How My English Degree Influenced My Writing
I graduated from college this past weekend with a B.A. in English. Though I wasn’t particularly sure how it would help, I picked my English major with the desire to improve my writing ability. Now that I’ve completed my degree, I see that my college education truly has helped me improve my writing.
For one, it gave me a good reason and space in my degree plan to take a couple of creative writing classes. These writing classes allowed me to learn from a couple of different teachers and methods than the One Year Adventure Novel program (of my high school days) taught me. It is interesting to compare the different perspectives, and learning from multiple people showed to me that there’s no one way to write a novel. Rules are present, and helpful—but not unbreakable. Plus, I got some great feedback on the first three chapters of Our Company of Fools—an incredibly applicable learning experience—and tried my hand at short story writing.
Aside from creative writing classes, though, I read some great literature—ranging from the earlier myths of English history all the way to contemporary works—across all genres and time periods. Through this, I was able to study how literature has evolved through the ages—each writer has their own style, each period of history had its own quirks and standards. Some authors even broke conventional barriers and set the new standards for writing. Because of this, I am encouraged, as I have the potential to make my own unique mark on literary history as a writer. While I want to be mindful of my contemporaries and standards of today’s literary landscape, I also do not fear attempting to branch out.
Another way English classes have helped me is through what I’ve learned from simply analyzing literature. Structure, themes, style, characterization, studying how the “greats” have done it across history, seeing what I like or dislike when I read—all of it shapes how I can approach my own writing. Of course, what worked back then may be cliché or not the norm today, but every bit of information is helpful in helping me discern what works or what doesn’t work in my own writing.
To be a great writer, we need to read. I am grateful for my English major because it has made me a better communicator, given me a lens for deeply appreciating and understanding literature, and has shaped my perception as a writer. I’ve made a lot of great memories, am grateful for my professors, and enjoyed many great stories.