I actually agree with you, skadder. I do not believe a degree should matter. The whole point of this thread was that people should take the time to educate themselves. However, I did find it strange that there is such a lack of balance in education among the noted authors.
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A rough look-through head count gives me twenty-six that I'd classify as science fiction or fantasy, or known to have done one or the other or both. Looks to me like a degree---and a degree in the arts---is starting to matter.
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I'd like to suggest that it isn't the major OR the degree that matters as much as the experience of the education.
1--Connie Willis has said that if you are a writer, EVERYTHING is your business, and you should try to find out everything you can about anything that interests you, because it can and will play into everything you write.
So, it seems to me that education, formal or informal, other-taught or self-taught, that helps you learn about ANYTHING is crucial, because it gives you informational experience if nothing else. And it does you the most service if it teaches you how to find out what you want to know on your own.
2--Lawrence Block (when he had a column in WRITERS DIGEST--when I used to read it--they repeat themselves after so many issues, so you don't need to have a lifetime subscription) used to talk about the writer's "reservoir" and how writers have to keep filling it up or they will run out of things to write about (or they will just write the same thing over and over and over again). He said that writers have to be fickle in their interests (which I found extremely reassuring because I am very fickle in my interests) so that they can always be adding new and different things to their reservoirs.
If education, of any kind, can help you fill your reservoir, and can teach you how to find out EVERYTHING you want to know about ANYTHING, then it's all to the good.
3--As for degrees, Kris and Dean assert that if you are going to go to college and get a degree that will help you make a living as a writer, the best degree to go after is a BUSINESS degree, because making a living as a writer is, after all, a business. They claim that everything else you need to learn, you can learn informally as easily as you can learn it formally.
4--For whatever it may be worth, I have a BA (where I went to college, a BA means you studied a language, and for me it was German) in math education and an ME (master of engineering) in mechanical engineering. But I have a self-taught humanities education as well.
AMEN KDW - Someone wrote a book one time titled; 'Everything I Need to Know in Life I Learned in Kindergarten' or something along those lines. I personally don't remember much before 4th grade and I remember almost nothing of high school - Sometimes I feel like the guy who lost his memory every time he slept... some recent movie I think. I agree with the Business degree plan for college focus. My plan is to hire some 'tutor-time' to work on specific shortfalls in my writing. I like OSC's advice - which is to read, read, read, read, read, read.........
[This message has been edited by DRaney (edited August 23, 2010).]
With all of this talk of degrees I fell we may be mixing up reason and cause. As writers I think it is a safe assumption that we all enjoy reading a fair amount as well. In today's culture, most people are encouraged to go to college. I know I chose to study literature and language in college largely because I enjoy reading literature and love words. I think the same is probably true of a fair amount of authors on the list who have a literary degree of some sort.
Having a literary degree does not lead one to become a good writer. Rather, many people who have writerly interests will pursue a literary degree.
For some, getting a degree will also help get perfect the mechanics of their writing (though for others it won't, as we've mentioned a few times in the thread already). Across the board though, a degree will help with writing because it is a way of learning more about the world and actively encourages you to read, read, read. And as far as filling the reservoir goes a literary degree and a math/science degree can accomplish that equally well. They will just provide different information.
Does this mean that a degree is the best way to fill your reservoir? Hardly, it is one of many.
I would also like to say I really liked the Connie Willis and Lawrence Block comments that KDW pointed out, especially the part about being fickle. It gives me encouragement, because I've always seen my self as a bit of a jack-of-all-interests, which I hope will help me become a master or writing.
[This message has been edited by bemused (edited August 23, 2010).]
I believe there's an important point also in living life. A writer can imagine a lot of the things and research a lot of subjects, but there's nothing better than if you get the chance to experience something. examples: The feel of riding horses is far different than how a person who has never ridden before imagines. A person who has never fired a gun will handle the weapon far different than a person who has just because of understanding the feel of the recoil. In stage fighting the swords are made to weigh similar to real weapons, two minutes of continued armed combat with steel blades smashing against each other is a lifetime of effort, and taxes even the most fit.
Learning proper writing technique I do believe has importance, but I also believe learning about life and living it plays a very important role to a writer also. It could become easy to lock yourself away, and only research or imagine things but its far more fun to just get out. When standing in the ruins of a castle, western ghost town, port city, ancient monument, I've always noticed that especially the feel and smells are so unique, far more different than I could imagine, and if I had the chance to travel the world like Agatha Cristie and just write about the places I visited that easily could become a full life.
I'm agreeing with KDW that a writer's reservoir has to constantly be expanding, not just to fill up the writers bag of tricks, but so that writer doesn't forget that writing about life is not the same as living it.