Despite the fact that I had always had a passion for writing, I didn’t major in creative writing as an undergraduate. At the time, my reasons for not choosing creative writing as a major were of the practical sort–I was trying to avoid the inevitable question of “What are you going to do with that?”
Instead, I double-majored in anthropology and history with an intent of going into archaeology. By the time I graduated, though, I had come full-circle to realize that, though I loved those subjects deeply, I didn’t necessarily want to practice them in a career. Mainly, I didn’t like doing the kind of writing that historians and archaeologists do.
As a graduate student, I ended up in an English M.A. program, and took my first-ever creative writing courses. It was an almost spiritual relief to write for those courses. No more footnotes, citations, carefully-structured arguments with supporting statements–unless I wanted those, of course. But I didn’t. I wanted to write about the world that I saw, and the worlds that others saw. I wanted to dive into new characters and walk around in their shoes and look at things through their eyes. I wanted to play with language, to throw words up in the air and watch them fall down onto the page like autumn leaves.
Creative writing was a welcome change of direction from the academic writing I had been doing for so long. But I’m glad that I did that academic writing first. I’m glad I didn’t major in creative writing as an undergrad.
Because my history and anthropology courses have given me something to write about. They provided me with new perspectives and new knowledge. They provided me with methods for research and analysis. Had I majored in creative writing, perhaps I would be a better wordsmith. But, ultimately, I don’t think my writing would be as good–simply because all I would have to write about (besides my own experiences) would be writing itself.
This is not to say you shouldn’t major in creative writing. It’s more to say–explore the world around you. Have interests outside of writing, and pursue those interests. They will only make you a better writer.
What do you think? Did you major in creative writing, or another subject?