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Author Topic: Degrees in Writing: Are they practical?  (Read 8117 times)
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« Reply #15: October 21, 2008, 12:20:19 pm »

Shad, I know you aren't meaning to be so, but this is mildly offensive. The comp classes I took as an English major helped me become a much better writer (although again, I am not a creative writer) and helped me become much more analytical. I can understand your line of reasoning here, but the classes I took within my major included far more than the great classics (I'm thinking particularly of a class I took entitled "The Gothic Sublime.")

Gods, I'm so sorry!  You're right, I didn't mean that at all!

I think English is a great degree - I just think it's a lousy choice for creative writers if they're thinking "writing is English".  If it's something that interests you, that's totally different!

(if I'd been able to work it in, I'd've done comparative literature as a minor myself).

I think I went overboard because I SO OFTEN heard and still hear that if you're looking into creative writing, you have to take English as a major and all this other stuff, and I pushed too hard in the other direction.
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« Reply #16: October 21, 2008, 12:43:47 pm »

Gods, I'm so sorry!  You're right, I didn't mean that at all!

Heh, I thought perhaps it was just a poor choice of words  Wink

Quote
I think English is a great degree - I just think it's a lousy choice for creative writers if they're thinking "writing is English".  If it's something that interests you, that's totally different!

(if I'd been able to work it in, I'd've done comparative literature as a minor myself).

I think I went overboard because I SO OFTEN heard and still hear that if you're looking into creative writing, you have to take English as a major and all this other stuff, and I pushed too hard in the other direction.

Totally agree. English is a great degree, but it will not directly help you become a good creative writer. It will help you to better dissect your own writing and figure out what makes a story good, but in general I agree with your assessment, especially with regards to genre writing.

Comp lit is a great choice, because you get such a different look at novels from other countries and they are vastly different than the famous works of Britain and the US. Classics is also good if you are looking at more mythical frameworks for your stories.

On the other hand, I think many people who ultimately want to do creative writing for a living have to work a day job out of necessity, and an English degree can get you a job that lets you write all day (Journalism, too), despite the McDonald's jokes that regularly accompany declarations of English as a major Smiley

Sasha
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« Reply #17: October 21, 2008, 12:52:11 pm »

On the other hand, I think many people who ultimately want to do creative writing for a living have to work a day job out of necessity, and an English degree can get you a job that lets you write all day (Journalism, too), despite the McDonald's jokes that regularly accompany declarations of English as a major Smiley

*nods*

I'm pursuing a degree that has nothing to do with creative writing (although I am taking some classes) and involves the industry that McDonald's is a part of.  Hopefully I can get a job at someplace better than that particular establishment Grin
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« Reply #18: October 21, 2008, 01:13:19 pm »

Totally agree. English is a great degree, but it will not directly help you become a good creative writer. It will help you to better dissect your own writing and figure out what makes a story good, but in general I agree with your assessment, especially with regards to genre writing. *snip*

On the other hand, I think many people who ultimately want to do creative writing for a living have to work a day job out of necessity, and an English degree can get you a job that lets you write all day (Journalism, too), despite the McDonald's jokes that regularly accompany declarations of English as a major Smiley

Sasha

I'm not sure an English degree can necessarily help with figuring out one's own writing and what makes a story good - maybe I just took the wrong classes, but most of English seemed to me to be focused at NON-fiction.  And while one can write both non fiction and fiction, and switch between the two, the rules and concepts and .. well, EVERYTHING are just different.  Doesn't mean it can't help, but it does mean that you have to be picky what kind of place you go and what classes you take.

And at least for me, if I spend my time writing daily for stuff that isn't *my* stuff, I end up too damn tired of writing to work on the stuff that really matters to me!  It's one of those nasty cycles .... Sad  If I tried to do journalism as a day job, I wouldn't get ANY fiction churned out.
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« Reply #19: October 21, 2008, 01:44:05 pm »

But if I wanted a career related to writing, I suppose the degree would come in handy?  Would it limit me to teaching careers only or could I expand into other things?

What kind of career in writing? Editing and publishing is usually learned on the job: you start as an intern or very low grade editor and learn skills. A degree in communications or technical writing works for those fields (and may be useful in other ways), but if you can demonstrate the skills in other ways, a degree in the field (or in English in general) often isn't necessary. And so on.

Competition for teaching jobs is *fierce* in the humanities, from high school on up, generally. There's a lot of people out there with degrees in the field, and it takes a lot to stand out from everyone else.

Likewise, computer skills (basic web design, comfort with different kinds of software, etc.) are often really important these days: this isn't something a degree is good at measuring, but that you can use time during your degree to develop (by learning them on your own, developing a few projects that you can use to demonstrate those skills, etc.)

One thing to consider: many people who have writing as a primary part of their day job find it's really hard to come home from work and write something else (for eventual publication) at night. Even if they're different kinds of writing (like if you're writing tech manuals during the day, and fiction at night), you can still end up feeling burned out, and like you don't want to sit and stare at the computer screen any longer. It can be easier to match writing on your own with a job that gives you a little time to think and plan things out in your writing, but that doesn't actually focus on it.

I do a lot of non-fiction writing relating to Pagan stuff (my blog, and an eventual return to a completed but much in need of revision manuscript when I'm done with a bunch of writing for the new coven) and I've found that library work is actually a nice compromise: the job is active enough that I don't mind being in front of a computer sometimes at night or on the weekends, and I often have time I need to be shelving/processing books/other manual tasks when the back of my brain is working on the latest thing I'm trying to sort out. There's lots of other jobs with this kind of balance.
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« Reply #20: October 21, 2008, 01:51:46 pm »

And at least for me, if I spend my time writing daily for stuff that isn't *my* stuff, I end up too damn tired of writing to work on the stuff that really matters to me!  It's one of those nasty cycles

Wow, I never thought of it that way.  If I was too tired to write my own stuff, I don't think I could handle that.  My dream job (other than being a stay-at-home writer) is to be an editor of a magazine or some other type of media.  Right now, I am working as a student editor for the college magazine in which I am responsible for selecting content and editing for grammar and quality.  I absolutely love doing this and would consider doing it as a full time job.

I would also consider teaching English/Literature/CW on a college level.  Unfortunately, those positions require at least a Master's (for smaller colleges) or a Ph.D. and usually don't pay enough to be worth it (I've heard that the teachers at my college make less than what a high school teacher makes and yet they have such advanced degrees).  

I've considered being a Psych major and have most of the credits needed to graduate with an Associates, but I don't know what I could do with it either, lol.  The obvious choice would be to counsel people, but again, you need a Master's degree (at least)...yadda...yadda.

Lol, the weird thing about all of this is when I write short stories, my characters tend to be flat.  I was a psych major for goodness sake! How can they be flat? Smiley

Oh well.  Rant over Tongue
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« Reply #21: October 21, 2008, 03:29:04 pm »

I'm not sure an English degree can necessarily help with figuring out one's own writing and what makes a story good - maybe I just took the wrong classes, but most of English seemed to me to be focused at NON-fiction.  And while one can write both non fiction and fiction, and switch between the two, the rules and concepts and .. well, EVERYTHING are just different.  Doesn't mean it can't help, but it does mean that you have to be picky what kind of place you go and what classes you take.

Interesting--my dept. had lots of good practical criticism classes that focused on contemporary poetry and fiction, but I suppose this must be something that differs from college to college. We did a variety of fiction and non-fiction in my comp classes, which tended to be more contemporary than the lit classes.

Quote
And at least for me, if I spend my time writing daily for stuff that isn't *my* stuff, I end up too damn tired of writing to work on the stuff that really matters to me!  It's one of those nasty cycles .... Sad  If I tried to do journalism as a day job, I wouldn't get ANY fiction churned out.

This is a very good point. (And I know I would hate journalism, too.)

On the other hand, one could easily find oneself in the position of being too mentally tired to write no matter what the day job is, too.

I think also, it comes down to being honest with oneself about one's abilities and priorities; I know you work very hard at working on your creative writing every day so that it is a full-time job for you. Someone like my husband, on the other hand, dabbles not as frequently in creative writing but is satisfied writing magazine articles all day. Hrm, I might not be explaining that well--what I mean to say is that writers generally belong to one of two categories: those who need/want to write anything, and those that need/want to write a specific something.

Vastly different career paths!

Sasha
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« Reply #22: October 21, 2008, 06:20:50 pm »

On the other hand, I think many people who ultimately want to do creative writing for a living have to work a day job out of necessity, and an English degree can get you a job that lets you write all day (Journalism, too), despite the McDonald's jokes that regularly accompany declarations of English as a major Smiley

You should hear the jokes that regularly accompany me as a film major.  Wink




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« Reply #23: October 21, 2008, 07:45:02 pm »

 My dream job (other than being a stay-at-home writer)  

This is my dream job. I absolutely love doing this and would consider doing it as a full time job. I know I'll need a day job to pay bills while I write.

It's a good thing I stumbled across this post. I've just started taking some refresher courses so I can get a degree in English so I can be a stay-at-home writer.

I was planning on getting an assiciate's degree in English, if I could even get an assiciate's. I'm not sure what else I would like to study though.....Time for me to think! Cheesy


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« Reply #24: October 21, 2008, 07:49:42 pm »

This is my dream job. I absolutely love doing this and would consider doing it as a full time job. I know I'll need a day job to pay bills while I write.

It's a good thing I stumbled across this post. I've just started taking some refresher courses so I can get a degree in English so I can be a stay-at-home writer.

I was planning on getting an assiciate's degree in English, if I could even get an assiciate's. I'm not sure what else I would like to study though.....Time for me to think! Cheesy




Don't think about the degree - think about what it is you need to know and don't.

If you want to learn to be a better writer, I'd say finding a good critique group would do you worlds better than a college class - learn by doing and all that!
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« Reply #25: October 23, 2008, 03:41:43 pm »

I'm am planning to finish my Associates degree in English next year with plans of completing a BA in English with a Creative Writing concentration.  I was wondering if any of you have degrees in English or Creative Writing and has the degree had an impact on your writing or your career as a writer?  Would any of you consider going for a Master's or Ph.D in this subject?   



Some quick personal background first, so you know where I'm coming from: I was an English/Art History double major, with a focus on creative writing. (I did a creative writing "thesis," a collection of poetry and short stories.) After that I applied to various MFA programs but didn't get in anywhere--competition is fierce at the best of times, and it was during the recession at the beginning of the '90s, when everyone wanted to go to grad school instead of out into the work force. I ended up going into the Radcliffe Publishing Course instead, and after that I spent thirteen years as an editor at a magazine of mythology and religion. I'm currently a production editor at a university press. I've also done some freelance rewriting of Japanese light novels (basically taking raw translations and prettifying the English).

That said, this has been my experience:

* When I was working at the magazine, we never cared what degrees any of our authors had. Did they follow our guidelines for submission? Did they seem to understand what our magazine was about and how their work would fit in to that? Could they actually write, and were they knowledgable about their subject? That was all that mattered.

* If you're going to be a freelance writer or whatever, you are going to have to be capable of hustling up jobs. So learn to network. Seriously. This is probably the most important skill you can acquire next to actually being adept at writing and/or editing. If you're naturally gregarious, no problem, but if, like me, you are painfully introverted, you should see if your college's career center offers any guidance or workshops in this area.

* I agree with Heartshadow about the benefits of a really good writers' group. It can be a fantastic support and also a great way to learn. The trick is to find one that will be supportive *and* will push you to improve. And also one that will understand and appreciate the kinds of things that you write. As someone whose interests were always more fantasy/mysticism oriented than literary oriented, I ran into the anti-genre prejudice a lot in college.

* I loved doing the rewriting assignments, but doing them on top of a 9-5 job left me utterly incapable of writing anything for myself. I don't know if I would have had the same issue if I had just been doing the rewriting.

* In the end, the only way to become a writer is to write. If it takes a class to get you to do that on a regular basis, then take a class. ^_^

I hope something in this was helpful!

-L

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« Reply #26: November 23, 2008, 07:35:48 pm »



Some quick personal background first, so you know where I'm coming from: I was an English/Art History double major, with a focus on creative writing. (I did a creative writing "thesis," a collection of poetry and short stories.) After that I applied to various MFA programs but didn't get in anywhere--competition is fierce at the best of times, and it was during the recession at the beginning of the '90s, when everyone wanted to go to grad school instead of out into the work force. I ended up going into the Radcliffe Publishing Course instead, and after that I spent thirteen years as an editor at a magazine of mythology and religion. I'm currently a production editor at a university press. I've also done some freelance rewriting of Japanese light novels (basically taking raw translations and prettifying the English).

That said, this has been my experience:

* When I was working at the magazine, we never cared what degrees any of our authors had. Did they follow our guidelines for submission? Did they seem to understand what our magazine was about and how their work would fit in to that? Could they actually write, and were they knowledgable about their subject? That was all that mattered.

* If you're going to be a freelance writer or whatever, you are going to have to be capable of hustling up jobs. So learn to network. Seriously. This is probably the most important skill you can acquire next to actually being adept at writing and/or editing. If you're naturally gregarious, no problem, but if, like me, you are painfully introverted, you should see if your college's career center offers any guidance or workshops in this area.

* I agree with Heartshadow about the benefits of a really good writers' group. It can be a fantastic support and also a great way to learn. The trick is to find one that will be supportive *and* will push you to improve. And also one that will understand and appreciate the kinds of things that you write. As someone whose interests were always more fantasy/mysticism oriented than literary oriented, I ran into the anti-genre prejudice a lot in college.

* I loved doing the rewriting assignments, but doing them on top of a 9-5 job left me utterly incapable of writing anything for myself. I don't know if I would have had the same issue if I had just been doing the rewriting.

* In the end, the only way to become a writer is to write. If it takes a class to get you to do that on a regular basis, then take a class. ^_^

I hope something in this was helpful!

-L




LapisLynx, yes this post is most helpful to me. Are there any other tips you have for aispiring writers?
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« Reply #27: November 23, 2008, 07:44:10 pm »


* I agree with Heartshadow about the benefits of a really good writers' group. It can be a fantastic support and also a great way to learn. The trick is to find one that will be supportive *and* will push you to improve. And also one that will understand and appreciate the kinds of things that you write. As someone whose interests were always more fantasy/mysticism oriented than literary oriented, I ran into the anti-genre prejudice a lot in college.

Yeah, I sort of came across that in the Creative Writing class I'm taking now.  My teacher did assign us an assignment where we had to write about something impossible but make it sound real, but most of the time it was boring literary stuff.  However, I did get away with writing a few horror stories (one supernatural the other about a serial killer).

Quote
* I loved doing the rewriting assignments, but doing them on top of a 9-5 job left me utterly incapable of writing anything for myself. I don't know if I would have had the same issue if I had just been doing the rewriting.

It helped me a bit, but still I would like to write more for myself.  I feel like the last thing I managed to write for myself was the aforementioned assignment where I was expected to write speculative fiction.
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