Creative Writing · Life Struggles

The Bottom Line: the Value of College

So, you want to be a published author for a living, thus beyond majoring in English, with a possible concentration in Literature or Creative Writing, there’s really not much college has to offer for you, and you really don’t need it.



Not only can college establish you with connections (i.e. the English department) who are willing to read your work provided you make a case for generating interest (i.e. “What do you like to do in your spare time?” “Oh, I like to write. I want to be a writer.” “Really? That’s great! I’d like to read some of your work sometime.”), as well as dip your feet into the intellectual waters of a community of minds, most of who are fresh and young and around your age group, but it also gives you a foothold in the employment industry, especially if you take advantage of internship opportunities.

Why should this apply to you if you’re just going to write for a living?

Because until you can write for a living, whether it be creatively (which is our main focus here, but I’m flexible) or for journalism (see? flexible) you’ve got to make money in the meantime. And nothing crushes the creative spirit like finding yourself in jobs that barely get you by on your rent. Now, this is not to diss those jobs. I’m still doing the retail dance, but I’ve got a temp job in the probate department of a law firm, the yearly salary of which will be enough to cover the bills with wiggle room to spare (it’s always nice to have wiggle room rather than be cramped) if the position becomes more permanent. I couldn’t have had a hope of getting this far, realistically speaking, without a college degree and coupled with some internship experience. Not to mention the benefits package I would receive, which will help out in the long wrong. While it’s all just as well if you’re making it on two different part-time paychecks, part-time does not come with benefits, which gives you more to worry about, and less time to let your mind wander freely without getting weighed down by the rocks of reality.

Now I’m not saying this as any part of agenda (i.e. get a “real” job because to depend on your ability to make it as a writer is just foolishness: it’s never foolishness, and don’t let anyone tell you different), I’m only saying that there is value to getting a college degree even if you’ve solidly chosen your career path as a freelance writer and/or novelist. But the better the job, than the better the lifestyle, better the benefits, better the schedule (you can depend on a solid Monday-Friday 8-5 schedule, whereas other jobs’ scheduled must be juggled), and so better for you to keep consistency.

A CAVEAT: don’t let consistency lure into a trap of stasis. That’s the writing life is for, to keep yourself from falling into the rut. You come home from the day job at quitting time and lock yourself into your imagination to unwind and employ some much needed creative release. My main point, again, is that typically (if you have anxiety issues like me) it’s easier to let the creative juices flow when you’re not inhibited quite so much by wondering over and over how you’re going to make it from one week to the next on skint paychecks. College can help you to get a job with better money (even if it’s only $20,000 a year or so), so you know that those issues are taken care of, thus, when you know for certain that your obligations in the real world can be easily managed, you feel better about leaving it behind unattended for a while to visit your private imaginary world.

Of course, you’ve got to keep the day job until you’re absolutely certain you don’t need it anymore (and then again, quintuple check that once you’re published for a while and see that at that point you’re guaranteed to get published every time, and every time make decent $$$ in royalties), SO don’t do anything to get yourself sacked (fired).


And for a resource on how to fit your writing life into the work-a-day life of a Monday-Friday 8-5 situation, or even just your busy life in general, I recommend checking out Time to Write by Kelly L. Stone. You can also check out The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates, although this is more just step-by-step tips on how to form a novel from scratch, in the form of a coffee table book that you can refer to without devoting serious chunks of time (and therefore increase productivity of your writing).


5 thoughts on “The Bottom Line: the Value of College

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