Having been a writer for sixteen years, the art of Creative Writing is something that is second nature to me at this point. I work hard on a novel for six months or even a year or two, and sometimes it’s pretty exhausting. But it’s always worth it, because at the end of the day I get to hold that big, fat manuscript.
But one thing I’ve noticed is that–despite having taken several college classes in fiction writing–none of them have helped me become a better writer. That’s because fiction writing isn’t something you can actually teach. As Stephen King once said, to be a writer you need to read a lot and you need to write a lot. So the question is, is a Creative Writing degree really worth it?
The short answer is no, but only if you want to write books professionally like Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, or J.K. Rowling. Again, being a good writer comes from both writing and reading a lot, and no amount of sitting in class, hearing your professor blab at you is going to help you land a deal with HarperCollins.
What a Creative Writing degree can do, however, is get your foot in the door in the publishing industry. What a lot of schools do (like the University of Central Arkansas, my college) is they host writing festivals and conferences where local and regional authors come and talk about their work. Kelly Link, who has worked with Cassandra Claire and Holly Black, came to my university last semester, with a lot of useful advice.
Unfortunately, none of that will help if you can’t write worth a darn. The most useful thing a Creative Writing degree can do for you is to get you a job with a publisher or another writing-related job. The best thing you can do (if you want to land a deal with a decent publisher) is to work hard to be the best writer you can be, and study the work of those who have done it all before. That’s the best advice I can really give.
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