Depending on how long you’ve been reading Drunk Off Rhetoric you may know I started this blog to improve my writing and broaden the genres of books I read. I had decided to take a long (permanent) hiatus from college and was trying to figure out what I could do to change my writing hobby into a career. It has been just over a year of good books, a few short stories, and spotty blogging. Overall, I can say reading and meeting other aspiring and accomplished writers, attending workshops, and reading a lot of blogs on the subject has made potential paths to writing professionally much clearer.
But at times, pursuing a writing career can feel like hunting an endangered species; seldom seen and just out of reach, you’re sure writing for money (real money that pays big bills) is an elaborate joke at your expense. Writing professionally is not like the typical career with clear paths to success. There is no bachelors in freelance writing and completing an MFA in creative writing won’t guarantee a book deal. Even if you do get some sort of writing degree, who’s to say you can find a writing job to pay for it? So, what is a writer to do? What about one without an English or creative writing degree? As daunting as these questions were when I had no idea what I wanted to pursue, my answer was to experiment with as many paths as possible; learn from numerous outside sources, workshops, literature classes, professors, author readings, and blogs. Now that I feel I’ve progressed as far as I can with those resources I’ve enrolled in UCLA’s Writer’s Program – a structure and choice of classes I think will help carry my writing to a new level and allow me to reach my goal of completing a short story collection and starting a freelance writing career. The program lasts two years and you have the option to submit one hundred pages of a manuscript for review by an adviser, at the end of the course.
Some things that drew me to the program was the flexibility, instructors, and large variety of classes; some that interested me ranged from learning to build real characters to the ins and outs of the publishing side of the industry. The most valuable parts of the program for me are that I will work consistently in a classroom of other writers, and would complete my collection and get valuable feedback for a large chunk of it.
One other bonus is that my resume won’t look so half done, the portion under the Education section won’t be so empty. There is absolutely no need to go through a formal education to become a good writer, but without one you may be lost finding practical, paying work. Experience is the more important of the two, but since the program is a great opportunity to learn and grow, I thought it would illuminate another path of the elusive writing career and make the next step more than a stumble in the dark.
What are some choices you’ve made in pursuit of improving your writing, professionally or otherwise? Have you gone the route of getting an English, creative writing degree, or something equivalent? Did you think it was worth it in the end? Did you struggle to get your first paid writing job?