Do You Need a Writing Degree to Be a Real Writer?

Hello writer bees!

Today, I’m posing a possibly controversial question.

Do you need a degree in writing to be considered a “proper writer”?

To some, getting a college degree makes you a bonafide writer, or a better writer than most. Others feel they can be storytellers without the diploma to back them up. And some young writers have a hard time choosing what they want to study, and if a degree in writing is even worth it.

I want to share my experience. Hopefully, it can give younger writers a bit of insight. Goodness knows I needed some insight when I was just a fledgling. For those of you who don’t know, I graduated from Hunter College with a B.A. in English. What do you do with a B.A. in English? How did that experience impact my journey as a writer? I’ll be diving into everything, the good and the bad.

Why I Chose to Pursue an English Degree

Let’s backtrack first. When I was in high school, I discovered my love of writing. I had an amazing teacher who encouraged my artistic aspirations. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be a blogger or an aspiring author right now. As I decided what college major I would pursue, no other subject could compare to English and creative writing.

I had a lot of ideas for a potential novel. Writing stories in various genres really interested me. I loved fantasy and mystery and historical drama and everything in between. Ah, to be young and full of inspiration. Wanting to narrow down my focus and find my niche, I thought going for a English degree would help me find the genre I’d eventually publish in someday. Like “Congrats! Here is your diploma! Also, you are a mystery writer! Now go write a whodunit and be on your merry way.”

Earning my B.A. in English was a wonderful experience. It wasn’t easy. Lots of late nights, lots of reading material, lots of stress. And I don’t regret a single minute.

Writing Workshops

While in college, my fiction writing classes were full-on workshops. Gathering around with fellow writers, discussing each other’s stories. I learned how to constructively critique someone’s work and became more mindful of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. We read each others short stories and offered feedback in a really safe and sensitive environment. Don’t get me wrong, I was so nervous letting others read my work. But once you realize we’re all in the same boat, it’s not so scary. That was my first taste of a greater writing community.

Also, the very first draft of my current WIP sprouted in that class. Sharing that story in particular with my classmates was like the ultimate test run for my work-in-progress novel. Let me know in the comments if you want to hear more about that particular workshop session.

Reading Everything

Remember when I said I was looking down to settle with one genre to write in? It didn’t quite work out as I expected. In college, I read everything. And I mean everything. Like I was reading Beowulf and Arthurian legend in the morning and Hemingway and Christie in the afternoon. Real talk? My narrator was born after reading an Edgar Allen Poe story. If anything, my horizon only expanded. Once I graduated, I was even more undecided about what genre I wanted to publish in. I really gained an appreciation for literature across all genres. By reading various genres and styles and time periods, a sturdy foundation was built under my feet. Maybe it’s strange to say, but I felt like I had a wealth of source material I could refer to and be inspired by. If that makes sense.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, is it?

Hard to Find a Job

After I graduated, It was tough finding steady work. I applied for many publications and ended up with a pile of rejection letters. Apparently, a bachelors degree in English isn’t enough to prove you are good at writing. That was a newsflash to me. I wanted to make a living as a writer, and it just wasn’t happening. Frankly, It was a dark time for me. Finally, I fell into freelance work, starting out as an unpaid intern. Around the same time, I started this blog. Then, more freelance opportunities opened up. And today, even though I’m stuck in a cubicle at an office day job, the passion for writing has not ceased. I’m still working on my goal to write a novel, after office hours, of course.

Final Thoughts

The B.A. in English gave me a solid foundation. My brain thinks differently about literature and storytelling because of my time as an English major. It was a valuable, rewarding experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Well, maybe a finished novel.

Do you need a degree to be a proper writer?

In my opinion? No.

You know that quote from Ratatouille, Anyone can cook? I believe anyone can write. A degree doesn’t make me, or anyone else, a genuine writer. We all have imagination and creativity inside of us. Anyone can write a story and be considered a writer.


Do you think you need a degree to be considered a proper writer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. And if you earned your degree in English/Creative writing, how has that experience impacted your journey as a writer? As always, I love to hear from you guys.

Also, get your magnifying glasses ready! May of Mystery is right around the corner, less that 2 weeks!

Stay safe and keep writing,

Love,

Lady Jabberwocky

17 thoughts on “Do You Need a Writing Degree to Be a Real Writer?

  1. excellent post! I agree that you don’t need a degree or even an advanced degree to become a writer. But I do think that taking writing classes is beneficial in that in gives you opportunities to network with other writers or professionals. And of course it also can provide you with a solid foundation from which to start. But these days you can get that solid foundation by taking writing classes for free online or doing your own research. There is so much information available to us on the web.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Terrific post! I do not believe you need a degree in a writing field to become a writer. I say writing field because my BA is in Mass Comm., and we put forward a lot of writing in this discipline as well. I met a person years ago who had a wonderful grasp of storytelling and never went to college. From an editor’s standpoint, sure, there were spelling and structural issues to address, but that is what editors do. His grasp of the story, the rawness of his subject and experience in life is what he offered. His passion and creativity outshone any imperfections of the English language. I encouraged him to look at a local writer’s group to build his skills and agree with always seeking learning opportunities to grow abilities through writer’s conferences and courses.

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  3. Thoughtful post. And no, the creds are not the issue. I happened to major in French, which included a lot of reading and writing, if in another language. But oh, how it broadens sensibility! Experience, having read much, and studying as you continue to read much, plus intention intention intention, discipline discipline discipline. That’s my two cents. Thanks for the reminders, however!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What you need in order to write — is to write. 😉 I think for some people, courses could help. Studying well-written works of others can certainly help. I took English courses in college because I loved them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In my humble opinion there are three things one needs to become a writer: imagination, talent, and skill.

    Imagination: The insight to create a story in your mind.
    Talent: The ability to tell the story in a way that others can imagine it.
    Skill: The ability to put that story coherently into writing.

    A few English Composition classes are very helpful for number three – a degree not so much. The three keys to the first two are reading, thinking about what you’ve read, then reading some more.

    Oh, there is a fourth thing needed: The bloody-minded determination to finish the damn thing.

    I personally have two degrees, neither one of which is in English. Fifty years after getting those degrees, when I’d finally mastered number four, I became a writer.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. My inclination is to say no. I have a degree, but as I have said before, it is in mathematics, which has very little to do with creative writing. Some people are surprised that I write as a hobby…

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      1. Update: I just saw your post on this topic… I think I am definitely more of a plotter than a pantser. My current blog is episodic fiction, so typically I get the stories done over a weekend. I don’t start something and then come back to it weeks later. But I start out by writing a short outline of what the episode will be about, and I usually at least have an outline of future episode synopses for at least several months in the future.

        Have I always been this way? Probably, but I don’t remember the process for every single piece of creative prose I have ever written.

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  7. Thanks Greg. Although I have published a number of novels, I’m still working on the writing process. Reading Lady Jabberwocky’s blog is helpful, but it also helps to hear how other authors tackle the writing process.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I like the way you structured this post, Victoria. You show how your English BA introduced you to the wider world of literature, and helped you structure the way you think about it. Personally, I’m a self-taught writer (I studied computer science in University), and I appreciate those who’ve had a proper grounding in language and literature.

    One point of your post that resonated with me was about getting feedback from fellow writers. You really got the trepidation and elation across! (Yes, I would like to hear more about the workshop session for your WIP…) My periods where I’ve really grown as a writer are when I was able to share my own stories, to get feedback, and to see other works in progress.

    All the best with your goal of writing a novel! And thanks for this blog (and for visiting my blog).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I would be a graduate in English this July, so I relate to your experiences. I’ve been thinking of finding a job in a literary publishing house, which would keep me close to my one true love–books–and maybe I’ll even find inspiration and time to write. I’ve already applied to about ten publishing houses for an internship, and while a few of them acknowledged my application emails with a response, none offered me an opportunity. So I’m planning to take a year-long distance diploma course in Book Publishing, let’s see how that turns out. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I have a Creative Writing / English degree and I am employed as a technical writer (contracts) but I don’t think it’s necessary to have studied English or Creative Writing to be a great writer. Many talented individuals have created amazing works of literature with no academic background whatsoever. I feel that you just have to find the gem of an idea at the right time and connect with the right audience. I don’t know for certain of course but that’s how I feel.

    Liked by 1 person

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