I’m an English major. I do a lot of reading and a lot of writing, and a lot of complaining about reading and writing. Sometime around my sophomore year, I had to choose a concentration within my major: creative writing or literature. I want to be a writer, not a professor or academic, so I chose creative writing. The choice was obvious.
As the classes, semesters, and years went by, it became less and less obvious. One fall, when choosing what classes to take the next semester, I had a conversation with a friend, also a creative writing major, about this. We both were out of literature credits (all English majors had to take a couple) and were faced with about a year of cold hard writing workshops. He told me he was changing his major to literature because literature classes taught him how to write, and writing workshops only taught him how not to.
It’s somewhat true. True in the fact that reading makes you better at writing. And, of course, writing workshops often suck, and sometimes are great. I’ve also had doubts throughout my education about whether I have become better at writing, or just better at workshopping. I hope both, but I’m not always sure.
There are a lot of people who don’t think you can learn to write; it’s something you’re born with. (Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s an English degree?) These people are mostly well-established authors who want to be brilliant all by themselves. Then there are people who are completely sure writing it something that is learned. A lot of time, these people are writing teachers. It’s hard to know who to trust.
I’m almost graduating, as long as I don’t begin failing in the next three weeks. (You can cross your fingers for me, thanks.) I’ll then be just another English major, hoping to make it big in the cruel, cruel world. Like any sort of artist, writers are often killing themselves to find it, to have it, whatever that maybe be. It’s a little magical, a little hopeless and ugly. I know it doesn’t really exist. But just like all the others, I desperately hope I have it, or that I can learn it, or I will find it someday, in a classroom or on a walk through the park.