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Do I Need A Writing Degree? – WN 062

Image of students at graduation, with title Do I Need A Writing Degree?

I always thought the #1 most-asked question I would receive as a writing podcaster would be along the lines of, “How do I write strong characters?” or “How do I develop themes within my writing?”

But the question I’m actually asked the most is, “Do I need a degree in writing?” Turns out, it’s an extremely complex question with an extremely complex answer. So hit “play” on episode 062 of the Write Now podcast, download the free PDF worksheet, and let’s dive in!

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The #1 Most-Asked Question

I received an email earlier this week from podcast listener Kiefer that inspired me to create this episode. Here’s an excerpt:

“… My partner and I talked about this some the other day, with respect to a section in Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert where she talks about MFA programs as being unnecessary and often young writers go into them looking for a guarantee or a sense of validation. This talk has me doing some soul searching as the deadline [for the MFA program] is looming at August first.”

Kiefer’s question speaks to a number of fears and concerns that writers have:

  • That we can’t be writers without some kind of official credential or institutionalized permission
  • That we’re missing out on magical writing secrets by not getting a degree in writing
  • That an MFA or other writing program won’t be worth the $50,000-$100,000 price tag
  • That an MFA or other writing degree won’t guarantee a successful life as a writer
  • That we are looking for validation in the wrong place
  • That we are looking for validation at all
  • That we will cave to peer pressure/societal pressure and make the wrong decision

This is one of those questions where there’s not one right answer and one wrong answer. There are a ton of factors involved in the decision of whether or not a writing degree is the right fit for you, including (in no particular order):

  • Time
  • Money
  • Lifestyle
  • Goals
  • Feelings
  • Value

It can all seem so overwhelming, right? It’s OK. We’re going to navigate it together.

How Do I Navigate This Decision?

Today’s episode is here to guide you through these factors to help decide whether a writing degree is the right choice for you as a writer. To aid in that decision, I’ve created a free worksheet with eight questions for you!

You can download the PDF worksheet for FREE here:

Click here to download the worksheet PDF

This is the first time I’ve created a companion download for a podcast episode, so let me know what you think. 🙂

Helpful Links:

What do you think?

Am I forgetting any important considerations? Do you have a degree in writing, and was it worth it for you? Tell me your thoughts on my contact page! You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂 As always, I’d love to hear from you.

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4 thoughts on “Do I Need A Writing Degree? – WN 062

  1. Sara – Loved this podcast. I had one thought that’s probably not as important as what you laid out, but one additional question could be “How do I learn new skills? Do I need instruction and guidance or am I comfortable diving in and floundering until I learn it myself?” I, myself, take the latter approach in pretty much everything I do. But I know many people aren’t wired that way and want to have the mental tools and confidence before they attempt something. I think those people would be helped by a graduate program. The impact of failure in a graduate program is typically only your professor and classmates. Going out and self-publishing a novel has a bigger audience for failure. Some people aren’t comfortable with that kind of risk.

    Like I said, it could be a secondary consideration, but thinking about how you learn would be something to consider.

    PS – You don’t need any letters or titles before or after your name Sarah. You teach and inspire me just the way you are.

  2. I admit to being disturbed by this question. It smacks of what I tend to call Letteritis, the need to accumulate letters after one’s name for the sole purpose of filling up your business card. The older I get the less I am impressed by anyone whose last name is an alphabet. Don’t know what that says about my state of mind.

    As this is specifically a writing question I have to add that almost all of the MFA programs I am aware of are very limited in scope and actively discourage writing outside of those boundaries. In my mind this makes an MFA a step backward for any serious writer.

  3. Pingback: The Write Now Podcast Presents: "Do I Need A Writing Degree?"

  4. Barbie O. says:

    Ever since I can remember I wanted to be writer.
    It was not in the cards for me to go to college, after a while work, family and just plain time did not allow me to go back to school. I struggle with time, spelling and dislexia but still writing for me is like breathing, I need it! To hear you say out loud that I do not need a degree made me feel better in the sense that I can make it, I can and will one day publish my book. Thank you, you have no idea how much this meant for me.

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