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*