Six Authors That Prove You Don’t Need A Writing Degree To Succeed
So you didn’t study English at university? So what? Having formal qualifications in writing and the English language can be a big plus for wannabe novelists, but I refuse to believe that it’s a must-have.
So for anyone who worries that they don’t have the right experience or that it’s a little late in the day to become a professional writer, here are just six authors that prove that you don’t have to have classic training, or take the regular path to find success:
After a traumatic childhood and a multitude of other jobs, Angelou wasn’t able to even start her writing career until she was in her 40s. Thankfully for all of us now able to enjoy her work, she went on to channel her harrowing experiences and intense love of language when she penned first autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
The Fahrenheit 451 author has made it clear that an education in reading can be far more valuable than traditional educational – and it’s hard to argue with him. He barely finished high school and was firmly against going to college. Instead he put his faith in books, and ended up writing his most famous novel on a rented typewriter in a library.
Despite an early love of writing and poetry, Faulkner was a teacher’s nightmare and dropped out of school to work in his grandfather’s bank aged 15. He did return to university, only to drop out three semesters later. The writing bug finally bit when he saw his poetry published aged 27.
A professional baseball player, turned accountant, turned lawyer; not studying creative writing doesn’t seemed to have stopped Grisham from becoming a bestseller. In fact his other profession will have helped him pen some of his most famous legal thrillers.
The Beat Generation pioneer shows that even if writing wasn’t your first love or what you think you’re best at – you can still find success. He only made it to Columbia University thanks to a sports scholarship and his athletic ability, and didn’t start to focus on his writing career properly until he’d dropped out and completed a very brief stint in the Merchant Navy.
After her parents insisted that studying English ‘wouldn’t lead anywhere’, Rowling gave in and studied French at university instead. Thankfully, not studying creative writing didn’t stop Rowling from realising her dream – after a handful of random jobs of course, oh and one year studying in Paris.
And that’s just a handful of a large bunch of writers with either no qualifications, or a background far from creative writing. I studied Journalism and Media at university, as I thought it would be easier to get a job with that, rather than a creative writing degree, where my heart really was. I don’t necessarily regret my decision (as it was hard enough getting a journalism job in the recession, let alone anything else!), but can’t help but wonder how my writing would’ve improved if I’d made a different choice and had committed to being a writer from the start.
But what about you? Has not having writing qualifications ever got in your way? Do you think studying Literature would have helped?