Is There Any Point in Studying Writing?

Posted on 01/02/2013 by


People keep asking me this. So. Short answer? Depends. Longer one?  Depends on what you’re hoping to get out of it.

I mean, it’s remotely possible that the course will hook you up with a lecturer who is the perfect editor for your work, who will nurture and encourage you until you burst forth from the university environs confident and skilled and blah, blah, blah. The likelihood of this happening is pretty much zilch.

On the other hand, odds are they’ll give you the opportunity to put some stuff in your writer toolbox. Skill you up on using grammar and act structure and cliché. In terms of the ‘learn the rules before you break them’ thing, that stuff can be helpful.

On the other hand, if you were any kind of an English dork in school, you’ve probably got a lot of that covered already.

What a university degree can teach you though is everything but writing. I know, you’re giving me the funny looks right now. But seriously, this is key. You might be a writer who never does any overt research for their work, or maybe you’re someone who reads everything in sight. Either way, the random stuff you discover while reading/studying totally outside your field is brilliant. There’s this wacky cross-pollination effect and… it’s awesome, trust me.

Pile of open books on a table, with a bookcase of matching volumes behind. Library?

But it’s really going to depend on the course you take, the approach the university (or other institution) has towards teaching writing. The course I took was like an exercise in ‘whatever works for you’. As if they were saying: Try this thing. Hate it? Like it? Did it improve your writing?

It had an absolutely ludicrous number of electives and we were allowed to take courses from any field the university offered, bypassing a lot of prerequisites. It was lovely.

I ended up with this total scattershot of classes (that I did not at all choose based on whether the lectures were scheduled before or after lunch).

And my core classes were just… well variations on insane depending on the lecturer and how many education students we had in the class trying to learn how to teach writing to high school students.

It’s possible I’ve erased the boring parts but my memory of those classes is of doing a  horrendous number of ludicrous writing exercises, assembling poetry (yes, that is the right word in this instance), forcing drama students to enact my words, climbing Jacob’s ladder, and, on one memorable occasion, reading the requirements for the final assignment in our first class, walking up to my lecturer and saying, “Can I turn it in now?”


Posted in: Kandace, Research