5 Reasons to Study Creative Writing
For a lot of folks in the US, college decision time is just around the corner, and since you’re here at Writing Gooder it’s safe to say that you might be entertaining the idea of studying literature or creative writing at the university level. And if you’re thinking about majoring in English, it’s safe to say a lot of people around you are trying to convince you to major in anything but English.
It’s a tough decision to make, and as I’m finishing out my last year of undergraduate study in both creative writing and English literature I thought I would give what advice I have based on my experience in this degree. So keep an eye out because over the next few months I’ll be posting on the pros and cons of studying writing and/or literature!
First, let’s begin with that big question: why even study creative writing in the first place? For me, this is a bigger issue than wanting to study literature. Literature is broad enough that, within the Humanities, there are much more obviously marketable skills you gain such as written and spoken communication, critical thinking skills, close reading (a.k.a. grand attention to detail), etc. But when someone says they majored in creative writing, most people here “I sat around and wrote stories for four years”.
Of course, the good programs have you in almost as many literature classes as writing classes (or more, in my case) and you’re going to gain all of those same skills that are valuable in any working environment. On top of that, you have the additional opportunity to get really good at giving and receiving criticism. But even so, it’s true that choosing to major in creative writing is kind of a shot in the dark. It’s mostly going to set you up to become a better writer which is most beneficial to you if you intend to pursue a writing-related career.
Still, there are a lot of good reasons to study writing! Without further ado, here are my top five reasons to pursue a degree in creative writing.
1. You’re Going to Write – A Lot
In my degree I’ve taken four courses devoted to producing a lot of writing, and critiquing that writing in a group, and learning how to refine that writing. I like to think, as well, that my specific program at my university is very literature-focused as well, so we have an unusually small number of “creative writing” classes. I also took a few courses geared toward students in my major that weren’t writing specific (I took a contemporary fiction for writers course, and a course about the literary marketplace) but still had me focusing on craft and doing bits of my own creative work here and there. A lot of my literature classes also provided the option to turn in creative works in the place of critical essays, when it was appropriate. The best thing about studying writing is you’re there to focus on becoming a better writer, so if you put in the work that’s exactly what you’re going to do.
2. Follow Your Passions!
A lot of times choosing to study creative writing is a leap of faith, and that’s okay! While it’s important to ensure you’re going to be able to feed yourself one day, it’s also important to spend your time (and money, oh god so much money) studying something you actually care about. If you’re passionate and dedicated, chances are you’re going to make those skills you gain in your creative writing degree to build a career you’re really going to enjoy. Whether that means you actually become a professional writer, or you end up working in creative development or marketing at a major company, you will more likely be happy if you’re using skills you gained studying something that makes you happy!
3. Built-In Community
A lot of our readers here at Writing Gooder are members of the Young Writers Society, and so those of you already know the value of a good community of writers. Not everyone is so lucky to find a place like YWS, and all of us can benefit from multiple communities of support. A creative writing degree guarantees you will have a community of writers to learn, write, and grow with. They will become your critique partners in and out of class, your cheerleaders, and your sounding boards. You’re all in exactly the same place at exactly the same time, and that brings you together in an incredibly valuable way that you’ll never find in quite the same sense again.
4. Creative Writing Professors Are So Cool
I really hope – and highly doubt that – it’s not just my university that has super cool, super laid back professors who really know their stuff. Professors (and other instructors or writers-in-residence who don’t have their PhDs but are still just as cool) of creative writing have devoted their lives to both writing and the academic understanding of writing. They’re literally the best sources of knowledge on the topic. They’re also incredibly willing to talk to you about your writing, work with you outside of class on your stuff, and generally be the first rung of your ladder of support as you grow as a writer. It’s their job, but it’s also their passion. And they really know what they’re talking about.
5. Access to Great Opportunities
Nowhere else do you have immediate and free access to really cool events than in a creative writing program. I’ve been to endless readings, lectures, and seminars led by writers my department as brought in for us. Many of these are open to the university as a whole, but as a creative writing student I’ll often have these visiting writers attending our classes, joining our discussions, and sharing their advice and insights as professionals in the field we all hope to enter into someday. And if you’re brave enough, these can become incredibly networking opportunities too.
I’ve absolutely adored my four years studying creative writing, and I never regret it for a moment. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you it can be a truly awesome and enriching experience that will do a lot for both your life and your future career.
I’m an English major, too, and I totally agree with all of your reasons. I hope people are brave enough to pursue their passion even though a lot of people are extremely critical about this major.