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Advice on Creative Writing Major

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GreenWriter View Drop Down
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    Posted: 13 Mar 2010 at 1:17pm
Hello fellow writers,

I am currently a Freshman in college at a fairly small State school (8,000 students). My dream is to be a professional writer one day. My school does not offer a "Creative Writing" major, but it has an Enlish major with a writing emphasis (it is a nursing school). I have been doing a little research on schools with better English programs and Creative Writing majors, and there are quite a few great ones. However, I could learn a lot about writing at my current school, which I like, and I know transferring is sometimes hard.

My question is: do you think it would be better to stay at my small school or transfer to a school with a stronger English/Creative Writing program? Also, what are some good schools that you might suggest? In my short research, I have found Brandeis, Oberlin, Northwestern, Emory, Carnegie Mellon, Kenyon, and Hamilton. Any praise for these schools? Online research is a little daunting, as I know there are many good schools out there.

Any advice/past experiences you have is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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troutbellies View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote troutbellies Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2010 at 1:10am
If you actually want to get a job, I'd suggest either getting a business minor, or dumping your English degree for something in mass communications or business communications. There's a lot of copywriting, marketing communications, etc.  jobs around. Businesses are always looking for people who can write. Journalism and freelance writing doesn't pay (although it can be fun and really good experience). Its risky to depend on writing fiction for $$$ for the rest of your life. Unless you want to teach English, I'd suggest another route to be a professional writer. 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sutekh137 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2010 at 10:08am
I would add to what trout is saying by pointing out that if you still want to experience the "purity" of creative writing (eschewing things like copy-editing, marketing, etc.) you can do that by simply continuing to write.  Find good readers, join workshops, journal and blog (if that is your thing), and perhaps join a creative writing MFA type of program later on in life (you don't have to be an English major for that, just good at English *smile*).

I'm not standing up in support or denigration of things like copy-editing or more business-related publishing.  Those are fine endeavors, and a good "in" to the industry.

In my opinion, college is a time to not necessarily put a pure focus on one thing, especially if that thing can be attained via other paths or later in life.  I'm not saying your love for writing will dull, but the finer points of your opinion toward it may in the next three years.  I started college very gung-ho on physics and math, sure that I would go to graduate school and attain my PhD.  By junior year I was skipping classes, dropping hard math courses at the last minute, and just generally feeling like garbage.  Was pretty freaked out after graduation, but got an IT-related job and have never looked back (that was about 16 years ago).  While I can't really put a finger on exactly how I would do it all over again (might not change a thing), I do wish my focus had been a bit looser from the start, and that I would have considered more fully some of the other paths I was enjoying: writing, computer science, etc.  I am betting it would have all turned out the same, seeing as how there are always bills to pay (IT is kinda good for that), but who knows.

As far as the hard facts on the schools you list, I wish I had more information for you.  I would suggest doing heavy internet research on each, including honest student reviews, and then visit your top two or three.

Good luck!

JoeK
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mra0618182 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2010 at 10:15am
I took a summer workshop at Kenyon and absolutely loved it. But be forewarned that it's in a small town without anything else going on there. If that kind of atmosphere doesn't bother you, give Kenyon some serious consideration.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jmoormann Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2010 at 10:18am
While I can't give you much advice on the major, I do know a good number of people who've either graduated or will be graduating from Oberlin. I'm trying to find a way to put this gently... there are a lot of burnouts there. Much higher percentage than at your average school. If that's your kind of thing then fantastic, but I know several people who really hated the culture of the school even though they enjoyed the curriculum. Also, it's in northeast Ohio, so the weather is terrible.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trillian4210 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2010 at 4:42pm
I disagree with Trout and JoeK to a degree.  I say if it's your passion, go for it.  And yeah, you may end up as a professor of English while you work on your writing, but if that's what you love, it makes no sense to me to blow money on training for a career you'll hate.  If you teach English or Creative writing, you'll be surrounded by the craft you love, and talking about it, and learning as your students learn.
(and I'm TOTALLY not just saying this because that's what I'm going to do...Wink)
 
As for the schools, they're pretty sweet, but the brand name might not be what you need for your particular career path. If you can get into one, more power to you, but there are plenty of "regular" schools with good creative writing programs that will get you the same end result. 
No matter where you go...there you are.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GreenWriter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2010 at 8:45pm
Thanks for responding, everyone. Firstly, I understand that I won't be able to support myself on simply writing fiction and poetry, especially not at first. Secondly, I'm more passionate about screenwriting, so I'd like to minor in film, which I can do at my current school.

Oberlin sounds a little intense for me, and a little small--only 2,800 students total. When I imagined transferring, I always thought of moving to a much bigger school. But I haven't made any decisions or ruled anything out yet.

Trillian--thanks for the good advice, I've considered that. Another question: would you recommend transferring to a better school?

Again, thanks for the advice. Anyone else, feel free to add your input.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sutekh137 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2010 at 9:07pm
GW, if I came off as saying you shouldn't follow your passion, I didn't realize it, and I apologize.  I didn't mean to project my own college time or subsequent life experience. Knowing your passion at this point is a wonderful blessing, so I wholeheartedly agree with Trillian...go for it!

JoeK
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote shandra leah Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Mar 2010 at 11:22am
Being an English major with concentrations in creative writing myself, I wish I could give you some advice, but the rest of the previous posters gave sound advice. I'm also minoring in Linguistics. Not really wanting to teach, I still have no idea what I'm going to get out of having this degree when I graduate in the Fall.

I would suggest taking a number of your core classes first (gen eds, math science, humanities etc.) not only to get them out of the way, but to explore other options. I was gung-ho about being a biologist of some type my entire life until my senior year of high school when I had an awesome English teacher, and that set the course for my college career. In the next year or two, you may discover something more enticing in the career realm. I know sooo many fellow students who switched from biology to english, and just as many from english TO biology. It's a weird shift, but you just never know!

Also, as long as you take general classes that are transferable, it should be no trouble transferring schools in 1-2 years if you don't think you want to stick with your current school. Just be careful of late transfers, a lot (most?) schools require that you take your last 20 or so credits at the institution you will be graduating from.

ooook, i totally went on much longer than I had planned, but I hope that helps a bit :) good luck with whatever you decide :)
"The soul that loves and suffers is in the sublime state." -Victor Hugo
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote troutbellies Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Mar 2010 at 12:24pm
If your goal is to be an English teacher, then English of course is the right decision. But if you want a job as a professional writer, that's a different story. Some professional writer jobs include:

Technical writing
Journalist, reporter
Copy editor (for newspaper, magazine, publication, publisher, etc.)
Business copywriting/proposal writing/etc.

This is not a complete list, but in my opinion, English is not the best major to get one of these jobs. In an English degree, you'll study a lot of literature. In a journalism/communications degree, you'll study how to write and communicate. There are technical writing degrees in many schools, also. Technical writing pays well, but can be a little boring. 

Sometimes, however, all that matters is you have a degree.

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