but I know that I would want to shoot myself if I had to be on video on a regular basis. I’m just not one of those people.

I just … I guess what my advice would be – it’s not so much what would I do, but more like advising people to find the things that they really feel like that’s where their heart is and where their material shines the most, and then if there are things that your material, … Even if your material would be well-suited … Let’s say you’re a food blogger, but you’re not really in to photography, but you love graphic design. How can you reapply your content and adapt it to the medium that really lets you shine as a creator?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I think that’s such good advice. I think the issue sometimes can see, we see people having success in one way, shape, or form, we think that’s what we need to do, but in actuality, that person is experiencing that success because they have really leaned in to whatever it is that they’re good at, and that’s what allows them to be successful in that medium. It’s not the fact that it’s the medium itself.

Gabriela Pereira: Exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s that skill that that person has. Yeah. That’s great.

Gabriela Pereira: Last year, I did this whole series on the storytelling superpower and a whole video series, but it kind of applies here. You need to figure out what your superpower is as a blogger or as a creator. It’s not about being limited and only playing safe, but it’s about knowing what your strengths are and doing your darnedest to operate as much as possible in the space.

If you’re Superman, you’re not going to go out and hang out with a mountain of Kryptonite. Find the things, the places where you can really be awesome, and yes, if you need to do, occasionally … Like occasionally, I have to be on video, so then I’ve learned to compensate for what I’m not as good at, and I’ve practiced being on video so I can be better at it, but having that safe zone where you can really shine will make you so much more confident in the areas where you may be aren’t as strong.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I think it’s really good advice to wrap up this podcast episode on, but before we do, Gabriela, I want to know where can people follow along with what you’re doing. Obviously we mentioned the site, but I know you have podcast as well. You also have a starter kit course that people can go through to learn a little bit more, but can you do a quick plug for the different areas where people can follow along with you?

Gabriela Pereira: Absolutely. Well, you’ll find everything at diymfa.com. If you want to … The podcast is called DIY MFA Radio. You can find it on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, or if you go to diymfa.com/podcast, it’ll give you the list of all of our podcast episodes up until now, and the starter kit, you can hop on over to diymfa.com/join, J-O-I-N, and that’ll send you to a page where you can just sign on up, and you’ll get a little mini course delivered via email.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Gabriela, thanks so much for coming on the podcast today, really, really fun to talk to you.

Gabriela Pereira: Thank you. This was such a blast.

Bjork Ostrom: All right.

Gabriela Pereira: Thank you so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Thanks.

That’s a wrap for episode for number 100 in to of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. So appreciate you tuning in to this, maybe each and every week, maybe sporadically. But if you tune in to it sporadically, and if you find yourself listening maybe on the Food Blogger Pro Blog or somewhere random on the Internet, I’d really encourage you to take out your phone, if you have a smartphone, which I’m guessing you do, and find a podcast app that you really enjoy, and subscribe to your favorite podcast. Hopefully Food Blogger Pro is one of those, but also find some other podcasts that you really enjoy and subscribe to those. That’s been one of the best ways that I have educated myself over the years is simply through the podcast app.

What happens is I find some podcast that I like that are in the subject area that I’m interested in, and I create what I call a university on wheels. I drive around, and I’m educated whenever I’m driving because I have these podcasts that I can listen to because I subscribe to them. Whenever a new one comes out, it downloads right to my podcast app, so I would encourage you to check that out, to subscribe to your favorite podcast. Hopefully Food Blogger Pro’s on the list. Maybe it’s not, maybe you’re just randomly checking this out, but be sure to take advantage of that downtime that you have and use that to educate yourself, and podcasts are a great way to do that.

That’s a wrap for this episode. We are signing off here. Make it a great week. Thanks guys.

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  1. If writing process is something you’re interested in, I recommend the podcast by Rachael Herron, a full-time author. She’s on YouTube 🙂