To be clear, my degree is in English: Writing, so obviously I didn’t take my own advice. While I have enjoyed many of my classes, and it has already gotten me a job lined up as an English teacher with Teach For America, I do wonder if focusing on something else would have given me more material for my writing. Despite this, I have loved being able to complete schoolwork that didn’t feel like work at all. In my experience, the best things about my undergrad have been:
- Exposure to stories I never would have read. (Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, it is one of the only books that actually made me want to physical fight a character.)
- Networking with other writers.
- Forcing myself to practice in many different genres. This actually led to my first story getting published. I normally write fantasy, but my creative nonfiction short story, “Eevee,” was originally a school project and later got accepted by the magazine The Bird & Dog.
- Allowing me to use my passion to earn a degree.
While I think these are all good reason to pursue a degree in English, I received little actual instruction in regards to how to craft a story. In fact, the podcast Writing Excuses taught me a thousand concepts that my professor never even touched on. Writing Excuses is hosted by Brandon Sanderson (my favorite author), Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler (Who is one of the nicest guys I’ve met). The best part of the podcast is that it is free. You can learn more from that free resource than some colleges offer.
If you choose to major in something other than English, then it can give you a basis for your writing. Which sound more interesting, a science-fiction book written by a writer or a science-fiction book written by a physicist? The physicist might not have as much experience with the craft of writing, but it is likely that they will understand interesting concepts that a writer would not have knowledge of.
Any writing course will teach you that the best way to improve, is to practice. This doesn’t require assignments or finals. It only requires enough self-discipline to sit in a chair and put fingers to the keyboard. This can be done while studying anything or working anywhere. Do not let the fear of not having the right degree stop you from telling your story.