Do You Need A Degree To Be A Writer?

School Days

I’ve always been a writer. In what seems like a former life now, I used to be a teacher.

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When I was teaching, my students knew I was a writer.

Probably because I wouldn’t shut up about it. You know those bartenders who are actors or those waiters who are musicians. Yeah, I was that guy.

My students got a kick out of me (and hopefully learned a little something). They were all great in their own ways (well, almost all were); however, many years later, I find that some of the most memorable students were the writers. Of course.

When I was teaching, students with a talent and passion for creative writing were always eager to share their stories and other writing with me.

You may want to replace the word eager with desperate. But hey, we writers want to get read, otherwise what’s the point, right?

Rashad’s science-fiction short stories were incredible. Of course, the factual descriptions involving smoking cigarettes were inaccurate. But I suppose that’s a good thing for an 8th grader.

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Jibriel’s screenplays for short films were excellent. He wasn’t a student of mine, or even in my school, but word about my second career spread and Jibriel sought me out. I’m glad he did.

Should Rashad, Jibriel, or any other aspiring writer pursue a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing or an MFA?

The answer, for most writers, is no. Here are five reasons why I think you should probably skip the MFA or BA in Creative Writing:

1. Writers Hate Other Writers

What kind of person really wants to be around other writers all the time?

You love writing now, but how would you feel about it if you were talking about writing all the time? Would studying creative writing that intensely sap your interest?

And, of course, there are professional jealousies.

Could you handle other writers in your program receiving more recognition than you?

Could you handle your own creative writing being judged harshly by other writers in the program? Would this discourage you?

2. Never Ending Student Loans

Are you ready to embrace debt?

Because that’s what you’ll face unless you’re from an affluent family, can land a scholarship, or attend a low-cost state or city university.

3. Insularity and Lack of Adventure

If you want to write something worth reading, then you’d better have a wide array of experiences.

I suppose interesting stories can be written about downing vodka shots for Adderall, grinding to Teach Me How To Dougie at a frat party, or performing a bell run. Maybe.

But remember, the only thing that’s positively more boring than stories about writers are stories about students in MFA programs.

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4. You Can Do It Yourself

Writing is an art, not a science. Therefore, some degree of natural talent is extremely useful. If you have talent, all you need to do is hone it. If you don’t, cut your losses.

Write consistently, embrace honest critiques, dedicate yourself to continual improvement, read as much as you can on improving craft, and soak up an array of interesting experiences.

If you do all of the above, you’ll soon be writing better than many who undertake formal study in creative writing.

5. These Programs May Stifle Creativity

Want to be confined to writing in certain forms, on certain topics, or within other parameters that limit the creative process? Hell no.

Conclusion 

If you’re really really really serious about being a writer, then you can ditch the creative writing program without any negative consequences.

And if you’re not serious, why are you wasting your time reading this blog?

Like What You Read? Like What You Read!

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If you found this post helpful, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, then share this post on social media!

If you’re not sure if a creative writing program may be right for you, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

 

 

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “Do You Need A Degree To Be A Writer?”

  1. I attended university for one entire day, took a single creative writing class, then immediately dropped out of school entirely for good. Lost a lot of money but the Hell with it. I enjoy a modest amount of success now after having been writing and reading every day for 14 years now. I sometimes worried that writers wouldn’t take me seriously with regard to my essays and such but, once I stopped giving a damn, I started to be taken seriously.

    1. Thank you for posting this. I hope other writers who stumble upon this blog see this comment to know that I’m not the only one saying this. I actually went through a Creative Writing BA program and wow was it a waste. I didn’t improve at all and it made me hate writing for a long time. It wasn’t until I was free of the shackles of an organized program, and also made the choice to commit myself to writing, that I improved my abilities and moved forward career-wise as a writer.

      1. That’s so good for you, dude! I’m glad to hear it’s going well. Writing CAN be a career. We’re all going to need to pay our dues and eat a little shit for a good while but hard work pays off. I’ve spent a lot of money for my writing “education” on books alone, I don’t need to waste anymore on some asshole telling me that a writer must always do this and never that. The more collegiate writers always frown upon or downright condemn my ornate prose style but hey, it worked for Nabokov and it’s paying the bills, not a massive debt.

  2. I agree with you but it’s great to hear it from someone else. I did know someone who did a creative writing MA, and she told me she always felt like a fraud doing it. Based on the critique she got everyone hated her work but she still graduated. Did it make her feel like a writer? No.

    1. Thanks for sharing your friend’s experience, Eva! If you don’t mind me asking, did she continue writing after graduating, or did she give up? I ask because I had a similar experience. It wasn’t until a close friend motivated me to start writing again that I did because my college experience really soured me on writing and the literary world.

  3. I so agree. I took two creative writing modules as part of a humanities degree and found the thing that improved my writing the most was the literature module. I think most of my friends who are enjoying the MA are largely unpublished. I don’t think I’m overly talented as a writer but I do enjoy it: I think learning to be better is more an apprenticeship than something that can be taught from a book, especially when most of feedback is from fellow students who may also have limited talent.
    Thank you for liking my blog, by the way.

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