Writing Degrees Part 1

CC image by John Keogh

CC image by John Keogh

CC image by John Keogh

For our blog this month, we’re doing a joint series on the topic of writing degrees. Each week you’ll have a different perspective on writing degrees with our personal experiences, pros and cons, and our various opinions on the subject. All four members of the Embers Igniting staff have a degree in English, and mine is paired with a concentration in Professional Writing.

How useful writing degrees are in today’s world is one way to approach the topic but certainly not the only one. English and the humanities as a whole have fallen out of style in recent years. It used to be considered a great thing to study classical literature and learn how to write and compose your thoughts, part of a well-rounded, educated person.

Now, however, there is more emphasis on immediately applicable degrees like computer science, business administration, or accounting. The ability to communicate verbally has overridden the ability to communicate in writing. The world is so interconnected with the ability to video chat across the world in seconds that waiting to send something in writing seems slow and antiquated, making the ability to write an unappreciated skill.

On the other hand, this makes the number of people who can write well much smaller, which makes it a more valuable skill. The only problem is convincing people that they need writers and editors. Anyone can put words on paper, but writing is an art form that requires practice as much as anything else. This is often a difficult point to get across.

CC image by Juan Salmoral

CC image by Juan Salmoral

When I was in school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or what I wanted to major in. People always told me that I was a good writer so I thought, “Well, I could major in English,” and without any better ideas, I did. There are a limited number of things you can do with just an English degree, and without some kind of plan of how you’re going to use it, this isn’t an approach I would recommend.

The last several months, I’ve been reading books on writing, explaining the authors’ journeys in writing, and how they came to be where they are now. One of the common themes throughout all of these books is that you have to have a passion for writing, otherwise, it’s not going to work out. Sometimes passion can be misleading, but I think writing is something you truly have to be passionate about to do well. Writing needs to be something you have to do, something you can barely stand not doing. Whether or not you should pursue a writing degree to become a writer is up for debate.

CC image by Damian Gadal

CC image by Damian Gadal

There are a couple of things I would recommend if you do choose to get a writing degree. They both basically boil down to making good use of your time in college. I didn’t work when I was in school because I wanted to focus on classes, but this is a perfect time in life to have a part-time job and gain basic work skills and job experience. It doesn’t have to be something you want to do forever, but at this point, any work experience is helpful. This is also the perfect time to do internships. These are writing related, generally unpaid jobs that give you applicable work experience in the field you want to enter. I did do an internship, but it turned out to be less writing and more office assistant, which while interesting and a learning experience, was not particularly applicable to a writing career. School is certainly important but so is work experience. Doing one or both of these things will make it a bit easier to find a writing job after graduation.

My advice is to really think about what it is you would do with that degree, and why you want to pursue it. If you’re not sure you want to pursue writing professionally, perhaps you should take a look at your other options before making a decision. Do you want to write in a professional capacity? Great! A writing degree could be for you.

By Melissa Blakely