What do you think? Does acquiring a creative writing degree teach you how to become a writer?
I think not. You may have a piece of paper in your hand, and a few years of writing in a school environment but until you begin to think creatively and start jotting down your own thoughts, all you have is a degree. A degree may provide you with a certain set of skills – how to string together a list of words, grammar, copy editing … and that’s great. But the talent has to come from within you. To a certain degree, you have to teach yourself to become a writer.
I have a degree in journalism and that qualified me for writing articles. I did a lot of medical writing – not that I was well-versed in medicine or science, but a journalist learns on the job and translates those skills into something understandable by the general public. But could I write creatively when I started down this path? I was sure I couldn’t until I tried. Lo and behold, I discovered a talent I never knew I had.
So too can it be for you. How can you know if you can write until you try. Creative writing classes will help you along the way because such classes do teach you about passive versus active voice, points of view, how to create interesting characters or villains and how to come up with a hook that will grab your audience. It all provides you with a built-in peer review for what you write and trust me, comments from your classmates are very helpful. Not only do they steer you in the right direction, quite often they will help you brainstorm what should come next.
What do you need to become a writer?
- one or more unique ideas (Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, had only one great idea but who wouldn’t give their fanciest pen up for that one fabulous idea
- the discipline to write for a minimum of half an hour a day (it doesn’t have to be on the novel you’re working on)
- a thick skin to reject rejections
- staying power
- belief in yourself and your stories
- the ability to write good prose
- be an above average and voracious reader
- the ability to enjoy writing for the sake of writing
- forget jargon and pompous words
- learn to write simply and directly
Follow these points and you’ll wake up one day realizing you are the writer you always wanted to be.