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What have we learned?

I was going to post this last week, but with half the world decamped to RT I decided to wait.

My monthly blog at SF Novelists last Wednesday, "Jumping Ship," was about my decision to leave graduate school with a master's (actually two) instead of completing my Ph.D. And it made me curious about education and writers. So this question is a callout to the writers, both members and not: how has your education affected (or not affected) your writing?

Me, my undergrad degree is in archaeology and folklore, and my masters . . es . . . how do you pluralize that? . . . will be in cultural anthropology and folklore. So my studies have taught me nothing at all about writing, but a great deal regarding what to write about. Last year I wrote up "A Cultural Fantasy Manifesto," outlining some of the ways this plays out in my fiction, regarding worldbuilding and its role in the story. Academic life has also made me far more aware of underlying issues, like how all of my dark fairy tale retellings hinge on the monstrous feminine, or how I need to make certain the historical figures in my Onyx Court books don't get robbed of agency. I don't write stories driven by theory, but something in the back of my brain is always checking them for unintended implications.

I'm curious to hear from people who followed a path like mine, people who majored in creative writing and liked it or didn't, people who majored in business administration and then went off to write about werewolf sex that had no connection whatsoever -- I know there's a huge spectrum out there. And for the teenagers we have reading this comm, who are pondering whether to go to college and what to major in when they get there, it might be useful to see the choices other people have made.

Comments

stacia_kane
Apr. 23rd, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
I'm more uneducated than you, Jill!

I ended up getting a GED (darn that stupid 1/2 credit I missed--algebra was the bane of my high school existence.) No college, not a minute of it. Got in, but found out too late that there was no money for it (which is a polite way of saying my Dad refused to pay, and it was too late to apply for scholarships or do anything about it at all).

It is absolutely possible to be successful without a degree. (And that reading, voraciously, from a very early age taught me much more about writing than any class ever did.) Edna Buchanan left school at fifteen, I believe. Dorothy Parker left at thirteen. And those are just two examples I can think of off the top of my head.


Funny, I was planning on doing a post on this exact subject on my own blog this week. :-)
stacia_kane
Apr. 23rd, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
See, now I'm hunting around. Hemingway and Faulkner both did not have degrees. I'm going to keep looking, this is interesting.
irysangel
Apr. 23rd, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
I think the 'starting with a strike against you' mindset (because of no degree) has made me more determined in what I set my mind to. Like a dog with a bone. Do you find that is the case on your end?

(And I'm not saying that is how anyone has presented it here - I work in the corporate world, and it's painfully obvious that people expect massive amounts of education from people that climb the ladder)
irysangel
Apr. 23rd, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
Thank goodness I'm not the only one. :)
swan_tower
Apr. 23rd, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC)
Our society has changed to the point where jobs you could get fifty years ago with a high school diploma now want you to have a college degree, whether you actually need it or not. It can be a social obstacle, if not an intellectual one. But writing, at least, is a field where people look first, last, and often only at the story you've written, not your educational record. If you can make the story good, nobody gives a damn about anything else.

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