Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Majoring in writing

I got a question on twitter yesterday, asking if I thought that studying philosophy in college would be good for a writer. I realized that my answer was a lot longer than 140 characters, and so I asked if I could respond in a blog.

And so, I am.

Here is the thing about being a writer: there is no one true path. Some people major in Creative Writing and then get MFAs. Some people go to workshops. Some people just sit down and start writing. It is possible to choose any of these, or a variety of combinations of them, and become published, even to become successful.

Because there's no one true path, on one level, it's easy for me to say that yes, studying philosophy in college is a good choice for a writer. It teaches you to think and to think rigorously, and to be articulate, and all of those things are good skill sets for writers to have. But that's also an incomplete answer.

Writing is unlikely to bring you immediate financial success. Even if you are fortunate enough to be the rare person where the first book you write is the first book that sells and it sells really well and it never goes out of print and there are foreign rights sales and movie deals and all of that shiny sparkly stuff, it is still going to take you time to write and revise that book. You need to be doing something while you are writing that will keep a roof over your head and food on your table. 

So, my answer to whether a writer in college should major in philosophy is tempered by the reality of most writers needing to have a day job at some time in their writing career. My advice would be to pick a major that will help you get a day job in a field that you would be interested in working in. Maybe that is a philosophy major, maybe it is something else. And then to also take as many classes as possible in areas that you love, or are curious about, or you think will help you write your books. Suck up as much knowledge as you can, and file it away in your writer brain.

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. I think that the answer is a combination. You should study what you are interested in, and what you think you could do as a career... a day job... that is not writing. Once you are out of college and have a job, you can find time to study all sorts of things. There are night classes and free online courses and all kinds of resources that you can use to study any subject your heart desires. I have found some incredible history / science / philosophy / psychology courses online that have been instrumental in my writing. But none of them would have put food on my table. So the answer is, as you said tempered in reality. You need to find something you can do while you are writing, and you should study that.