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A Degree In Writing? (1 Viewer)

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LivingPoetintheFlesh

Senior Member
So I was wondering if you need a writing degree (creative writing, poetry, fiction) because I feel my writing is suffering because of it. Is it necessary?
 
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TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I'm sure it helps in mastering the elements and structure of sound literature. It does not necessarily foster creativity. The danger is falling into the formulaic. I am guilty of arguing that the only good poetry is that which challenges accepted notions of poetry. I'm not sure I totally believe that but it makes for a hell of a discussion.
 
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LivingPoetintheFlesh

Senior Member
I'm sure it helps in mastering the elements and structure of sound literature. It does not necessarily foster creativity. The danger is falling into the formulaic. I am guilty of arguing that the only good poetry is that which challenges accelpted notions of poetry. I'm not sure I totally believe that but it makes for a hell of a discussion.

Ah, I see, well I know that when I was in university I was taking these continuing study courses because I didn't finish high school so I had to go through that. I hope to get one one day.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I believe a basic knowledge of grammar, punctuation, etc. is important, but that won't make you a good writer... it's like the foundation of a house, which, by itself won't keep the rain off your head.
Reading a lot is the next step, a wide range of genres of course, but focus on reading the type of books you want to write. Through that, you'll gain a sense of rhythm, pacing, arcs, and so forth, if you pay attention.
Next, start writing. I recommend keeping a journal at first, then progress to short stories. Join workshops, writers guilds, and get beta reads, feedback, and ask for advice here at WritersForum. Edit like crazy. Learn from your mistakes. Then, when your novel builds pressure to critical mass, take on a novel.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
I suspect most people don't need the level of formal education often sold as necessary.

Question - is the root of your doubt mechanical or artistic? Mechanical is easy. Not fun, maybe, but technical competence in writing is well within the reach of the vast majority who make the attempt. Figuring out how the pieces go together is pretty straightforward (some of our multi-page debates Writing Discussion fora aside). One suggestion is focusing for a while on shorter works; if you can put together a good sentence you can put together a good paragraph and a couple of those stuck together might yield some decent flash-length fiction. If you're struggling with the smaller elements there's an ongoing Craft thread that may be of interest.

If the root of your doubt is subject matter, then no - a degree will likely not help you. Find authors or poets whose work you enjoy and see if you can figure out how they do what they do. Alternately, you might also consider picking up a hobby or learning a new skill. Something that takes you out of your ordinary routine and forces you to adjust the way you think about the world.

Plenty of instructors can teach the basics of putting words on paper in a way that readers understand. Good ones can offer guidance to those who have the desire and help them along. None I've met to date can make a successful writer out of somebody who doesn't have the drive to a do the lion's share of grunt work themselves.

But no. You don't need a degree for creative writing.
 
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LivingPoetintheFlesh

Senior Member
I suspect most people don't need the level of formal education often sold as necessary.

Question - is the root of your doubt mechanical or artistic? Mechanical is easy. Not fun, maybe, but technical competence in writing is well within the reach of the vast majority who make the attempt. Figuring out how the pieces go together is pretty straightforward (some of our multi-page debates Writing Discussion fora aside). One suggestion is focusing for a while on shorter works; if you can put together a good sentence you can put together a good paragraph and a couple of those stuck together might yield some decent flash-length fiction. If you're struggling with the smaller elements there's an ongoing Craft thread that may be of interest.

If the root of your doubt is subject matter, then no - a degree will likely not help you. Find authors or poets whose work you enjoy and see if you can figure out how they do what they do. Alternately, you might also consider picking up a hobby or learning a new skill. Something that takes you out of your ordinary routine and forces you to adjust the way you think about the world.

Plenty of instructors can teach the basics of putting words on paper in a way that readers understand. Good ones can offer guidance to those who have the desire and help them along. None I've met to date can make a successful writer out of somebody who doesn't have the drive to a do the lion's share of grunt work themselves.

But no. You don't need a degree for creative writing.

Thanks, I'll remember this the next time I go back to school (won't get my degree though) also I feel my writing is an artistic problem. I have read some books on writing but I feel those aren't enough. I think I may just have to brush up on my continuing studies again.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I believe a basic knowledge of grammar, punctuation, etc. is important, but that won't make you a good writer... it's like the foundation of a house, which, by itself won't keep the rain off your head.
Reading a lot is the next step, a wide range of genres of course, but focus on reading the type of books you want to write. Through that, you'll gain a sense of rhythm, pacing, arcs, and so forth, if you pay attention.
Next, start writing. I recommend keeping a journal at first, then progress to short stories. Join workshops, writers guilds, and get beta reads, feedback, and ask for advice here at WritersForum. Edit like crazy. Learn from your mistakes. Then, when your novel builds pressure to critical mass, take on a novel.
Realist.

And know that every writer on earth considers themselves not good enough at some point.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
I feel my writing is an artistic problem. I have read some books on writing but I feel those aren't enough.

This is likely part of your trouble. Don't read books on how to write - read books you enjoy. As much and as often as you can.

Once you've got that going you can start looking at why you enjoy them and try reverse-engineering some of that into your own work. Cheap trick? You bet. But let's be honest...most writers only develop by ripping off what they perceive as other, better writers. Practice writing in an adopted voice for a while, once you find one you like.

This will invariably yield crap because - let's be honest - writing in somebody else's style is like wearing somebody else's shoes.

But. Eventually you'll start to break things in. You'll wear the sharp edges off your borrowed style and start swapping in personal stuff and writing more your way. The kind of gut-deep material that's carries weight because you're working from your own ground. Eventually you'll realize that what you write has origins internal rather than external. You can credit favored authors as inspirations, but you're away from the mother ship at this point and working independently, and you stop having to file the serial numbers off of borrowed tools because you've got your own set.

...and then you too can amaze people with your original and authentic storytelling talent.
 
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Riptide

WF Veterans
I don't have a writing degree but I do attend writing classes at my local university because I enjoy being around other creative types and having my work read, and reading/critiquing others work. It's helped me grow as a writer, for sure. But, I also think my recent dabble into youtube writers has help just as much too. Reading/critiquing/writing all will help you.

The rest of the English curriculum is about critical thinking, trends in thinking/writing, non-fiction, poetry, and things I do not find enjoyable, though I am sure they could offer a different view point and help develop writers... there was a class on the basics of language, criticism and stuff. A lot of college is a lot of excess stuff that stray from the main focus and build a more rounded, knowledgeable person.
 

LivingPoetintheFlesh

Senior Member
I don't have a writing degree but I do attend writing classes at my local university because I enjoy being around other creative types and having my work read, and reading/critiquing others work. It's helped me grow as a writer, for sure. But, I also think my recent dabble into youtube writers has help just as much too. Reading/critiquing/writing all will help you.

The rest of the English curriculum is about critical thinking, trends in thinking/writing, non-fiction, poetry, and things I do not find enjoyable, though I am sure they could offer a different view point and help develop writers... there was a class on the basics of language, criticism and stuff. A lot of college is a lot of excess stuff that stray from the main focus and build a more rounded, knowledgeable person.

Just like learning English lit?
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I don't have a writing degree but I do attend writing classes at my local university because I enjoy being around other creative types and having my work read, and reading/critiquing others work. It's helped me grow as a writer, for sure. But, I also think my recent dabble into youtube writers has help just as much too. Reading/critiquing/writing all will help you.

The rest of the English curriculum is about critical thinking, trends in thinking/writing, non-fiction, poetry, and things I do not find enjoyable, though I am sure they could offer a different view point and help develop writers... there was a class on the basics of language, criticism and stuff. A lot of college is a lot of excess stuff that stray from the main focus and build a more rounded, knowledgeable person.
A story.
My quest in college was to learn a trade that I could parlay into a career that I could make money with. Commercial, yes, I freely admit that. I went through the 'system' (juvie, foster, and lived on the street) and learned that money = good, and it also = safety. So I earned a degree in Design/Drafting and went to work in Silicon Valley. Later, after my career was moving ahead, I returned to study philosophy, art, history ... whatever interested me. Then in the 80's CAD (computer aided design) came along, and I took night school classes in programming at Stanford and UC Berkley. Before that started though, a mentor at work (great programmer, and former CS professor) suggested that I take a creative writing class - because (his words) writing a well designed program is similar to writing a story.
I never earned my BS degree - I was just there to learn to code - but I was one hell of a programmer. It's been 16 years since I retired, and Cisco Systems is still using some of my code, and the database I developed (ken-base) is still tracking engineering jobs.
If your thinking is muddled, your writing will be as well.
 
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