May 2012

Why majoring in English won't teach you how to write

And what to do about it

This past month, I've found myself working more than I ever have in my life—and I went to a lot of school at places that are known for making their students work a lot. I am fighting, tooth and bloody hangnail, both to survive and to learn. I am fighting to get better at writing—because my esteemed university, for all the money I still owe them, never gave me much instruction in that regard.

I was an English major, too—the kind of person who's supposed to come out of school flinging verbs like throwing stars and building walls of raw grammar. And I was good at being an English major. I read books and I wrote papers and I got good grades on them.

But being an English major is not the same thing as being a writer, much like being a student is not the same thing as being a person. Students must jump hoops in timed competitions to see where they stack up against each other. Their skills are relative and disposable. Real people in the real world must build themselves up so not to starve or fall into a hopeless pit of useless self-loathing. Real people in the real world have real things at stake beyond a letter next to their name.