Dre Sage's picture
Dre Sage from Florida January 23, 2013 - 11:22pm

Hi. I just joined this site, took a look around and realized this is the place for me.

I've had writer's block for a long time but this site encourages me to start writing again.

I'm in college right now and I don't know if I want to continue majoring in Film. Getting my AA in May.

I'm starting to wonder if I should change my major to something else that would increase my writing skills.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest January 24, 2013 - 12:17am

Hi Dre. Welcome.

First, I do not have a degree in writing, and if I'm correct, neither do the majority of the writers here. So, I can't tell you anything about MFA's or good schools. But, what I can tell you is that you don't need a degree to be a writer. All you need is determination, motivation, inspiration and a love for writing. I'm not sure if a degree will increase your chances of getting published, though I am sure that you'll gain more contacts. Most importantly, like I said above, I believe it's a love of writing that's required most. I also believe, like any form of art, there needs to be some semblance of talent and if you have the talent, it's just a matter of learning and honing the craft. Finding your voice through taking bits and pieces of your favorite writers. My suggestion, and this is strictly my opinion, would be to keep your major in film. There's a ton of information just on this site alone about craft. There's countless essays to be read, 36 coming from Chuck Palahniuk. I would recommend reading those, if nothing more than to gain an understanding of the 'lingo' that a lot of use around here. There's articles on the home page and throughout the magazine section written by various authors about craft. There's threads in the forum devoted to craft. Classes every month. And the workshop. If you want to improve your writing I would highly, highly recommend joining the workshop. Critiquing other's work is just as valuable, if not more, as receiving feedback on your own work. The writers here are great and the reviews are amazing. You'll receive honest, thorough and thoughtful feedback. We'll tell you, what each writer thinks, what you're doing right and wrong. Like any form of art, it is subjective. What one person may like, another may not. It's up to you to judge what pieces of feedback you decide to use and what you don't. Myself, and countless others, have not found a better workshop on the internet. You'll also build friendships and contacts. There are a lot of writers here that have created their own online magazines. Competitions like War (which I'm sure you've seen posts of), Thunderdome (head to head battles), flash fiction contests and Lit Reactor's own contests like the sci-fi one (can't remember the name of it off hand) that's running now. There are a number of links to direct you to places that can help and can be possible publishers. There are also a number of published authors here: Richard Thomas, Brandon Tietz, Gordon Highland, Phil Jourdan, Keith Rawson and more. And each one writes in a different 'genre', if you will, and contribute to the site. It's my belief that for $45 per six months you'll receive a better education in writing than paying an exorbitant amount of money for a college degree. I'd stick with the film degree. With that, you're nearly guaranteed to find work, whether it's directing, producing, script writing or behind the scenes. The writing world, especially fiction, is an extremely tough nut to crack if you want to make it a career. But, it's not impossible with dedication. As for writer's block, I don't believe in it. To me, it's just laziness that gets in the way. Sometimes when I'm feeling 'blocked' I'll just begin writing without the inner editor showing his face. The sentences don't have to be coherent, but you'll quickly find a story beginning to form. Sometimes they take shape and turn into something, sometimes not, but the idea is to just write. Read. Read. Read. I can't stress enough, and any writer will tell you this, how important it is to read. Whatever types of stories you want to write, read those kinds of stories. Like Sci-fi? Read sci-fi. Horror? Read horror. I write noir/crime stories. My bookshelves are filled with noir, crime, mystery, hard-boiled and the old pulps. I devour the stuff, taking away a little from each book I read. But, also read outside of the 'genre' you want to write in. There's a lot to be learned that way, too. Pick up books you know are bad, read them so you know what not to do. Although I haven't read it yet, I have Fifty Shades of Grey for that very reason. Another thing I do that's been a huge help is reading books like a textbook. Break out a highlighter and a pen. Make notes in your books, you can always get another copy. I have books all marked up with notes on note cards stuffed in them. Books on craft are fine, but a lot just rehash each other. The best book on writing I've read is Stephen King's On Writing. If you don't have it, get it. But most importantly, write. There's a prompt thread in the forum. You can just go in and say Prompt me and someone will give you a prompt to use. You can ask for a deadline if that helps you get words on paper or screen. Everybody in the workshop is here to help each other achieve whatever goals we have as writers. Lit Reactor has been invaluable to me becoming a better writer. I hope this helps you in some way to come to a final decision. Someone here may have a degree and give you a better understanding of the schooling side it.

JEFFREY GRANT BARR's picture
JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life January 24, 2013 - 1:12am

You could always go on Youtube and get a Troma film school degree:

http://www.troma.com/news/5385/troma-launches-online-film-school-with-no-tuition-required/

It's not like your film degree is gonna get you a job anyway. 

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon January 24, 2013 - 1:39am

I would not choose (fiction) writing as a career because chances are very slim it would ever actually be that. My advice, choose from among the degrees that pay well and are in demand. Then you won't be too worn out and poor to have energy for things you enjoy, like writing. Then, you're covered. If you get lucky and hit it big with writing, you can always quit. :)

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/

 

 

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest January 24, 2013 - 1:46am

It's not like your film degree is gonna get you a job anyway.

- I completely disagree. He may not land his dream job at first, but a degree will ultimately help him get his foot in the door. Like any other job, you have to work your way up the ladder. While he's working behind the scenes, even if it's being a gofer at first, he can still write scripts (I'm assuming that's what you want to do since your interest lies in writing) on his off time. If he's determined enough, he can make it happen. I think the statement undermines his abilities and skills. He's already gotten this far into the major, don't discourage the guy if that's what he wants to do. Sure, I agree that becoming a director or writer of films is a very hard business to get into, but determination and dedication can, and will, get you far in any business.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs January 24, 2013 - 2:26am

English degree obviously, but it's probably a poor degree for getting a decent job. You'll probably be able to take creative writing classes regardless of what your degree is. Some schools have creative writing degrees for BA students as well.

Stephen_Inf's picture
Stephen_Inf from Illinois is reading Whiskey Tango Foxtrot January 24, 2013 - 5:58am

A business degree will earn you the chance at a job that completely crushes your spirit. Having your spirit crushed is an excellent character-builder. You'll come out a better person, and probably a better writer. At least that's what I'm banking on.

Michael.Eric.Snyder's picture
Michael.Eric.Snyder January 24, 2013 - 8:50am

Choose what you love. If you're having trouble figuring that out, the answer is what you think about most in the dead of night, when falling asleep, when you're at your most honest, most vulnerable moments.

It doesn't have to be a loud voice. It may not hit you over the head. It might be just a whisper of something you love laced with perfectly understandable anxiety.

When you've figured that out, decide if you're the kind of person willing to have a soul-enriching, meager existence pursuing your art of choice, or are willing to tolerate a potentially soul-sucking career that allows for your art on your personal time. 

All the hoobie-joobie gurus out there (I just made that term up) will say choose the former. The pragmatics out there, the latter. Me? I say hedge your bets and earn a degree that will earn you bread. If you've got the art in you, it will win out in the end, and you won't be starving in the process. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 24, 2013 - 9:19am

The class that taught me the most about writing (after taking writing classes, of course) was drawing.  Art classes teach the importance of setting, mood, subject vs. object, focusing the eyes in the correct direction, and many other techniques that translate to writing.  You just have to translate all the new things you're learning in an art class into a writing frame of mind.

Otherwise, find the subject you like to write about: Crime?  take criminal justice.  people?  Take sociology.  Fantasy?  Take anthropology and religion.  Medicine?  Nursing degree.  

Then find a job in that field (cop, social worker, etc.) that pays the bills.  Writing isn't going to pay the bills unless you are lucky or just damn great.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 24, 2013 - 9:22am

Also, take an acting class.  That will translate to writing, also.  Branch out and take every elective you can afford.  

Carly Berg's picture
Carly Berg from USA is reading Story Prompts That Work by Carly Berg is now available at Amazon January 24, 2013 - 10:25am

The class that taught me the most about writing (after taking writing classes, of course) was drawing.  Art classes teach the importance of setting, mood, subject vs. object, focusing the eyes in the correct direction, and many other techniques that translate to writing.  You just have to translate all the new things you're learning in an art class into a writing frame of mind. 

That's interesting. I never thought about it that way.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin January 24, 2013 - 3:06pm

Political Science is a fine way to go, if you ask me.

-

I would rather not talk about how I feel about "English" as a major, but you should know my eyes are rolling all over the place.

To become a good writer one must do two things. They must read and they must write. They must do these two things a lot. Being an English Major will put you into a structured environment where you must do these things. I understand that and I acknowledge it. But in my mind that does not make it a good major to have as one develops as a writer, it is a really good major to have as one develops into an English Teacher.

Structure doesn't beckon me to write, love of writing beckons me to write. I preferred to do the reading and writing on my own and when I studied I wanted to study the things I felt compelled to write about.

-

There is also a whole art vs. science thing going on here in my head. This whole concept of being developed into the "sort of writer that the English department wants me to be or believes it is appropriate for me to be" is something that rubs me the wrong way.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 26, 2013 - 8:34am

I've known at least four people who wanted to be writers and pursued 'English" as a major in college.  They were avid readers and writers, mostly non-fiction and essays.  None of them write now.  The classes taught them form and function and introduced all the good old stuff, made them read and write for 'work' instead of as a hobby, and taught them that, at best, they could teach English, English as a Second Language, or get paid to do technical writing.

The fifth began writing again about ten years after finishing college, but still doesn't write much.  

I don't know why this happened, but it only strengthened my conviction that a writer should study EVERYTHING in college if they want to be a writer.  Learn the basics of the language, write as much as possible, take writing classes offered like the ones at Lit Reactor (especially if you can take them in person at the college), take every 101 class you can to find what interests you the most, but don't be an English Major.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs January 26, 2013 - 4:12pm

Unless your school has a creative writing degree, if you really want to attend college for the purpose of studying writing, it would probably be better to drop out of school, spend most of your time reading and writing, and take lit reactor workshops. They're pricey, but they're really cheap compared to college. If you're almost done with your degree, then finish and see if you can take any creative writing classes in the meantime.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks January 26, 2013 - 6:26pm

English degrees actually can, and will, help you. Most English majors I know are going into law school or grad school. Some are doing MFAs, but others are doing masters in history, art, or social sciences. English degrees translate well to grad school because, surprise, there is a lot of research and structured individualized direction.

(There's a separate program for English teachers -- it's called an education degree.)

The English major I know best is graduating this semester and has never written as much as he does now. It's not because he has to, but because he actually has the tools he needs to write.

I think the method to becoming a writer is different for people who know they want to write the who are college-aged, or already in college. We (specifically, I) haven't had the experience with writing and reading and practicing for years. We've had what limited experience life has allowed thus far, and an English program allows us to develop those habits in a condensed setting.

That's not to say that the write, read, practice method doesn't work, but why would I pass on the chance to learn from people who are paid to teach me because they've studied what I love?

That said -- I'm an English major, but also majoring in Human Sexuality. The latter degree is what I'll be using in my career (at least, my planned career) primarily, but my English degree will help me. Have you ever read a dissertation or research that was turned into a nonfiction book? Most of the time, they do terribly because they're poorly written (at least, by a writer's standards.) Most of my fiction centers on sexual identity (no, I'm not an LGBT writer, that's sexual preference) or explores the layers of sexuality. My ultimate passion has always been in disseminating quality information on sexual health and development, and I've always been a sexual health advocate.

Don't study what makes money. If you're in college to make money, you're in the wrong place. Study to learn and study what you love. If all else fails, that master's/PhD will get you a job as a professor, where you not only can but are expected to regularly publish articles on your field.

Dre Sage's picture
Dre Sage from Florida November 17, 2014 - 1:09am

Thanks for the great advice y'all! I've stuck with film btw.