Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Higher Learning

I have to write bios pretty often. Not long ones -- just a handful of sentences. I always, or almost always, start out with "Kelly Fiore has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University." I'm not sure why I started writing that. I think when I was in grad school, all the bios I read for authors started that way, so I've just modeled it.

But do my degrees really define me? When I tell people about myself, are my degrees what I want to lead with?

A while back, I was reading an article, and subsequent feedback articles, about a creative writing professor who believed writing couldn't be taught and that the majority of his creative writing students weren't talented. I think people have a lot of opinions about whether or not art can be taught. I would argue that there needs to be a general knowledge or base for that skill to be improved upon through education. I have always been a writer. But I haven't always been a good writer. All of the skills I've acquired have been a result of the classes I've taken in college and graduate school. They made me the writer I am now.

So, do I use my degree/s? Absolutely. Every day. But I became curious about other people -- specifically other writers I know. Do they all have degrees? Do they use them?

To find out, I ran a (very very informal) poll last year on an author message board I belong to. The poll ran for about 3-4 days. Here are the results:

Out of the 29 participants...

1 - No degree

1 - AA

27 - BA/BFA

6 - MA

6 - MFA

3 - PhD (including candidates)

1 - MD

1 - JD (law degree)

Note: Many people have more than one degree - i.e. a BA and an MFA/MA and some people have three degrees.

English Related Majors: 18

Non-English Related Majors: 11

So, about 2/3 of people majored in English or English-related fields. Does that mean they use their degree? Maybe. I didn't ask for specifics. But what I find more interesting are the 1/3 of people who majored in science or business, etc. and who are still incredibly successful writers. Which proves a theory/concept English teachers have been trying to prove for, well, ever.

Writing is not an English skill.

To be a good writer, you can come from any kind of background -- many degrees, no degrees, doctors, lawyers, students, etc. It's easy to say that writing is English related in scope, but you can be a true, talented writer - or storyteller, which sometimes is even more important - without ever having what is considered a traditional background.

So, if you want to write, that might just be enough to gain momentum. I would argue that you should take classes or workshops. You should work with other writers and you should read a lot. I wouldn't try writing in a bubble because you will never grow or improve. But you don't need a degree to do it.

*All Gifs from PhotoBucket and Tumblr*

1 comment:

  1. I agree that quality of writing completely depends on experience and vocabulary and in addition it wouldn't be useless to work under some experienced writers to get used to the style of writing and technique.