I’m Giving Myself a Creative Writing “Degree”

People who know me well are going to laugh so hard at this post because it is exactly the sort of thing I would do.

I’ve been thinking recently about going back to school to study English, but I have a hard time justifying the hassle it would be to transfer credits from the community college, figure out financial aid and/or pay a ton of money, and the stress and anxiety that goes along with homework and deadlines. I’ve never handled that sort of thing well because it doesn’t come naturally to me, but I still care enough to really want to get everything done on time and be a good student, so the whole experience is dreadful.

As I thought it over, I realized that having a diploma wouldn’t really do much for me anyway considering the fact that most people don’t typically look up an author’s credentials before reading their fantasy novel. No, I was mostly interested in the learning opportunities, and in the “age of the internet,” why couldn’t I fashion together an education for myself?

I wanted to make sure that I covered all of the bases and got the full effect of a college education, so here are some of the factors I’ve considered and how I plan to address them.

1. Diversity

One of the really neat things about college is that it pushes the breadth and depth of your comfort zone. If I were just to decide: “I’m going to study creative writing,” I would go to the library or get on amazon and get all of the books I could on creative writing. I would learn a lot through that process, but I would miss all of the helpful things that can be learned from studying literature, learning about the publishing industry, mastering the basics of English composition, etc.

So I got on the websites of several different colleges that offer creative writing degrees to see what sorts of classes were typically required. Southern New Hampshire’s website format was the easiest to follow, so I generally just copied it down, taking into account some of the ideas I’d gleaned from other colleges. General education and electives aside (I’d covered most of those in community college years ago), here’s a summary of what I have:

  • 5 Literature classes
  • Creative writing I & II
  • The Writing & Publishing Industry
  • New Media in the Writing & Publishing Industry
  • Linguistics
  • Literary Theory
  • Fiction Workshop I, II, & III

2. Depth

So that takes care of the breadth of topics studied, but what about the depth? It would be easy to read one book on literary theory and check it off of the list, but that’s not going to cut it. I’m going to do the best I can to mimic the syllabus of a college class; I’ll find and use a textbook whenever possible and come up with a list of assignments, additional reading material, search for videos on the topic, and find online discussion forums. Speaking of which …

3. Discussion

One of my major concerns as I was considering this was that I would be missing classroom discussion. Hearing diverse opinions and different perspectives is supposed to be one of the greatest benefits of attending college, right?

Well, that’s also one of the major concerns about online classes. I don’t think that there’s not a difference between learning a topic on my own versus if I were to learn it in a classroom, I’m just thinking there isn’t much difference between teaching myself or taking an online class, provided I find a forum or discussion group to accompany my studies. Luckily, I’m already a part of several, and I’ll just make more of an effort to post in them when I’m studying a topic relevant to the group. TheProse.com is a very active site for all sorts of writing. There are frequently challenges and competitions to enter, and anyone can leave feedback on anyone’s post. I’ll probably use that for most of the classes and supplement with different facebook groups and other forums as needed.


If you can think of anything else I should consider, let me know in the comments, and if there are any other writers out there who want to join me in this crazy endeavor, contact me and we can encourage each other along the way!

And yes, I’m going to keep working on my new fantasy series as well, and I’m keeping track of my progress on the first book here. I’m also going to be ready to announce the series title soon, so stay tuned!

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