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The Art of Writing? Do You need a Degree in it?

            I never really pondered this question as I already pretty much knew the answer. But it came back to mind when I was in one of my classes and a classmate who is almost done with her degree said this in regards to young people having time to not know what they want to do and switch majors a few times in their life. She was older, forty, and said, “Well, I really don’t want this business degree either. But it’s too late to change it now.”

            Naturally, I and many of my other classmates were curious and so we asked, “Well what do you want to do?” She answers, “Write. But it’s too late to do that now.”

            Since I’ve been writing on my own and teaching myself the craft of writing for nearly a decade, I was rightfully baffled. But we didn’t have the time for me to debate with her. Yet it got me to wondering how many people want to write, but have the misconception that they have to go to school to write.

            To tell the truth, I’ve learned more from writing forums and cross referencing on the internet, and although I think a degree in writing or English can help, that doesn’t guarantee you to become a writer and it doesn’t mean you need a degree to become a writer.

            Writing is one of those careers. You know the ones where there is no right or wrong way to do it, just general guidelines. It’s like this. There are general ways to run a restaurant but no real rules, but just three things to live by for success: Be clean, make the food taste good, and make money. The way the owner or chef does that is up to them as long as they live by those three rules. My philosophy is: if it works. Mind you a degree in culinary arts or something wouldn’t hurt or someone who knows business for those aspects, but to cook? Live by those three guidelines I say.

            Writing is like that. For success to be a writer, there are only a few rules and that is as such.
            Know the craft
            Write well (meaning grammatically and technically enough so that it’s clear)
            Make the reader want to read it

            If you can make the reader want to read it, you are almost guaranteed for success. The way you get there is free game and all rules are welcome to be broken because they all have been at some point by somebody. All you need is the right alignment and there are many that are just right.

            My point? There are some really great writers who didn’t get a degree in some form of writing and there are some really great ones who got a degree. Heck, there are some really famous people who didn’t get a degree and I already did the google search for you. Just click here.

             But in any case, a writing degree isn’t a prerequisite for writing. That is unless it’s a book on some specialty as in you’re writing a book on engineering. That means you probably need to go to school for engineering first.

            In any case, no. You do not need a degree to write. All you need is a computer with internet access, a general knowledge of the craft, how to tell a good story and general knowledge of grammar rules to write a good story. A good beta or critique group can help with the rest. Getting it published? That’s an entire other monster and when I get published, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

          As for writing, just know you don’t have to go to school and get a degree in it to make a career out of it. It is a skill that can be taught, but above all, writing in combination with storytelling (because they are two different things) is a craft that has to be learned, and there are a million different ways to do so, and they don’t have to be learned at a college or university.

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lee said...

I totally agree with you here. It really irritates me when people find out I write and they say, "but you're a biologist! Why didn't you do creative writing?

Really? People seem to forget that communication isn't limited to those with English degrees. Pretty much everyone communicates--verbally or in written form--every single day.

Bottom line: if you've got the want, you'll find the way. I wish more people realized that. They'd stop seeing all the 'closed' doors and instead realize they could make some open.