The answer to the question, “Do writers need writing degrees?” depends on who you ask! These tips for aspiring writers are inspired by a reader’s question and based on my writing career – I’m a full-time blogger and writer. My degrees are in Education and Psychology, from the University of Alberta.
If you dream of supporting yourself as a writer and want to make money writing now, get to work! If you’re not into online writing, read books like 88 Money-Making Writing Jobs. by Robert Bly. Dig around until you find the type of writing work you’d love to do. Don’t forget that writing for money is a career, not a hobby.
And, follow Mark Twain’s writing advice: “Write without pay until somebody offers pay; if nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.”
Good ol’ Mark Twain’s tip is less applicable today than in his day, because I know aspiring writers can earn money the first day or week they start writing. That’s the beauty of e-zines, content sites, and blogs.
Here’s Ashleigh’s question, on Making Money Freelance Writing – 5 Ways to Support Yourself as a Writer:
“I’m sixteen and really struggling about the future. I don’t know what to do yet, so much pressure has been put on me. I want more than anything to just write. Write what I see, touch, smell – but my mum is nagging on at me saying that ‘Egotistic people like you need a job y’know!’ I’ve no idea what kind of job I’m looking for. Should I go to college and take a Journalism course? Go to University and get a degree in English so I can become a full-time journalist? My teacher gave me some local newspaper e-mails. ‘Send them some of your stuff Ash,’ she said, ‘Get yourself recognized. They will love it.’ I have my doubts, but do YOU think it’s a good idea?”
Yes, Ashleigh, I do think it’s a good idea to send your writing clips to you local newspaper. It’s a low-risk activity (that feels scary) – but it can reap big rewards! Or, maybe nothing will come of it at all. Either way, you win. If you sit on your writing, you gain nothing at all.
Do You Need a Writing Degree to Make Money as a Writer?
I don’t have writing degrees, though I’ve taken several literature and nonfiction writing courses. I think an education in something other than writing can be extremely valuable, depending on where you want your writing career to go.
1. Talk to successful writers who do not have writing degrees. I do not believe writers need creative writing degrees, journalism degrees, literary arts degrees, English degrees, or any type of degree at all, in fact. I’ve written for several national print magazines and many online e-zines and content sites, and have never once been asked what degrees I have. Of course, that’s me as a freelance magazine writer – it’s not me applying for a formal writing job on a newspaper, or for a job as a speechwriter or copywriter.
2. Figure out what kind of writing you want to do – and if education is required. There are so many different jobs for aspiring writers, and all have different writing requirements. For instance, you don’t need a writing degree to be a novelist or freelance magazine writer – you just need drive, perseverance, motivation, creativity, and self-discipline. But, you may need to a writing degree for other types of jobs. This is where books like 88 Money-Making Writing Jobs come in handy.
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3. Try different types of writing jobs. I taught grade 8 Language Arts and high school Journalism. I didn’t really like teaching about writing – I’d rather be writing.
I worked as a freelance writer for a couple of years, and didn’t like pitching feature article ideas to editors. I currently write monthly health articles and various projects for BC Women’s Hospital, which I love doing. And I love, love, love writing for myself full-time – I created five Quips and Tips blogs, and have learned how to make money blogging. One of my best tips for aspiring writers is to jump in with both feet. Else, how will you know if you’ll even like writing as a career?
It might also help to know how much money writers can make! Read Freelance Writing Pay Rates – Newspaper and Magazine Articles.
4. Remember that you can always switch course. No matter how old you are – 16 or 66 – you don’t have to make a decision now that you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life. You can start getting a writing degree, and switch to a different type of degree if you choose. You can start a career as a freelance writer, and switch over into owning your own business or blogging or teaching surfing in Hawaii. Don’t pressure yourself to figure out your future right now…just take it one step at a time. The first step may be sending writing clips to your local newspaper, or applying to a journalism school or university, or working retail for a year while you write a book or decide what you really want to do with your life. Don’t get hung up on the details; just take it one tip at a time.
What do you think – do writers need writing degrees? Comments welcome below!
For more tips for aspiring writers, read 8 Things You Need to Know About Succeeding as a Freelancer.