Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's Not About The Paper

UCLA has this Writing Program that I've been eyeballing for months. It offers all kinds of writing classes in all kinds of genres and many are available online which is especially important since my goats and chickens are probably not meant to live in the city. What hooked me was that many of the classes are hands on- as in, you don't just learn about the theory of writing and study writing, you actually write, re-write, and here's the kicker..... you have real pieces that you submit to real markets.

The problem... it's a bit pricey for a gal who practically quit her job and only gets paid for the few nights a month she works now. Then, I saw a scholarship opportunity and figured it was a major long shot, but what the heck....why not try?

Well, I got it, and have been literally doing a happy dance for days! Fortunately, you don't have to witness my dancing, as it is not one of my more impressive skills, and my family members who have witnessed it firsthand have suggested it may be a tad frightening.

Anyway, I've naturally been sharing the news with anyone who cares to listen, and even a few people who don't care. Everyone is super happy for me and congratulatory and all, but I also keep hearing the same question.

"So, is this for your Masters Degree?"

Ummm, no. Actually, I don't even have my Bachelors Degree, although I have more than enough units. Unfortunately, no one seems to offer a Bachelors in Lots of Artsy Electives with very little general ed.

The thing is, and this seems to be a wacky concept based on the blank stares I get...... I am learning for the sake of learning. You know, just because I find it interesting.  

It's not about the piece of paper.

With this endeavor through UCLA, I'm definitely hoping to gain some useful skills as well. In the end I'd like to publish in larger (and higher paying) markets.

Nothing against getting a Masters Degree. I just don't want to spend several hard years and thousands of dollars on the theory of writing right now. I just want to write.

When I say things like "It's not about the piece of paper" I sometimes get lectures about the value of higher education and a corresponding college degree. It's not like I'm coming from a place of "We don't need no fancy book learnin." I'm just saying that what I value the most is the education, not the degree.

Writing is one of many creative endeavors that brings me joy, and it's also one I've actually managed to make a tiny bit of money on. So, when I started trying to clear space in life to focus on what I love, writing was high on the list of things I wanted to work on.

Like Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity, I don't want to write a dissertation paper that will be read by four people. I want to write things that will actually be read by a bundle of people, and to be honest, I'd like to get paid too.

I really have no idea what percentage of  best selling authors or people who write for big time magazines have a masters degree in writing, but I would bet that more important than their educational credentials is that they write and actually send their work out into the world.

Maybe someday an opportunity will come my way to get that Masters Degree (preferably without having to take any more painful math classes or accruing any debt) but in the mean time, I'm just in it to learn.


  1. Ugh. I'm going through the same exact thing! Actually, it's why I started the blog. I wanted to write and I wanted people to read my ideas and getting published is such a pain. It takes forever. You have to do your query letter and submit and wait. I can post all I want freely now. Bless freedom of speech. Getting paid would be nice, but one step at a time, grasshopper.
    I do want to improve my writing, but these masters programs are $25,000 plus. And I'm like, really? In this economy?
    So, I'm taking a writing class here and there on what I find interesting. A part of me thinks, am I wasting money because it isn't going toward a degree? Another part of me thinks, is learning ever a waste of money? See how we're programmed to think? Has to be the culture, right?

  2. Yes- we're totally programmed to think that learning only counts of someone else says it does. I think it's great that you're following your interests. Learning is never a waste. Too many people stop learning when they stop "having to" for outside sources, and if you stop growing, it seems like life could get pretty boring and stagnant.

  3. Good luck with your classes too!


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