So you’ve got a writing degree – what next?

I’ve just graduated with a First class degree in Creative & Professional Writing from the University of Wolverhampton, and I could not be happier about it.
Sometimes though, when I talk about my degree I get this…

“A Humanities degree?”
“What job are you going to get with that?”
“Ah, you’re doing English, so you’re going to teach English then?”
“What’s next, a novel?”
“Good luck”
“What’re you going to do for money?”
“Do you think you’ll study something else?”
“Oooft, there’s a lot of unpaid work”
“That’s nice, if you DO get published, what’re you going to do day-to-day?”

These are all things I’ve heard. Now you could say it’s just concern, but underneath most people always treat my decision to study writing like it’s an expensive hobby and not a real career choice like I’m an aimless creative and somehow naive in my choices.
I’ve discovered that they like to lump all of us “arts” students in together in this box.
We should be frightened of our financial future and we should curb our artistic ways for sensible careers.

Sheesh.

I think that it’s a foolish assumption. We need to value the creative arts and humanities more and pushing passionate creative people into other fields is damaging to not only their own selves but to us all as a global community. What would’ve happened if Shakespeare had become a builder? Or the Brontë sisters had just stuck to needlecraft? J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Toni Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl… Or there was no-one writing manuals, transcripts, translations, minutes, newsletters, journals, letters, biographies?

The world would be a less enlightened and interesting place, less educated and curious.

So, why don’t we value writers? Why do some parents try to steer their kids into other fields? Why do some partners and family members shrug off the work as a hobby? Writers are experts in communication and research, dedicated to creativity and original thought – inquisitive minds. Writing is an essential and meaningful skill, writing is necessary but we just don’t value it enough.

I think the problem is that non-writers don’t really understand writing as a dedicated craft. People assume with a good spell-checker and a thesaurus that they can be writers too. Simple right? You don’t need tuition, guidance or to dedicate time to refine the craft, why spend three years of University tuition on writing? Or they feel that it’s just not valuable enough to make a career from.

Now, from being a freelance copywriter myself and having proofread a lot of different forms of writing I can tell you – without practice, dedication and understanding of your audiences a spell-checker and a thesaurus is not enough. It takes more than that to produce great writing.

So do you need a degree? No, not necessarily, a degree is a formal certificate to state that you have completed your studies within a recognised institution. Would I recommend one? Absolutely. The reason I would recommend one is so that students have a secure and understanding place to write and to be encouraged to explore their writing, to mature and progress before they have to think about applying for their first definitive role. That doesn’t mean you need a degree to write though, I’m just saying it helps to be encouraged from that age.

A lot of writers are working on a novel and dream of publication in that field, but for others, taking a course like Creative & Professional Writing isn’t just about writing a book. We don’t just spell-check things and write about fairies all day every day (well not all of us anyway). Writers are super versatile, I want to tell every potential student who’s thought about studying writing that it’s never a waste of time if it’s what you are passionate about. You will learn something useful.

I’m sure most of you by now have had S.T.E.M shoved in your face at some point but for those who don’t know, S.T.E.M stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Whilst I also agree with the value of these subjects, those proficient in them incredibly talented and needed too, the Arts get a little left behind. S.T.E.M, in my opinion, should be S.T.E.A.M. with “A” being the Arts. We are on par with the other subjects.

So what do we do? You’ve got a degree, or you’re moving into writing from another career, what’s out there?

Here are some of the job titles you will see floating around if you are a student looking to work in writing specifically:

  • Writer
  • Copywriter
  • Journalist
  • Communications Assistant
  • Proofreader
  • Editor
  • Public Relations Assistant
  • Blogger
  • Scriptwriter
  • Content Executive
  • SEO executive (Search Engine Optimisation)
  • Marketing Assistant
  • Creative Writing tutor

Now, notice that I wrote job titles and not careers?
Job titles change and don’t always include the same duties and people change jobs with growth – every company, in some aspect, uses writers, whether that’s their entire job description or not. You have to figure out what kind of writer you are and what skills you excel at, that’s where a course can help get you started, it gives you a place to experiment. You can even look at what you’re doing now and see how writing could help you.

What that list doesn’t cover and what a lot of people don’t talk about is that having a writing degree doesn’t confine you to being a writer. You can gain a lot of valuable education and skills from a writing degree but entirely take a different direction with your career.

Although I class myself as a writer and I do indeed write, I also have many other skills and have taken many other roles that weren’t directly linked to writing. My Creative & Professional Writing degree has given me more than just an education on writing.

Life skills I learned alongside and because of writing:

  • Customer Service
  • Meaning & Intent
  • Consequences of my words and actions
  • Clarity
  • Performance
  • Public speaking
  • Confidence
  • Marketing
  • Publication
  • Copyright
  • Teamwork
  • Timekeeping / Working to deadlines
  • Constructive criticism
  • Self-reflection
  • Personal development
  • Networking

These are just the ones off the top of my head.

Look at that list – are those things naive and arbitrary? Are they confined to novel writing? I don’t think so.
Those skills are called transferable skills, you can use them anywhere you go for almost anything you do.

Just to echo my earlier statement: Writing is an essential and meaningful skill, writing is necessary but we just don’t value it enough.
Whatever you decide to do with your writing and your education, go for it with all your creativity and passion, you are sorely needed.

 

As a final statement, I’d like to personally thank everyone who’s supported me along the way with my writing, from tutors and employers to family and friends. You guys are the best and you have helped me achieve many of my goals and believed in me when many others have shrugged me off.

Here’s to many more achievements and dreams and finally,

Congratulations to all the Creative & Professional Writers, Class of 2019.

We did it.

Graduation Day Collage

 

You can learn more about Creative Writing, courses, networks and other info here:

University of Wolverhampton

Writing West Midlands

Prospects.com – What Can I Do with a Creative Writing Degree?

The Guardian – So You Want to Be a Writer?

The Society of Authors 

Feel free to pop in the comments any other links/suggestions you might have, these are just my routes into writing and resources I trust.

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