Educated vs. self taught


I’m an uneducated writer.

That’s right.  I mean I took English in high school and one creative writing course at U of T a long time ago, but other than that I have no schooling to speak of when it comes to writing.  Except the school of life baby.

So overall, would I say that one needs to be educated in the craft of writing in order to be a great writer?  No.

Education has it’s benefits of course, you get to learn in-depth and explore a variety avenues with skilled instructors helping you along.  You get a group environment in which to learn, critique and grow.  You’re able to focus your mind and hone your craft in a place designed to allow you to do just that.  However, I would argue that you can do all of these things without being formally educated as well.

We’re lucky, we live in an age where most of the information in the world is just a google search away.  If I want to learn the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’ I can do it in an instant thanks to grammar blogs and diligent Wikipedia nerds (those folks are amazing).  I can go online and post my work in forums to be ripped apart by the educated and the self taught alike.  I can write to my heart’s content and send my stories to various online (and printed) magazines for rejection or acceptance.  I never miss a spelling error thanks to my awesome spell check that sticks a red squiggly under my word if I get it wrong.  Thanks to technology more and more people are literate, able to read and write and express themselves without the benefits of formal education.

So what are the benefits of being self-taught?  Well, for me the benefit would be that I learned to write as I traveled and I traveled widely because once I left high school I didn’t head straight into university or a career path.  I hitchhiked around Europe and bussed around Egypt, through the US to Mexico then around Peru.  As I traveled, I didn’t take pictures, instead I wrote.  I scribbled endless notes and poems in piles of journals and captured my whole journey in prose.  Although I had written before then, it was never so prolific and I think that’s really what got me onto the path into the magical land of writing.

Had I gone to university instead I’m not sure I would have given myself the time and space to travel and work in bars and become an event planner only to eventually learn I’m a writer at heart.  Had I gone to university instead I might have become ensconced in a career and not noticed that my true path was writing.  So for me, being self taught worked out.

I would certainly never suggest that one way is better than another, because everyone has to find their own way.  I can say though that I’m happy it all worked out the way it did and I don’t think I’m any worse for not having gone to university to be formally educated.

I fully intend to keep writing for the rest of my life and I can definitely say I’m self taught and proud.

School of life.  Yeah.

Tell me about your experiences with writing, are you self taught or formally educated?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

2 thoughts on “Educated vs. self taught”

  1. For the most part, I’m self-taught. I only took two writing courses at the University of Guelph and the one piece of advice that I always give people who want to do the same is that creative writing courses are great for figuring out how you DON’T want to write. Which is very valuable because it will help lead you to your voice. They’re very subjective though in terms of marking (who can mark creative writing objectively really?) and what I ended up doing in those classes was tailoring my pieces to the artistic preferences of my instructor.
    After that I wrote on my own, I went to script workshops and learned a lot simply through helping people out with their scripts. And I learned simply by sending stuff in to an editor from time to time. Creative writing courses are good but certainly not necessary to become a writer.

    1. It’s definitely a good point that writing classes can teach you how not to write. Sometimes people can have a big influence on our art without even meaning to. I sort of enjoyed the writing class at U of T, but overall I think I do much better on my own!

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