April 3, 2016

Should I Get A Degree in Creative Writing?

This is a big question for many fields, but I would definitely lump Creative Writing in that category. It's actually a thing, you know... a degree in Creative Writing? You can go to college, do some general ed and take a bunch of pre requisites and upper division electives centered around becoming a writer.

But oddly enough, writing is one of the few careers that doesn't require education to be successful. Most of the published writers I know don't have a degree in the profession. Sarah Sundin, for example, is a pharmacist.

Part of this is because we all learn how to read and write during the course of our primary education. After that, writing is a "gift" of sorts - it's something you naturally are inclined towards or practice like crazy to hone your craft. Then, either the editors like your style, or they don't - which means you need more practice. In conjunction, storytelling is something that we gain from personal experience - living life.

So, should you get a degree in Creative Writing? Is it even worth it?

That all depends on a few things...

Honestly, this is a big factor.  
I'll let you in on a little secret... I'm currently wrapping up my last semester of college, and when I graduate, I will have a degree in History and a minor in Bible & Theology. Not English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Do you want to know why?
Because I write Historical Fiction. Plain and simple. I do research when I'm world-building for my manuscripts and over the last four years, my education has really helped my research skills. I've also gathered a lot of fodder for storytelling during history lectures. 
I'll tell you this, right now... most colleges are not geared towards helping you become the next Suzanne Collins or J.K. Rowling. Creative Writing classes will lean heavily in the short story/flash fiction/poetry direction. College is about going deeper, and so Literary writing tends to be the focus. Metaphor, shape, breaking rules - that's the idea. The next Great American Novel.  
If that's your aim, then a degree in Creative Writing might be very interesting for you. But if you want to write something that's going to appeal to the masses, fly off the shelves and have a pretty cover, you might be bored with all the Lit prereqs - American Lit, British Lit, Lit and Culture... all that jazz. 
There are some colleges that will offer more in the Commercial department, but it's less common.
I have a friend who just graduated with a degree in English and now she's going on to get what's called a MFA (Masters in Fine Arts) - or essentially, a Master's degree in Creative Writing.  
For a lot of people - this is definitely overkill. The amount of money you spend of your education will most certainly not equal the amount of money you'll make writing. I once asked a Christian best seller what she makes per/hour. After doing the math, she admitted that even with good sales, she invests months into a manuscript and makes pocket change per hour. It's not lucrative.  
However, book sales aren't the only means of making money with an English Degree. That friend of mine plans to teach Writing at the college level - and she will need higher credentials to do so. 
Depending on what you plan on doing with your future, Writing might not be your only ambition or income. In some cases... you might even need a Plan B for income. It's pretty common for writers to have a day job. Like being a super hero (yes, I went there). It's like having a job to support your hobby - though, if you are lucky, you might write the breakout novel that gives you a bright, lucrative future. If you're lucky.  
Anyways... that day job? Don't do something your hate. When you're picking a major, make sure it's something you enjoy. Personally, I love writing, but I also love history. My history electives are my favorite classes. I can't wait to get started on my single-subject teaching credential. I'll have summers and spare time to write.  
Just think about it. 
Your future and your education should reflect the ways God has gifted you. Don't be too practical, but don't make decisions lightly. Think about it. And just because making it as a writer won't come easy doesn't mean you can't do it. If you love it, then pursue it.

I really do love writing, but I didn't chose to get a degree in that area. I'm not much of a Literary person, I don't think I want to teach at the college level, and I don't think writing will be my only occupation. So, in just about a month, I'm going to be graduating with a History degree.

However, I have a lot of electives aside from my history classes... I've taken Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing, Writing/Publishing the Novel, and Special Studies: Novel Workshop. In addition to that, I try to make it to a Writer's Conference every year.

Just because you're not getting a degree in Creative Writing, doesn't mean you're not serious about pursuing publishing.

And if you do answer "yes" to any of those questions above, an English degree with a Creative Writing concentration might be just what you need to go all the places you're dreaming of.

Good luck, Writers!

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