Saturday, December 3, 2011

Degree or Not to Degree

Maggie Stiefvater, author extraordinaire, wrote a blog post today about creative writing degrees and the necessity of them in order to get published. Like all of her posts on writing, it's an interesting and great read, so if you'd like to read it you can find it HERE.

I have wanted to be a writer for quite some time. I may not have wanted to pursue it since the age of five, but as soon as I hit my teens it became a passion. This resulted in my desire to study writing and go to college for a creative writing degree. I figured if I'm going to pay money and spend another four years in school, I might as well study something I love and want to excel in. But do I think people need writing degrees to get published? No. I mean, look at me, I'm a published author and haven't even finished college! :-) What I do think is that people who wish to be writers should learn as much as they can about the written word and all the rules that go along with writing. You don't need to follow the rules (I think it's a requirement that authors break grammar rules, haha), but if you know them you can choose which ones you like and which ones you don't.

Now, as I move into my second semester of my sophomore year, I'm becoming less and less enthused by the idea of pursuing a creative writing degree. I don't want to have to worry about fulfilling my Social Sciences credits or about turning in that composition for Spanish. I certainly don't want to keep spending money on textbooks that are outrageously priced. I understand and appreciate the "need" to have a college degree, but at the same time I feel like degrees are lessening in value more and more.

What I want is to work at the bookstore more and interact with readers and aspiring writers. I want to read and read and read, and only stop to eat or go to the bathroom. I want to take photos and observe the world through both my camera lens and my own eyes, and take these observations and throw them in a story.

All I want to do is write and love what I write.

*Clarification: I whole-heartedly believe in the importance of having and receiving an education. Knowledge is one of the most important things in our world and it is invaluable. What I meant to say with this post is that for me, seeking a creative writing degree may not be what I actually want/need anymore. I'm actually looking into photography, journalism, and even web-design/marketing as possible routes :-) *


  1. It's exactly for that reason that I quit college! I feel that, through personal study, I can gain as much knowledge as a seasoned writer. Not through dealing with credits and college junk. I didn't have a good time at college while I was there, anyways. I was studying all the time.

  2. Most people persevere with their degree studies so they will have something to fall back on if their tangent gets sticky later.

    If it isn't eating into the writing time I think I'd continue with the studies.It's a long term thing.

  3. I think having a degree is useful later on in life, because it's hard to make a living as a writer. But you don't have to have a degree in creative writing to be a writer. Any degree shows you have a willingness and thirst for knowledge and learning, and the ability to apply yourself. And that's what you need to get employed.

    I know college often sucks and lots of people have a really bad time, but it's only a few years out of your life, and that little piece of paper will open doors later.

  4. Degrees are indeed very useful, but the sad reality--in my opinion--that most find it hard to secure a job where they're actually using their degree-based knowledge. I love learning, though, and even if I don't end up pursuing a degree, I know I'll keep learning and expanding my wealth of knowledge. One of the things I'd like to learn is HTML and the basics of publicity/promotion work.

  5. This post reminds me of one of Tom Robbin's writing tips for teens. I had the opportunity to meet him at the Chuckanut Writer's Conference this summer and he is amazing. Here's his take on this:

    "Avoid majoring in creative writing in college. There, you'll be force-fed a lot of rules. Many of them are well-founded, but there is only one rule in writing: whatever works, works. The trick is knowing what is working. The best writers seem to know that intuitively,. It's actually quite mysterious -- and it cannot be taught. It has to be caught. You catch it like some tropical disease."

  6. Stay in school, kiddo! But not necessarily the school you're at now, if it isn't working for you. I'm a big believer that we need to feed our writing with diverse experiences, and college is a great opportunity to do that. Study different things and you may stumble on something you have a passion for.

    I think that reading is the best way to learn the mechanics of writing, but in order for writing to have substance it needs to be infused with life experience, good and bad.

  7. It took me seven years to get my undergrad degree, but I'm glad I did. It was sort of a personal goal to be the first in my bloodline to graduate college. Majoring in creative writing? Not a necessity. In fact, all it really taught me is that fellow writing critics can be DB's, lol. I had some really cruel classmates and they helped me develop a thick skin.
    Do what you've got to do, DJ, but I'll warn you that once you stop, it's much harder to go back later on.

  8. I was listening to KTAR, the local news radio station, and they were saying that college degrees at the undergraduate level hardly means anything any more. They used to mean an instant spot in management, but now you can only get entry-level with them. You need a masters or a doctorate in order to *really* get anywhere now.

    but I think as far as writing is concerned, it doesn't matter your degree as long as you are good.

  9. I am currently studying for a degree in Creative Writing, but do I think it's an important part of becoming a writer? Yes, and no. I'm maninly studying because I want a degree, I've struggled too hard with uni now not to finish, but I do think I could write without it, it's just helping me to learn. So I'll keep studying, and writing, and see where I end up :)

  10. My dream is to be an author, so that's why I chose not to go to college. My family disapproves of my choice, but I believe I am following my heart. My mom went to college, but now she's stuck on a job she absolutely HATES. So my advice is, follow whatever is in your heart. Don't let other people decide for you.

  11. Look, degrees are fine. I have three so I should know. But I think they are rapidly becoming passe in the real world. However there is a powerful machine behind traditional education, expensive textbooks are just the tip of the iceberg. I think you should do what you love at home, at work and at school, but until we start to rebel en force against "liberal arts" education (Spanish, California History, General studies, math whatever) and start pursuing specialist education when we are ready for it (I was ready to start learning to write when I was about 10)nothing will change.

    This is a critically important issue, not one to be causally tossed around at a dinner party. Kids are actually DYING over this. It's time to remake the idea of "education".

    End of rant.