I’m a full-time writer with no English degree. (I’ll tell you a bigger secret, I actually don’t have a degree at all.) And after doing this for a few years I’ve learned the answer to an enormous question: do you need a college degree to be a writer? No.
*Let me throw in a disclaimer here: I strongly believe in education. I think that education paves the way for opportunity and we are all better because of it. However, I am writing this to challenge the concept that a writer can and will only be bred in an educational institution.*
Do You Need a College Degree to Be a Writer
For those of you who are new to The Write Practice blog, hi, I’m Kellie. I’ve been writing on here for about two and a half years. I started as an amateur and recently launched my own writing business. So really, I am the poster child for how you really CAN make it.
(I’m still not completely sure how I made it, but I’m going to spend the next couple posts sharing what I did and how you can make it as a writer too!)
3 Secrets to Becoming a Writer Without a College Degree
Here are three reasons you don’t need a college degree to be a writer.
1. Nothing Beats Doing the Work
I wrote my first book in 2014. That’s when I met Joe. (He’s the guy who started this whole blog.)
I inadvertently signed up for a program I thought was on storytelling and blogging. Turned out, the four-month intensive switched from a nice, easy program on writing stories and starting a pretty blog to a four-month, never sleep, insane deadlines, learn how to write a book program.
It was extremely challenging as over those four months, Joe taught us how to write a book. He showed us what it looked like to structure a chapter, build a world, and tell really good stories.
The difference, though, is that we only met for “class” once a week for two hours. Every other second was dedicated to doing the actual work.
I could have read a hundred books on writing, listened to a writer tell me all their secrets on book writing, or even Googled how to do it. There’s plenty of information out there.
What no book, writer, or google search could teach me was what it was really like to write a book. The anxiety right before a big deadline, the tears shed from trying to organize an outline, and how sometimes you write complete crap and know you’re writing complete crap but have to write it anyway.
Nothing could have taught me how to write a book apart from doing the work.
2. Apprenticeships Are Everything
After I wrote that first book, I started a separate four-month apprenticeship with Joe. In those four months, I learned how to launch a book, ghostwrite blog posts, create an eBook, and a hundred other things.
A couple of months after that I even started to work for Joe and help with a few ghostwriting projects. I ended up writing two more books as Joe’s apprentice. He taught me words to cut out of my vocabulary and showed me how to fix awkward writing, how to meet and interview clients, and the ins and outs of book writing.
I wouldn’t have been able to become a full-time writer without apprenticing. To learn from someone who is doing the work and living the life you want to live is irreplaceable. It is the fastest way to get where you want to go. You don’t need a piece of paper that tells you that you are capable of doing something; you need to learn from a master.
3. This Is the Age of Information
Welcome to 2017, the age of information. Everything we could ever want to know is available at our fingertips. I Google my way through 60% of my daily life. That’s just how it is nowadays.
The incredible thing is that there are hundreds of blogs (The Write Practice being your favorite, obviously) that will teach you how to become a writer. There are even free courses online to study literature. It’s incredibly easy to become just as educated as those with a college degree with the information on the internet.
One of the subjects studied most heavily by those on the road to an English degree is different types of literature. I love literature and recently thought about getting a degree so that I could study it.
But guess what I did instead? I started a classic book club with my friends. We read the kinds of books you find on college syllabuses and meet once a month to talk about themes, writing, how the author conveyed a hard subject, and most importantly, how the writing affected everyday readers like my peers.
It’s really possible to become educated in all sorts of things if you want it badly enough. The power truly is in your hands.
What About You?
To all my friends with English degrees (and I have a lot of them), I genuinely hope I don’t offend you. I’d actually love to hear your thoughts. What did you love about your college degree? How did it benefit you in your writing career? What do you think about the big question,”do you need a college degree to be a writer”?
If you don’t have an English degree and are a writer, let me know that too! What did you do to learn your skills?
How have you learned to be a writer? What will you do to learn more? Let me know in the comments!
Take fifteen minutes to learn something YOU need to learn about writing. If you struggle with characterization, write a piece introducing a new character. If your weakness is dialogue, write a conversation between two people.
Let me be honest with you: I suck at grammar. So I’ll spend the next fifteen minutes googling some of the grammar rules I’m weakest at.
Becoming a better writer (especially without a typical classroom) means knowing your weaknesses and being adamant about getting better.
Share what you learned in the comments below, and don’t forget to leave feedback for others. Share some tips with other writers as well!