Graduation is one of those time-honored accomplishments one can celebrate. High school, college, law school, whatever. It’s a proud moment when your studying produces a piece of paper that says you made it. I graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a Creative Writing concentration. First one in my generation to do so. That is a big deal in my family.
But I question whether graduation has any real value. When I transferred to a four-year university, I changed my major. I went into the program thinking I would produce numerous books and make money. I accomplished what I set out to do. And I have a document that says so. But I wonder what it’s worth. I mean, I still have said document in its mailing tube. (I haven’t found a frame big enough and not super-expensive for it.) I take it out once in a while as a reaffirmation that I went to school and that I finished. But does it mean anything? On paper, yes. Am I doing anything with it? No. I have a full-time job that is outside my field. I don’t have manuscripts I’m submitting to editors just so they can rip it to shreds. Outside of this blog, I have nothing.
I’m not saying that the five years of studying, changing majors, and the occasional failure was not worth it. And I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go pursue what they want to do. Far from it. But it’s harder nowadays to find a job in the field you studied. It’s especially worse when your field is in the arts. Being a Creative Writing graduate doesn’t always equate to success in the working world. It won’t reinforce your value as a writer. It doesn’t guarantee that the book you write is going to sell. And when you’re not the best-selling, hot shot author you thought you’d be, you begin to question if this was the right thing.
After reading craft books, I came to the realization that you don’t necessarily need a degree to be a writer. Some writers pursued different degrees. Some never finished high school or college. What made them successful is confidence, hard work and discipline (There’s that word again). And as much as I question whether or not I have what it takes to be a writer, I don’t regret pursuing my degree. I found something that I love to do. In the end, that is what matters.