A Question for Writers & Authors & English Students at University

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username4551226
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Hello,

I am an aspiring writer, wanting to write a book one day in the future. I have wanted to write ever since I was a young adolescent and have always had a passion for it.

I studied Philosophy, English Literature and History at A-level.

However, my path is to not go down the route of studying English at University, simply because I don't think it will aid me in my writing career. I instead opted for a degree in one of the Social Sciences, as I feel that not only it one of my other passions, but it will also add more depth to my book when I one day write it.

My question(s) is:
Is a University degree in English needed if you want to become a writer? The answer to that is obviously no, but if you are studying English all the time, it definitely inspires you (or forces you) to write constantly, which develops your skills. This is different if you are not studying English, for most.

I would love to get the opinions of other aspiring authors studying English at University, as well as the opinions of writers who are studying a different subject.
Has a degree helped you in writing a book? Or motivated you to write more? And, would you be the same writer without this degree? Did you need this degree to aid your writing?

For authors not at University:
What is your opinion on all of the said above? Did you study English at A-level and what was the reason you did not pursue a degree at University?

Thanks, hope to hear back from someone soon!
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Emily_5410
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Hi! So I’ve just finished my A-Levels so I don’t have experience in whether a degree in English helps but from my experience everything helps. I studied English lit, language and photography and everything has helped.

Lit helped bc I knew how to structure poetry, language helped bc I knew the impact of words linguistically, photography helped because I could describe the images I was creating for scene in my head.

A majority of best selling writers have no degree at all and you never know, sound social sciences might lead to you one day writing a book with a profound message on society. Literally in my experience absolutely anything will help you be a writer if you’re driven enough to make that happen for yourself!

Hope that helps
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QHF
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(Original post by HarryOnTap)
My question(s) is:
Is a University degree in English needed if you want to become a writer? The answer to that is obviously no, but if you are studying English all the time, it definitely inspires you (or forces you) to write constantly, which develops your skills. This is different if you are not studying English, for most.
An English degree will usefully make you read widely, and will almost certainly introduce you to authors, forms and genres (perhaps even whole literary periods) which you'd simply not considered before. This -- the exposure to a much wider range of influences -- is probably the best thing about it for someone who wants to write.

It's true that it will also force you to write regularly, but this is more of a mixed blessing, because most of the writing you'd do on an English degree would be literary-critical or literary-theoretical. Those modes of writing aren't completely separate from creative writing and non-fiction, and there've been plenty of authors who've straddled them successfully, but they're also not the same.

If you're really dedicated to becoming a writer, you'll probably be able to do the regular writing and reading necessary to form yourself regardless of what degree you do. And most universities have student journalism and creative writing groups (and if not, you could start one) which would let you practice different kinds of writing and share your work with others. Developing the self-discipline necessary to write regularly, and to grit your teeth and edit your messy drafts, will be more important than what you study.
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username4551226
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(Original post by Emily_5410)
Hi! So I’ve just finished my A-Levels so I don’t have experience in whether a degree in English helps but from my experience everything helps. I studied English lit, language and photography and everything has helped.

Lit helped bc I knew how to structure poetry, language helped bc I knew the impact of words linguistically, photography helped because I could describe the images I was creating for scene in my head.

A majority of best selling writers have no degree at all and you never know, sound social sciences might lead to you one day writing a book with a profound message on society. Literally in my experience absolutely anything will help you be a writer if you’re driven enough to make that happen for yourself!

Hope that helps
Thanks! Are you hoping to go on to study English at A-level?

I agree, everything does help no matter what subject. I must admit, my poetry creation has slipped a little since I stopped studying Lit at A-Level. I have so many ideas but they just get put on the back burner for some 'further thought'.

Do you wish to be a writer one day, if not already are one?
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username4551226
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(Original post by QHF)
An English degree will usefully make you read widely, and will almost certainly introduce you to authors, forms and genres (perhaps even whole literary periods) which you'd simply not considered before. This -- the exposure to a much wider range of influences -- is probably the best thing about it for someone who wants to write.

It's true that it will also force you to write regularly, but this is more of a mixed blessing, because most of the writing you'd do on an English degree would be literary-critical or literary-theoretical. Those modes of writing aren't completely separate from creative writing and non-fiction, and there've been plenty of authors who've straddled them successfully, but they're also not the same.

If you're really dedicated to becoming a writer, you'll probably be able to do the regular writing and reading necessary to form yourself regardless of what degree you do. And most universities have student journalism and creative writing groups (and if not, you could start one) which would let you practice different kinds of writing and share your work with others. Developing the self-discipline necessary to write regularly, and to grit your teeth and edit your messy drafts, will be more important than what you study.
Thanks QHF, your insight is much appreciated.

I think the discipline part is one of the most important things. The hardest thing for me is that I have so many ideas that need thinking more about, but I can't put pen to paper. That, or I start a poem or story and can never sit it through to the end!

I think I will definitely join a writing society at university. Maybe that sort of environment will give me a bit of incentive and motivation.

Thanks for your input
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Emily_5410
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(Original post by HarryOnTap)
Thanks! Are you hoping to go on to study English at A-level?

I agree, everything does help no matter what subject. I must admit, my poetry creation has slipped a little since I stopped studying Lit at A-Level. I have so many ideas but they just get put on the back burner for some 'further thought'.

Do you wish to be a writer one day, if not already are one?
Hi! I’ll be going onto study Linguistics at university but I’ll definitely be joining to creative writing society, both of which I think will help! My advice is just to free write, I tend to over plan and end up not producing anything but if I just sit and don’t think about it, words seem to come out! Some are literal offences to creative writing they’re so bad but they’re down on a page and there for me to edit!

I’m not currently a published author or anything but I have written poetry and short stories and am currently working on a novel that I would love to get published one day! Good luck with your writing
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The Empire Odyssey
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(Original post by HarryOnTap)
Hello,

I am an aspiring writer, wanting to write a book one day in the future. I have wanted to write ever since I was a young adolescent and have always had a passion for it.

I studied Philosophy, English Literature and History at A-level.

However, my path is to not go down the route of studying English at University, simply because I don't think it will aid me in my writing career. I instead opted for a degree in one of the Social Sciences, as I feel that not only it one of my other passions, but it will also add more depth to my book when I one day write it.

My question(s) is:
Is a University degree in English needed if you want to become a writer? The answer to that is obviously no, but if you are studying English all the time, it definitely inspires you (or forces you) to write constantly, which develops your skills. This is different if you are not studying English, for most.

I would love to get the opinions of other aspiring authors studying English at University, as well as the opinions of writers who are studying a different subject.
Has a degree helped you in writing a book? Or motivated you to write more? And, would you be the same writer without this degree? Did you need this degree to aid your writing?

For authors not at University:
What is your opinion on all of the said above? Did you study English at A-level and what was the reason you did not pursue a degree at University?

Thanks, hope to hear back from someone soon!
This is a difficult question. I can only comment further on what QHF has already said.

Although I must say this: we call can sing. But not all can be singers. The same goes for writing: we can all write. Not all of us are writers. My point is, writing is a skill that has to be already there, and then it can be developed.

An English lit degree will certainly provide you with the insurmountable varieties of the written form, genre and language. It will enable you to sharpen your writing abilities and how to approach your writing style in a methodical and theoretical manner. However, very few of our literary geniuses studied literature at uni. Most in fact studied things like Philosophy, Politics and etc. But those were different times I suppose.

The point is, developing your craftmanship, penmanship and creative and technical writing abilities will come naturally, rather than through a lit degree. Although a lit degree could help you in developing such skills at a faster pace. Although, something like a degree in creative writing might be something better for you?
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TheMandalorian
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(Original post by HarryOnTap)
Hello,

I am an aspiring writer, wanting to write a book one day in the future. I have wanted to write ever since I was a young adolescent and have always had a passion for it.

I studied Philosophy, English Literature and History at A-level.

However, my path is to not go down the route of studying English at University, simply because I don't think it will aid me in my writing career. I instead opted for a degree in one of the Social Sciences, as I feel that not only it one of my other passions, but it will also add more depth to my book when I one day write it.

My question(s) is:
Is a University degree in English needed if you want to become a writer? The answer to that is obviously no, but if you are studying English all the time, it definitely inspires you (or forces you) to write constantly, which develops your skills. This is different if you are not studying English, for most.

I would love to get the opinions of other aspiring authors studying English at University, as well as the opinions of writers who are studying a different subject.
Has a degree helped you in writing a book? Or motivated you to write more? And, would you be the same writer without this degree? Did you need this degree to aid your writing?

For authors not at University:
What is your opinion on all of the said above? Did you study English at A-level and what was the reason you did not pursue a degree at University?

Thanks, hope to hear back from someone soon!
I am going to take a different stance and disagree with what other people have said. An English Literature degree is largely irrelevant to writing a fictional novel. English Literature is more about analysing novels and you will hardly ever produce creative writing pieces. You will be writing essays mostly. I would argue that if you wanted to do a degree that would solely help you become a better writer English Linguistics is the degree that would be best suited for that purpose. A good writer has an excellent understanding of the language they are writing in and English Linguistics teaches you the fundamentals of language systems. English linguists also tend to have better grammar than literature students precisely because of this reason and I say this as an English Literature graduate.

However, degrees also simply do not matter when it comes to writing. Charles Dickens never possessed a degree and he is one of the most celebrated English writers of the 19th century. Reading a lot of novels will help you become a better writer and consistency with your writing is important as well.
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SCarlin100
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Of course it is true that nobody needs an English degree to write creatively. However, if you choose to study another subject, you will not have the time to analyse English in-depth. I started at QUB doing Law thinking I could make the time to read fiction but this was not the case. It is not a matter of simply enjoying a good read whilst studying something else. I switched to English with a minor in Creative Writing and this course definitely improved my writing, I haven't landed a book deal or anything but I have been published in magazines. I think it depends on what type of writing you want to produce, there are plenty of lawyers who turn to writing crime and historians who write historical fiction. If you do English, you will have a better grasp of literary conventions and tradition. You'll be more skilled in applying feminist/marxist/political theory to texts than if you do politics or history. Thus, you may find it easier to explore contemporary themes in your creative work. Genre fiction is more 'cookie-cutter.' Think about your audience, today's readers are tech-savvy and intelligent. Charles Dickens did not have a degree but his audience probably had less than him. English in itself is a traditional academic discipline but not all creative writing pathways are made equal, UEA is the best in England and in Northern Ireland Belfast is a creative hub.

I came to uni with top grades and I can say nothing prepared me for undertaking a creative writing dissertation. I think some stuffy people within academia may frown upon it and view university as a place strictly for becoming a literary critic. My view is that A-level English is already quite historicist, you will have to have accurate historical knowledge to produce essays at uni so for people who are serious about writing creatively I would recommend doing it at a good university with tutors who are being published and have won prizes etc.
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username4551226
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(Original post by SCarlin100)
Of course it is true that nobody needs an English degree to write creatively. However, if you choose to study another subject, you will not have the time to analyse English in-depth. I started at QUB doing Law thinking I could make the time to read fiction but this was not the case. It is not a matter of simply enjoying a good read whilst studying something else. I switched to English with a minor in Creative Writing and this course definitely improved my writing, I haven't landed a book deal or anything but I have been published in magazines. I think it depends on what type of writing you want to produce, there are plenty of lawyers who turn to writing crime and historians who write historical fiction. If you do English, you will have a better grasp of literary conventions and tradition. You'll be more skilled in applying feminist/marxist/political theory to texts than if you do politics or history. Thus, you may find it easier to explore contemporary themes in your creative work. Genre fiction is more 'cookie-cutter.' Think about your audience, today's readers are tech-savvy and intelligent. Charles Dickens did not have a degree but his audience probably had less than him. English in itself is a traditional academic discipline but not all creative writing pathways are made equal, UEA is the best in England and in Northern Ireland Belfast is a creative hub.

I came to uni with top grades and I can say nothing prepared me for undertaking a creative writing dissertation. I think some stuffy people within academia may frown upon it and view university as a place strictly for becoming a literary critic. My view is that A-level English is already quite historicist, you will have to have accurate historical knowledge to produce essays at uni so for people who are serious about writing creatively I would recommend doing it at a good university with tutors who are being published and have won prizes etc.
Thankyou for your very informed answer, it has given me some good thought! I wrote this post before I started university, now that I am there I understand everything you are saying completely. I do believe that my writing has improved, but that has more to do with little tweaks here and there rather than massive changes. In terms of creative writing- there is none. I haven't learnt how to craft a story any better than I already could. I think now, of course it is entirely possible to be a writer whilst studying another subject. But, I also think that doing an English (with creative writing) degree certainly prompts you to write even when you're not feeling like it, as well as giving you the inspiration to do so where you may not have found this inspiration otherwise. A lot of your mental energy goes on the subject you are studying, which takes away some of the creative juice. But maybe I will adjust in time!
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gjd800
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I did philosophy and have a couple of book proposals out (based on my doctoral thesis) and have been approached by the major publisher of books on Buddhism to do something for them (finding the time!).

I can't speak to creative writing, but the subject of philosophy has made me a very clear, 'good' academic writer. So I guess that is what happens with other humanities degrees, on balance. A good CW course might well work wonders for you!
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