Many who call themselves writers earn their title by going to school to learn the craft. I am one such person. In 2005 I graduated from the journalism program at Humber College with a specialization in print. This makes me a formally trained writer.
On the other hand, there are also many writers who never went to school to study under someone who knows everything about the art of words. All they needed to know was learned though experience, networking, and reading.
Hunter S. Thompson is one such example of this. He never studied journalism in school. He didn’t even go to college. He did, however, write for his high school newspaper and served in the military in his early 20s. Even though he never had a fancy piece of paper to hang on his wall, he still managed to become one of the foremost journalists of the 20th century.
I am convinced that if one wants to be a writer, it is not absolutely necessary to go to school for it, although I will concede that it can help. Taking classes in literature or writing forces you to study the craft and read many books that you otherwise might never touch and it will make you do so with a critical eye. School will also put you in contact with many like minded people and intellectuals who can inspire and challenge you to stretch your capacities beyond their limits and grow as a creative force. However, all of these things can be achieved without ever stepping inside a classroom.
You don’t need a stodgy professor telling you what books to read to go to the store and buy them yourself. You don’t need to be forced to write essays on classic literature to contemplate them on your own time. You don’t need to attend the ivory towers of higher learning to meet other creative types. All these things can be achieved without ever setting foot inside a university if you know where to look, and who to talk to. Especially today with the internet providing an infinity of information and resources, all these things can be attained without paying a single tuition fee.
To become a writer all you have to do are these three things.
- Observe human behaviour
That’s it. Given the astronomical cost of education in North America these days, I would strongly caution anyone who plans on going to University for a thing like English literature, fine arts, or creative writing. While it’s great to indulge ones passions, once those four years are gone you’ll be awarded with a degree that will not get you a good job. This has been said many times by many others before me. Many of the people I know with arts degrees work in retail or customer service, and these are jobs that can be obtained with a high school diploma.
If it’s your plan to study English literature or writing at the post secondary level, take a good look at the outcomes and ask yourself if it’s really worth going tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Given the fact that the tools you need to become a writer are already out there and don’t cost anything, it would be insane to spend four years of your life and end up with crippling debt just to pour lattes or sell clothing.
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