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Should You Get a Degree in Creative Writing?

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

Podcast Episode Link: Click here.

Podcast Episode Transcript: Hi, genuine writers! This is Innovative Editing’s Jeannette DiLouie welcoming you to episode #44 of The Genuine Writer Podcast. We keep things short, sweet and to the point here so that you can learn what you need to learn and get back to writing already.

Today’s episode – which discusses whether or not having a creative writing degree is worthwhile – is sponsored by Not So Human, the first novel manuscript I ever wrote that was actually worth publishing. (I actually wrote two before that that were distinctly not.) I bring that up for a reason – and that reason is how creative writing is such an awesome pursuit that can lead to such awesome accomplishments.

For instance, stories about a young woman who finds out she’s a faerie, with a dangerous organization out to get her and a whole other life to live that she never even knew she should miss. There are so many negatives and positives alike involved in her revelation – and she has no choice but to experience them all, from flying and finding her family, to fending off her very own psycho stalker.

You can buy Not So Human – and the four following books in the series – at Amazon, starting with this link right here.

Like I said, the reason why I bring it up is because I don’t want to discourage anyone with the following information. No matter whether you’re deciding what college or post-grad degree you should pursue or whether you’re well past that point and only listening to this for curiosity’s sake, creative writing itself is almost certainly worth pursuing if that’s something you want to do.

There are so many benefits to it, as we covered earlier in the year. I don’t want to spend too much time discussing it here since we’ve got other things to focus on for this episode. But here are just a few different benefits that come with creative writing. When handled correctly, it can make you a better writer and a better thinker, not to mention a less self-focused, more confident and less stressed-out individual.

In which case, why in the world would I ever say that pursing creative writing in college or some master’s course wouldn’t be worthwhile? I’m so glad you asked. Because I’d actually say the real question is why in the world would I ever say that pursing creative writing in college or some master’s course would be worthwhile.

My professional opinion is that it isn’t. Not even close.

Denisa Vitova, a student at the University of Nottingham, disagrees with me on the subject, I know. And, after reading over two articles she wrote about it, I have to state that I think I like her. She seems like a reasonable individual who could be fun to hang out with. I can certainly appreciate the points she brings up in “What to Expect From a Creative Writing MA Course?” on The Writing Cooperate website. These were how:

  1. You will become a better writer.

  2. You will get outside your comfort zone.

  3. You will be able to control your writing (as in, you won’t be such a slave to your muse. You’ll learn how to control it instead of being controlled by it).

  4. You can finally write without feeling bad (because that’s what you’re supposed to be doing).

Certainly, becoming a better writer is rarely a bad thing, especially if you want to someday publish a book and make money off of it. And getting outside of your comfort zone is, I’d argue, also a good thing more often than it’s not. When we reside too far inside our comfort zones, we’re not pushed to properly change what we need to change or defend what we need to defend.

In the same way, being able to write no matter your mood is a talent every serious writer should cultivate. And having the time to write sounds absolutely enviable too. It’s just that, as Vitova also acknowledges, this time in her follow-up article “Why You Shouldn’t Study Creative Writing,” this particular collegiate venture might not be for everyone. Here are her five reasons why some people should pass on the opportunity:

  1. You don’t like writing (or reading) academic essays.

  2. You crave detailed feedback.

  3. You need a lot of contact time.

  4. You mostly write genre.

  5. You expect to land a job in the field.

And bingo. There it is: the fact that, as she puts it, “If your reason for attending a creative writing course is to become a published writer, then set yourself up for a heavy dose of disappointment.” She goes on to say that, “Sure, the degree certainly doesn’t hurt your chances of being published, but it is no guarantee that literary magazines will suddenly open their gates to you or that agents and publishers will start knocking on your door.”

Again, with all sincere respect to Vitova, what’s the point of spending money and time going to school to earn a degree that probably won’t get you anywhere? Particularly when you can learn all the good stuff – the techniques, the critiques, the inspiration and even the scheduling – without spending that money and time going to school to earn a degree that probably won’t get you anywhere? Isn’t it setting you up for a far too likely chance of failure?

She (almost) ends her article with the following two paragraphs:

In fact, as a creative writing student, you are still in the same boat as you were before the beginning of the program: It’s your own responsibility to submit to magazines, research potential writing opportunities, and write that bestseller in your free time.
Personally, I see myself working in publishing or digital marketing after I graduate, and not as a full-time writer. Studying creative writing is pretty much all about personal development, so don’t expect it to be a career springboard (although it certainly can be!).

Clearly, it’s her decision to pursue this kind of academic accomplishment. Moreover, it should be her decision to do so just as much as it should be your decision to pursue it if that’s what you think is best for you. I mean, I don’t know your exact situation, so perhaps it is. I would just strongly caution you before you pay for it the way that you have to that you truly can get that same personal development apart from institutions of higher education. And you can do it without taking the very significant risk of becoming a starving artist.

You can learn so very much simply by writing a single story draft. And then rewriting it. And then rewriting it again. And since no writer is an island, you can also join creative writing circles or critique groups, or find yourself an online or in-person creative writing buddy. Any of those can and should push you out of your comfort zone so that you and your growing skills grow even more – just as much if not more so than any creative writing classes you can take.

Ultimately, again, it’s your choice. So I sincerely do wish you the best if you decide to pursue a creative writing degree like Denisa Vitova. For that matter, I seriously hope the best for Vitova herself! As for me though, I’m glad that’s not the route I took. And I can’t say I’d advise anyone else to take it either if they asked me.

Since that’s about all I’ve got to say on the subject, thanks for tuning into The Genuine Writer Podcast. Happy and profitable writing, and I’ll catch you all next Monday!



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