My experience as a creative writing major

Hi friends, guess what?

I graduated college this week!

As of May 19, 2019, I have a Bachelor’s of Arts in Creative Writing with a minor in political science, which sounds Very Official and Fancy. For the past four years, I’ve been spending basically all of my time and energy striving toward this goal and at last I have the result: a piece of paper with my name on it.

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(Wait no, wrong school.)

I wanted to talk a bit about my experiences as a creative writing major and in college in general. Maybe some of you out there are hoping to be creative writing majors yourselves. Maybe you’re working toward your degree now. Maybe you’re just morbidly curious about what would compel someone to put themselves through this.

College was a weird couple years for me, honestly, and it’s going to take more than a few days for me to sort through everything that I feel about it. But for anyone who’s curious about creative writing or my time as a student, I hope this post is helpful or at least somewhat interesting.

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Why did I choose creative writing as my major?

The simple answer for this is that I couldn’t imagine anything else I would want to spend four years studying. I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I loved writing. Going into college, I figured that if I could get graded to read books and write stories, that would be pretty great.

I waited to declare until my sophomore year (that’s second year, for non-Americans) because I wanted to be absolutely sure I wouldn’t discover something else that I was extremely passionate about. Nothing else seemed as interesting to me, so creative writing it was. There was never really any other option for me.

What kind of classes did I take?

At my college, which was a small liberal arts school, everybody had to take a number of prerequisite classes across different disciplines. So in addition to classes for my English major and my political science minor (more on that later), I took classes in biology, anthropology, French, psychology, theatre, etc.

For my major requirements, I had to take lots of literature and writing classes – honestly more of the former than the latter. A big part of studying writing was studying other people’s writing, which meant lots of reading. There were some great lit classes and some not great ones – my favorites were a Jane Austen class and a class on women’s nonfiction.

The weird thing is that I went into this school to study fiction writing…but I never actually took a class specifically for writing fiction. I took poetry, creative nonfiction, and other nonspecific creative writing classes, but that one fiction class never worked with my schedule.

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What kind of writing did I do for class?

The writing that I did for a grade and the writing I do for fun was usually very different.

I like writing genre fiction and I like writing in a YA/MG style, but for ~some reason~ those things are not seen as serious or “academic” in college. (This probably isn’t true at all schools, but it was usually the attitude in mine.) I still remember when I wrote a short story about a werewolf in my first creative writing class, while everybody else had showed up with their Serious Literary Pieces, and I felt a little silly.

As a result, most of the writing that I actually liked doing was done outside of class.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from these classes that I took. On the contrary, they often stretched me beyond my comfort zone, which made me a better writer in the long run. For example, I had to take a poetry writing class, and I hated writing poetry – still do, let’s be real – but it gave me a stronger appreciation for that style of writing and made me pay more attention to every word I wrote.

(And I still had my little rebellions – for my senior portfolio, my central story was a sci-fi short story about twelve-year-old girls escaping from school, so hah.)

What about that political science minor?

I decided to add on a poli-sci minor simply because I liked the classes I was taking in that area and wanted to take more. I didn’t want it to be a full-on major because that was a lot of extra work to commit to, and I don’t necessarily even need to fit it into my future career at all. I just thought the classes were interesting.

It occurred to me fairly recently that the reason I liked taking those poli-sci classes was because there wasn’t a lot of pressure attached to them. It was simply learning interesting things for the sake of learning. I didn’t have the pressure of earning a degree like with my English classes. That was nice – I wish that’s how the rest of my college experience had been, and I’m honestly kind of going to miss those classes.

So what am I going to do with my degree?

HAH! That’s the big question now, isn’t it?

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When you’re a creative writing major, everyone assumes you’re going to be either 1) an English teacher, 2) a journalist, or 3) a librarian. I want to be none of those things. For some reason, people can’t comprehend this concept.

Other reactions to my major include:

  • *awkward laughter* “so what are you doing to do with that?”

I don’t know, Janice, leave me alone and let me figure my own life out.

  • “it doesn’t really matter what you study in undergrad, it’s grad school that matters!”

Not going to grad school so

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Also, thanks for invalidating all of my hard work! That feels real good!

  • “I wish I could sit around and read and write all day!” or “that sounds so easy! All you have to do is read book!”

Yeah! It was so fun when I had hundreds of pages of reading to do every night and multiple essays due every week and the things that used to bring me joy now only brought stress and tears!!!

Throwback to that one time in sophomore year when I realized that five weeks into the semester I’d already written 30 essays LMAO SO EASY. (I’m not salty.)

  • “well, everyone needs good writers!”

The thing is, I don’t want to write unless I’m writing something I’m passionate about. I know it’s not realistic to make a living on fiction writing alone, so I’d rather do something else and save my energy for the writing I actually want to do. (If that makes any sense.)

For the moment I’m working in a bookstore and also looking for full-time jobs in publishing, and hopefully that’ll take me somewhere.

So. College. How’d that go?

Oh boy. Big question. One that I still don’t fully know how to answer.

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There were plenty of amazing things about college for me – meeting some of my best friends, studying abroad, becoming so much more independent, etc. There were also lots of not amazing things about college.

I’m worried that this post comes off as bitter, which is not the feeling I came away from college with. What I came away with feels much more complicated than that. I’m grateful for everything that I’ve learned, all the opportunities I’ve been given, and the privilege I have to be sitting here now with a college degree. But I’m also realistic about the ways that my experiences weren’t what I was expecting or were simply downright bad.

It’ll take a lot more reflecting on my part to figure out this feeling, but just know that if you’re feeling let down by your college experience or think you’re doing it wrong, you’re not alone. I spent a lot of time during college thinking there was something wrong with me for feeling this way, and I don’t want anyone else to think that.

At any rate, it’s behind me, and it’s time now to look forward! Because that’s not terrifying at all.

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I don’t really know what this post is, but I had some Thoughts and I have too much time on my hands now that I’m not a student anymore. Hopefully this made at least a little bit of sense!

Are you interested in studying creative writing? What was/is your college experience like?

x Margaret 

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28 thoughts on “My experience as a creative writing major

  1. marydrover

    Congratulations! As a fellow creative writing major, I feel you. When I first graduated, I never wanted to look at a book again. I seriously went into a months-long slump where I was like “yeah nope I’m all set I just spent four years slaving over books.” And even still, people don’t get it. My boss has recently asked me several times if I’d be interested in doing technical writing “because you have an English degree” for our company, and I keep gently reminding him that studying dead white poets does not equate ALL WRITING EVER.

    I, too, felt that same kind of bittersweetness at the end. Like, great, I finally accomplished four years of this insanity, but also hm. Some of it definitely left me feeling a little frustrated.

    And yeah, the old “only grad school work counts”–whateverrrrrr.

    Congrats again on graduating!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 🎉🎉🎉 CONGRATULATIONS!! 🎉🎉🎉

    And don’t let all the haters get you down! I had a similar experience with my math major. Everyone assumes you are going to be an actuary, and accountant, or a math teacher and I don’t want to do any of those! I ended up being a product analysis for a software company. My math degree came with a lot of computer science classes so I can understand basic coding and that was what I needed for my job haha. I don’t do math at all in my day-to-day work schedule! So you will find something and you will love it! There are so many different possibilities 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thewolfandbooks

    I actually majored in Poli Sci. I was initially a Communication major but I wasn’t enjoying my professors or the program at this college. I switched to Poli Sci and it was strangely way more laid back. I wanted to go into Creative Writing but after taking one class, I wasn’t sold because like you said, they don’t think genre fiction is real writing. At the very least, I wish they taught both literary style and genre. It seems kind of biased.

    The only good thing about *not* having majored in creative writing is that I don’t focus on how my sentence structures and analyze the deeper intent of my story. I focus on getting the words out and write faster. The downside to this is also that….I don’t focus on how my sentence structure or analyze the deeper intent of my story, which would benefit me if I did, lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Poli sci is a great thing to study! 😀 I loved all the classes I took for my minor. And yeah, it does suck that they don’t teach genre writing. I’m sure some schools do, but I wish it was more common!
      There are definitely pros and cons to not focusing on things like sentence structure and deeper meaning!

      Like

  4. Yay, HUGE congratulations to you for graduating! 🎉 🎉 A creative writing major sounds awesome, and I’m glad you chose something you could enjoy studying! 💕

    I’m currently at a small liberal arts college, too, but we only have creative writing as a minor, so I’m just a simple English major for now. It sounds a lot like your major, though, since I also have to read multiple classic novels at once and I constantly have essays due. (But 30 essays in five weeks?? I would cry, that sounds so intense! 😭)

    Right now, I’m a little scared about my future with an English degree. Everyone assumes that I want to be a teacher, which I wouldn’t mind, but I would rather try to make a living off of writing. I also wouldn’t mind being a librarian, either, because all of the librarians I know are so much like me! They can read YA whenever they want, they write on the side, and they get to make projects they’re passionate about while influencing younger kids to love reading. I would love to be that kind of librarian!

    But working in a bookstore for now sounds like the perfect step towards your goals! That’s honestly what I would do right out of college when the time comes, because I also would love to work in publishing. (Although I heard that it’s almost as hard as getting published? So that’s quite scary.)

    And I’m totally with you on that “not so amazing” feeling about college. I’ve liked my experience so far, but it’s not the best time of my life or life changingly special. It just feels a lot like high school, but with more independence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! ❤
      Gotta love that small liberal arts college life! Yep, the 30 essays in 5 weeks was probably the busiest point for me…still not sure how I survived that.
      I totally get being scared about your future with an English degree. Being a librarian does sound like a great path! I just don't really want to go back to school to get the degree I'd need for that haha. But hopefully the publishing thing will work out, and in the meantime working in a bookstore is great!
      College is definitely a weird time, and I think it gets hyped up in so many ways that you go in with expectations that it will be a certain way. But it's totally okay if it's not how you expect! I hope your experience ends up being good in the end, at the very least 🙂 ❤

      Like

  5. Well done! All the best. I studied a couple of creative writing modules when I did my English literature degree but it was all about the taste of that particular tutor and I didn’t get on well at all. It put me off really, but now I’m getting back into writing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Congrats on graduating! That creative writing major sounds so intense, and I’m in awe that you completed it. I love creative writing in my spare time, but I don’t really enjoy English classes in school anymore, and would probably die writing so many essays or reading so many classics lol. I’m graduating high school in two weeks and planning on being a bio major, but I’d like to try maybe taking a creative writing class for a ge or whatever because ngl I have no idea what I’m doing with my life lmao

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Congratulations on your degree! I’m a Creative Writing minor (my college didn’t have a CW major, but they DID give me lots of scholarships sooooo… compromise). College is a rough place emotionally, definitely not like the movies. But it’s behind you and you can move forward and the rest of your life is going to be AWESOME.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Congrats on graduating! That’s got to be an incredible feeling! My sister graduated as a political science major herself, and she gets those same snide comments asking her what she’s going to do with it. It’s rude and invalidating, so I’m glad you’re not letting those comments get to you!

    Oh and yes, I get you on feeling like college somewhat failed you. I worked hard and took away a lot from it, but it definitely had its downer moments. I think high school tells you college will be this perfect, empowering experience, but it doesn’t tell you its downfalls. :/

    But it’s amazing you’re able to admit these “negative” things to yourself! I had a difficult time coming to terms with these things at first, so I’m happy for you. ☺️ Congrats on graduating once again! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. Congrats on getting your degree!! 🎉💗 I really loved hearing about your experience studying creative writing and I wish you all the best for the future! Sorry you’re dealing with so many people who don’t get it, I wish people were more accepting 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Congratulations! I’m majoring in Literature and Writing Studies, so far I’ve taken two creative writing courses and will take the advanced-level course in the fall. I’m graduating in the spring and love creative writing!

    Like

  13. Sarah Lea Stories

    I’m enrolling in the Creative Writing program this fall. I am so excited! This: “I couldn’t imagine anything else I would want to spend four years studying.”

    Liked by 1 person

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