How to be a Writer
Do you need an English degree to be a writer? The short answer is—no.
Here’s the long answer:
The thing with writing is you just have to write. No one will write something for the first time and think, “Wow! This is amazing!” (And if you do, then you need to rethink some things). You develop your ability to write over time by reading and writing. Want to write a novel? Read some novels. Want to write poetry? Read some poetry.
I think what discourages people from writing is they first start writing and may not fully know all the rules and processes, and they think what they write is terrible. Of course, it’s going to be terrible. You should see some of the things I wrote through high school and into college. Now, though, a year out of undergrad and a bachelor’s of English under my belt, I feel like I can write and not completely hate it in the beginning. (On some occasions, though, I find that I will never show the first draft to absolutely anyone aside from my fellow editors here, and they are very nice about it.)
Perhaps this blog is more of a reflection for myself than anything. You see, recently I have been in a writing slump. I have a story I would like to write—I have several, in fact—but I do not have the motivation to write. Sometimes I wonder if I should even consider myself a writer. Other times, I consider myself a fraud of an English major because I was only in the field for two years instead of four.
But I always come back to this single phrase: to be a writer, you just need to write.
It does not matter if you majored in English. Just as it does not matter if you start writing as a teenager or in your fifties. What matters, is that you write. Write everything! Write what you want to read. Do you want to write a story about a samurai and a cowboy from the wild west? That’s possible (and historically accurate)! Want to write a story about the bowl of cereal you had for breakfast? Consider creative non-fiction!
Ultimately, write. Write, write, write.
Write until you can’t think of anything else to write, and then keep going. I love using prompts and listening to songs. I can think of a story by looking at a single picture (and then probably find a song to go along with it).
Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer, but didn’t know what I needed to do to become one. Major in English? Get a Master’s? A PhD? Work at a magazine? The truth, I’ve found, is I didn’t need to do any of that. Of course, I majored in English, and I currently work at a magazine, but the “ideal” writer’s life isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
So, no, you do not need to get a degree in English to be a writer (though it may help you understand the techniques and rules better). To be a writer, you just need to write and be willing to share you work with others.