On College and Authoring

Photo credit: Sole Treadmill on Flickr
I frequently get questions from writers about what degree they should do if they want to be a published author, or what I learned from my schooling so far that helped me get published. And up until very recently, where I've started schooling specifically for writing children's books, the truth was my schooling was a thing I did alongside my writing, not something I did specifically to write.

Of course, my situation was not the same as many. I'd been writing all through high school and was largely self-taught. I devoured books on writing, blog posts from people in the industry, and wrote manuscript after manuscript. By the time I transferred over to my alma mater to get my BA in English, I already had an agent—and just two months into my BA degree I got my debut book deal.

So when people asked me up until recently if I went to school to be an author, it felt disingenuous to say yes. Because the truth was, my education hadn't really done much to make me a writer—I did that on my own.

Now things are a little different, however. Now I'm starting my MFA in Writing for Children, which is very much intended to further push me as a writer and also hopefully open up some doors for job opportunities down the road directly related to children's literature. But my main focus is very much to improve my skills and expand my writerly repertoire.

I do want to emphasize though: I didn't have to go to college to get published. No one does.

When I was first deciding what to do, college-wise, all the while knowing my ultimate goal was to become a published author, a degree became important to me not to help me write, but to help me get a job that'd allow me to support myself while I write. So I could've gotten a degree in just about anything, really, but after dipping my toes in the film world I decided I'd be happiest getting a job analogous to writing and children's books—even if not directly publishing-relating. That was the option I've decided was best for me, but that's not going to be the best option for everyone.

Some writers are also doctors, or analysts, or teachers, or fishers. Some are booksellers, or scientists, or nurses, or event planners. I think the main thing that's important when considering college is keeping your expectations grounded and understanding that making a living as a writer isn't easy and often takes a lot of time. So when considering college, I encourage writers to consider how they'd like to make a living outside of writing and then go from there.

Starting school specifically for writing will be a new experience for me—and one I'm looking forward to. But ultimately, for me, this was another step toward figuring out how to make a living in a way that I'd enjoy—and that requires openness and exploration I'm grateful to have the space for.

What do you think? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Do you need to go to college to get published? @Ava_Jae shares their experience getting published while at school. (Click to tweet

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