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You Don't Need An English Degree To Be An Author

Coming From An English Major

I fell prey to the notion that in order to be a well-rounded author, you had to go to school to study English. I transferred from a two-year school to a "four-year institution" under that assumption. Whenever I was asked why I chose my major I would say "because I want to be an author" or "I like to write". The general response was always less than enthusiastic.

The major populace doesn't actually understand the benefits of having an English degree and I'm gonna be honest, at some point during my studies neither did I. It's hard to do anything when you're put on the spot but pinpointing exactly what one plans to do with an English major is much harder than one would think. Being bogged down with the many theses and literary theories from educational journals to New York Times articles does not help clarify a professional trajectory either.

Let's be clear about something: to study English is to study literature, its history, and its effect on society. Point blank, period. Any discussion of craft is at the discretion of the professor but more times than not, it's not the goal of the curriculum.

Now you might be thinking, "but what about creative writing?" I would tell you that, as a writer, my creative writing courses were some of my favorite. I loved my professors. I respect the hell out of them. The biggest challenges came from those classes. Every time I went into one with the idea that I knew what to expect, I was pleasantly wrong (I don't admit that easily). My largest personal takeaway from my creative writing courses was to always look internally, to look at my life with honesty and write about that. I believe all (good) writers do that. I also believe that you don't have to pay $7,000 per semester to learn that lesson.

Don't get me wrong here, my time in school was irreplaceable. I grew in ways that would not have happened outside of a classroom. My perception was challenged. I learned the importance of discipline beyond motivation, dedication, and to welcome new ways of thinking. Is it possible to gain all that knowledge in real life, sure? Would I have learned the same way, without the likelihood of facing some serious consequences or losses? Probably not. What I appreciate most about college was being allowed to make mistakes, being encouraged to apply them to every aspect of life, not just my studies, and the unending understanding that I am just a human being and I am flawed. You won't find that very often in the working world.

If any of that sounds like your cup of tea then you should definitely consider going to college. First, consider what subject you would enjoy studying. Consider the long hours you're going to have to spend studying and finishing assignments. Then, consider what subjects won't make you want to stab yourself in the eye with a pencil when you're pulling all-nighters. That is what you should study.

Do not study English to be a better writer. To become a better writer, all you have to do is keep writing. To become an author, the best thing to do is to finish that damn book.

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