On Postgraduate Writing Degrees
For the past decade, my life has been a roller-coaster ride. I started and finished a law degree. I realized that becoming a lawyer and being a part of the corporate world wasn't the path for me. And I lost myself in an abyss of uncertainty and self-discovery, trying to understand who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. It was a process of trial and error that lead me to experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
Eventually, I realized something I had always known. I was a wordsmith at heart and always had been. I decided to follow my heart rather than my brain. And I have since started and finished two post-graduate writing degrees. But was it worth it? People often ask me that question. After all, wanting to become a writer is an unorthodox path. It’s something that exists outside of the typical bubble that most people surround themselves in - which is a bit ironic since people read and consume a writer’s work all the time.
I have thought a lot about that question. And I have concluded that it was worth it. The qualifications are handy in a world that has become obsessed with the faux importance of having a fancy and expensive piece of paper. A writing degree is undoubtedly less important than a law degree in terms of finding employment. That’s because you don’t need one to become a writer. But it certainly does help. A writer with a degree will learn more about their craft than one who doesn’t. That doesn’t necessarily make them a better writer. But it makes them a more educated one.
Still, I think the qualification itself is the least important reason to pursue a writing degree. It was about learning the deeper layers, systems and theories behind the craft. It was also an excellent opportunity to branch out and learn how to write different genres and styles. Beyond that, I learned about the industry, how it works and how it has changed. I also had a chance to collaborate with other writers and learn from more experienced ones. But most importantly, it gave me a reason to write consistently for three years. I studied twelve subjects in total, eight in the graduate diploma and four in the master’s degree.
For each subject, I had to write a 500-word discussion post every week for twelve weeks. I also had to write eight 2,000 word assignments, three 5,000 word assignments and one 20,000 word assignment. All in all, I wrote 72,000 words throughout the discussion posts, and 51,000 words throughout the assignments. That’s 123,000 words in total, which is practically two standard novels. The best part is, I received feedback for everything. My teachers were all published authors and screenwriters, and many have won awards for their work. Their feedback has been valuable, and it’s helped me become a better writer. I can confidently say that my writing is the best it’s ever been. My style and voice have changed a lot throughout the years. And it wouldn’t be what it is today without my degrees.
It’s easy to pigeonhole yourself into a niche as a writer. I probably would have mostly written young-adult fiction. But thanks to my writing degree, I have written many different fiction and non-fiction genres and styles. For example, I have written a bunch of different stories, screenplays, memoirs, journals, feature articles, online blogs and research papers, to name a few.
So were my writing degrees worth it? Yes, they were. Not because they’ll guarantee employment. But because they gave me confidence, direction and purpose at a time when I needed them. They gave me a reason and a platform to write. They allowed me to learn and grow as a writer and interact with other writers who are doing the same.
Most importantly, my degrees have played a big part in getting me to where I am today. I've only taken the first steps into my writing career, and there’s still a long way to go. But I’m finally on the path that I was always supposed to be on, and the water seems inviting.