Why Aspiring Authors Should Major In Anything But English

Why Aspiring Authors Should Major In Anything But English

College is your chance to learn everything you can -- and that's what's going to make you a good writer.


I've subconsciously known I wanted to be an author since I was three years old and narrating stories to my mom as we sat in my jungle gym--she wrote them down for me on colorful stationery. My conscious mind, however, fought me on it. I have, at one point or another, wanted to be an animal trainer, an artist, an Broadway actress, a geologist, a biologist, an archaeologist, a bakery owner, a magician, and a ghost tour guide. And I mean, those were all serious considerations. I've tried six different majors in college!

Even as I aged and started to realize the truth--that no career would feel as fulfilling and enjoyable to me as writing novels--I felt hesitant about pursuing an English degree. Sure, you can always learn more about writing and editing, and reading the greats can be incredibly influential. But it didn't feel right to me--it seems almost like a misuse of time. I could read and research famous works on my own time, as well and improve my writing and seek critiques. I wouldn't necessarily need the degree to pursue publishing, either. On top of that, I was worried having to write would kill my creativity.

I'm not claiming to be "above" English as a major or that I'm done learning about my craft--far from either of those things! The big reason I ultimately did not major in English is that college is a time to learn as much as you can--and that's probably the single greatest key to being a good creative writer. You could be the most talented wordsmith in the world, but if you're experienced little outside of your craft, you're not going to have very interesting stories to tell.

I pursued a major that I thought would increase my worldview and inspire me: anthropology. And it was a great decision.

Every day when I go to class, I end up with margins dotted with plot and character ideas the lectures and readings gave me. Things like, Napoleon Chagnon, anthropologist who may have started a genocide because it would make a great film--interesting reference to use for a real-life villain. Or, in Latin, Tibi mori, "to die for you"--compound it to make a futuristic name that foreshadows character's fate.

I don't think I would have gotten ideas like these if I hadn't taken a wide variety of classes, like Latin Epitaphs, The Real and Supernatural in Latin America, Sultans & Seafarers, and even things like Technical Theatre, Comic Book History, Computer Animation, and The Science of Superheroes.

Granted, my school offers an amazing variety of classes and provides the opportunity to take a lot of courses outside of your major. But all my experimenting with majors and minors and my ultimate course of action completely changed the way I see the world, and opened my eyes to hundreds of things I never would have known had I come to Rollins with my sights set on an English degree and nothing else.

If you love English with a passion, by all means, pursue it! But if you can, try to minor in something completely different, or take unique-sounding classes you otherwise might not have out of fear that they would take up too much of your time. Now is your chance to learn everything you can, and in 15 years, when you're stuck for ideas, it probably won't be that class you took on the works of Chekhov that will inspire you--it'll be one on Greek mythology or turn-of-the-century fashion, or that play you worked on where you helped the actors do quick changes, or that canoe trip you took with your archaeology class to dig for pottery shards.

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