Publish date:

Why NOT to Get a Creative Writing Degree

Image placeholder title

I have a BFA in creative writing from the University of Evansville.

I took a mix of literature and writing courses, got practical experience as the editor of the Evansville Review and University Crescent (and had a fabulous time doing it), and was mentored by a professor who ultimately gave me a lead into F+W for my internship (now 12 years ago!).

I
recently commented to a group of friends on Facebook that if I had to
do it over again, I would not major in creative writing (though I would
never, ever change a thing about my college publications experiences).

A college friend, who had also majored in writing, asked why. And now I share those reasons with you.

  1. The most valuable lessons I've learned in my writing life never
    came from my formal education in it. I've learned much more
    through practice and through reading what I love. (Plus, in a nod to
    Writer's Digest, I've benefited from its prescriptive, nuts-and-bolts
    stuff that universities tend to eschew, but can really shave years off
    the learning curve.)
  2. I've
    also found that the writers I enjoy have some intense interest, passion, or training that influences their style and point of view and
    voice. It really sets them apart.
  3. I was just too damn young. Lots of the writing was merely cathartic.
  4. I also learned much more through teaching composition to freshman.

So
what major would I choose if I had to do it over again? Since you can improve
your own writing simply by doing more of it (plus everyone gets better
with age), I'm not sure I even care. It could be any major that
provides something enriching, a different facet or perspective to my life thinking.

Given
that business/marketing skills are often found in successful writers, that is a tempting choice. Sadly, most people think business/marketing
are contrary to art and creativity. But 2 things to keep in mind:

  • Marketing should be about a service provided to people, not something inflicted on people! (Read: May I market for you? Thanks to Guy who helped lead me to this article.)
  • Business
    is as much about people and psychology as it is the numbers. I always
    like to quote Dana Gioia on this point, who once said the higher
    you get up the food chain, the more it's about qualitative
    judgment, not quantitative. Read this interview with him at the Wharton site.

That
said, getting a degree in writing can give you the time and permission
you need to focus on your writing. Plus a great mentor is invaluable.

But it doesn't help you develop a writing career or help you get published (if that's what you're expecting).

P.S. I still love and adore my alma mater.

Photo credit: Aunt Owwee

Ways Animals Have Interacted With Writers Through the Centuries

Ways Animals Have Interacted With Writers Through the Centuries

Across the globe and spanning lifetimes, animals have always operated as more than simply animals within the stories they reside. Author Richard Girling discusses how animals have interacted with writers throughout the centuries.

Margaret Verble: On Combining Facts and Imagination in Historical Fiction.

Margaret Verble: On Combining Facts and Imagination in Historical Fiction.

Pulitzer Prize-finalist Margaret Verble discusses the process of writing her new historical fiction novel, When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 586

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a scary poem.

Creating Space to Ponder Your Bliss and Relying on Your Inner Compass to Guide Your Writing

Creating Space to Ponder Your Bliss and Relying on Your Inner Compass to Guide Your Writing

What do you do in a world perpetually in fast forward? You create spaces for contemplation. Author Terry Helwig offers advice on creating spaces to ponder your bliss and how to find your inner compass.

comfort

Small Comforts

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, write about a small comfort.

Gayle Forman: On Challenging Your Gut

Gayle Forman: On Challenging Your Gut

Award-winning author and journalist Gayle Forman discusses the start-and-stop process of writing her new middle grade novel, Frankie & Bug.

One Story: Market Spotlight

One Story: Market Spotlight

For this week's market spotlight, we look at One Story, a literary publication that showcases one story in each issue.

Peer vs. Pier (Grammar Rules)

Peer vs. Pier (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between peer vs. pier with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Rhys Bowen: On Knowing Your Characters Inside and Out

Rhys Bowen: On Knowing Your Characters Inside and Out

New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen discusses how knowing her characters so well made for an easier writing process in her new book, God Rest Ye Royal Gentlemen.