A Writing Education

Medieval writing desk

Medieval writing desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is the best education for a writer to have?  Do writers need any special education at all?  Can writing even be taught?  I think all writers ponder these questions to some extent, some more than others, myself more lately.  I have been writing since I was mentally and physically able to do so.  I’m not saying those early efforts about my cat Fluffy were all that great, but a story is a story, after all.

This morning I was reading an old Maclean’s magazine, because that’s how cool I am.  There were profiles in it of notable Canadians talking about their formative university experiences.  What struck me the most was that in almost every case the person’s degree, or at least their first degree, had little or nothing to do with what now makes them so notable.  That said, all of them stressed how important they considered the experience of that education to be, and how a degree in almost any field can teach far more than the subject name that heads it.

I consider myself a ‘natural’ writer in the sense that I have felt the need to craft stories from words my entire life.  The creative process is not something I have to work at, it just comes, inexplicably and wonderfully of its own accord.  Making my writing better is a different story.  I have always tried to learn as much about writing as I can through books, newsletters, the London Writers Society, critique groups and writing friends.  About ten years ago I took a course through Long Ridge Writers Group that really introduced me to the business side of writing, which was something I definitely needed to learn about.

I ask these questions because I don’t know the answers.  I had lunch with a friend of mine a while ago, a guy who has a PhD in something writing related that I can’t even remember.  For some reason we were talking about university.  I have a degree in history, but when I applied to grad school, they lost my application. That’s a story in itself, but I was saying that one day I might want to go back to grad school.  My friend asked me for what and I told him history, of course!  That seemed to surprise him and he suggested I take something writing related.

For some reason I was taken aback by this prospect.  I told him no way, it would be for history if I ever went back.  I love history, I love the stories, the information, the research, the bearing on the world today and of course, the writing.  I have absolutely no desire to pursue a degree in writing.  I like courses in writing, classes, books, tutorials, but I actually get a weird, icky feeling when I think of obtaining a writing degree.  I’ve thought about this a lot trying to understand why.  I’m a life-long learner, so that’s not the problem.  I’m always trying to improve my writing anyway, so I see the value in it and am not afraid of the prospect.  I think it’s the technical aspects of it all.  All writers use the technical aspects of writing, obviously, and good ones are always trying to improve on them, but there is a magic to writing that I just don’t want to analyze.  I don’t want to strip it down and tear it apart, I don’t want it to be a formula.  I want my writing to stay there, up in the air in a wonderful, magical place of imagination smashed into words.  I want the stories to keep flowing out of me like a broken faucet, no explanation necessary.

I guess the best education for a writer is writing, reading, and life.  Must be the romantic in me.


About eemoxam

I work at the library and write stuff because books are cool. I like dogs.

Posted on May 2, 2013, in Articles, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think experience is the best spice for writing. A lot of people think I should do a creative writing degree, but the prospect of doing so seems stifling to my creativity, especially because a lot of the work is based off prompts. I get the prompts are there to develop you as a writer, but for someone who is entirely self-taught, I have never found the prompts very helpful. I took one creative writing class and was thoroughly disappointed. It was then that I concluded experience will add more flavor to writing than any creative writing class ever could. Get out and live life. Meet people. Do extraordinary things. Then sit down and write and grow and learn.

  2. I agree. I have found the education aspect of writing useful when my first or first couple of drafts are complete. Revising, editing and marketing are the most useful aspects of writing education for me. Bur for the inital writing itself I agree with you, live and write. The more of both that you do, the better writer you will be. Thanks for commenting!

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