My dad once said I would be in school forever. He wasn’t referencing my inability to learn but my total love of it. And he was right. I became a teacher so I have been “in school” my entire life, either behind the desk or in front of it. The best thing about being a writer is that it feeds into my curiosity as well. Every day as I sit down to write I’m driven by inquisitiveness as all writers are. It is what sends us to the internet on research missions that last hours on end. Regardless of what people say, those trips to Pinterest are research, right?
A lot of people question the importance of education for writers. Let’s take these one at a time because each is unique. Conventions are a huge thing for writers for a couple of reasons. They provide opportunities for learning, marketing, and networking. Writing can be a pretty lonely proposition so take advantage of these chances as much as possible. Maximize by making sure that you choose conferences based on price, location, and offerings. These basics are important in determining how best to spend those hard-earned author dollars. Make the use of your writing connections. For instance, our group attends conferences together so we are able to split a lot of the costs. Expand your circle of influence by meeting new people and fostering those relationships beyond the conference. Today’s technology makes that possible no matter where you live.
Most communities offer classes in writing, plus these days the online offerings are endless. Again, it’s important to research before selecting something. Local universities often offer these types of classes. In person classes are good for meeting writers in your region, especially if you are wanting to start a critique group. A variety of sources offer online classes. They range from free to holy cow! Make sure you’ll get the most for your money AND that the instructor is reputable. If you belong to a critique group, share what you learn in these with each other. It’s another way of stretching your money.
Not every writer wants or needs a degree. It doesn’t guarantee publication. What are the reasons for seeking a degree then? I think those are as unique as there are reasons people write. For me, I had a couple of reasons I chose the degree route. As an educator, the degree offered me an opportunity to teach writing at the university level something I’d wanted to do all my life. Another perk of the program? I’d written most of my life, and I loved doing it. I’d written a couple of novels before I ever considered the degree. I’d never accomplished a short story successfully though. And I wondered if I was missing something in my writer’s tool chest. Spending four semesters with accomplished writers as my professors was exactly what I needed. Some writers will thrive in that environment. Others won’t.
Of the three, a degree is the most personal choice. The first two are things every writer should do. But the degree is not for everyone. However, as a writer, never stop asking yourself questions. That curiosity feeds your art.