Wednesday 29 January 2014

The Artist Unleashed: LEGIT OR BULLS**T? by Julia Tagliere

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  1. I think it is like many things in life - the degree per se: does not make one better at anything necessarily. Some of the dumbest and most ignorant people I have met have Phd's or are doctors or lawyers or professionals of some kind.

    Some of the most intelligent and wisest people I have met did not complete secondary school.

    With writing the writing matters. A degree might help someone or it might not.

    My exposure to university was that in the main it did not encourage people to think. Those who did well were best at absorbing and memorising what the tutor wanted and regurgitating it in a form the tutor and system wanted.

    I actually believe that university often, well, at least in this day and age, limits intelligence and creativity.

    But we are all different.

    1. I would humbly suggest that writing may be an intellectual activity for some, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not for everyone. The heart and soul play a part in much of the best writing and there is nothing intellectual about the creative source of truly great art of any kind.

      A child can learn to write and by the age of twelve, most can string words together and certainly by eighteen, before any studies for a university degree begin, for some younger, the 'intellectual' component is in place. The mechanics are there.

      What is required for a writer, whether of poetry or prose, are the non-intellectual qualities of heart and soul and intuition and inspiration; the eye which sees beyond the material; the ear which hears beyond the mechanical; the mind which soars beyond the intellect - and those things cannot be learned or gained through any degree.

      The greatest writers, like the greatest artists in any field, are born with gifts which inspire and at times consume, the intellect.

      Depending upon how one expresses in word the creative form, a degree may expand or diminish one's abilities. If this were not so then all of our greatest writers and sources of creativity and art would be found with degrees. They are not and they never have been.

      Follow your heart's call; it will take you to more wonderful places than the intellect could ever imagine.

      Just my thoughts. And perhaps I should say, I don't have a degree from a university. I wanted to be an archeologist when I was a child but my parents were poor and university was expensive. I became a journalist instead. Within a couple of years the Whitlam Government in Australia made university education free to everyone. (It is no longer free but it is still much cheaper than many places and is available to everyone who qualifies and the debt is then paid back once the individual is earning more than $36,000 a year, or some such figure.)

      Anyway, by that time I was married with babies and working full-time but I did take advantage of what was called 'mature-entry' level to university. I did not complete a degree but I did English Literature and Ancient History long enough to realise that university was not expanding my mind, but contracting it. I also realised that those hallowed halls from which others emerged, superior or so I thought, were often mundane and churning out minds less free than my own. Degrees, I decided in my late twenties did not make for a better mind, more intelligence or any superiority of Self. But I was of course delighted to have both of my children go to university and complete a number of degrees. We all have to decide what is right for us.

    2. Hi, Roslyn,

      Thanks for your thoughtful replies. I agree with you on several counts, namely, that education doesn't make the man/woman (it's the other way around); that conformity is a risk of higher education; and that in all artistic endeavors, anything that limits creativity is bad. However, I have heard it said you have to know the rules to break them, and I'm hoping my school experiences will allow and encourage me to do both.

  2. You are fighting hard for that degree!
    I have one, just not in writing. Of course, I never wanted to be an author. Still not sure how that happened.

    1. Hi, Alex,

      Yes, I am; guessing that's the narcissist in me coming out. The Accidental Author...I like it! Thanks for your reply!

  3. My bias is that since writing is an intellectual activity, earning a college degree is generally a good idea, although certainly not necessary. But a degree in what? Vonnegut studied chemistry and anthropology.

    1. Hi, Stephen,

      Thanks for your reply. What degree, indeed? I had trouble finding authors whose bios actually listed a degree in writing. So WTF am I doing? I'll keep you posted whether it's worth the fight. Early impressions of my first course are encouraging, plus, it's really amazing to talk to the others in the class about what they're doing. :)

  4. I'm kind of in Group 4, although I didn't do my degree with the intention of being a writer (I had no idea what I wanted to be, so naturally I did English Lit and Philosophy). I haven't gone on to have a productive career in anything (let alone writing) and am now contemplating the point of degrees altogether! But then again, I'm only 24 so I may be jumping the gun a bit it. Most of my friends are in the same boat after coming back from uni to discover there are no jobs.

    I personally don't think you need a degree to be a writer-just lots of imagination, dedication and life experience!

    1. Hi, Tizzy,

      Love your reply; the bit about your majors made me smile. Thanks, by the way, for making me feel ancient. Since I'm practically old enough to be your mother, I guess I can say I've got a little more life experience, at least enough to say you don't have to know what you're going to do for the rest of your life at 24 (ahem, I am just getting started myself now. Late bloomer). Your "writer recipe" sounds pretty good to me! Best of luck to you and your boat mates; tough times for new grads trying to find jobs everywhere.

  5. Double post, sorry..

    I would love to know some of the things you learned when you were taking the creative writing program. What sort of things did they teach that made you a more critical reader? Like you I've applied to a few MFA in Creative Writing programs and like you I have felt the sting of rejection. It was mostly out of curiosity that I applied, and perhaps I had a lack of enthusiasm in my admission essay.

    I often wonder if there aren't great storytellers who might be mediocre writers, or excellent writers who are mediocre storytellers, and I wonder if formal training doesn't bridge some of the gaps, especially for those excellent storytellers who might be missing some of the finer points of writing. I don't think my undergraduate English courses did much to help me with my creative writing, but perhaps they did.

    That said, like the examples you gave, there are plenty of flat out amazing writers who don't have degrees - i.e Neil Gaiman

    Very interesting post!

    1. Steven W., you listed my absolute favorite writer in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE in your reply, so I can tell we'll get on famously. :) The two courses from DePaul that stand out in my mind are 1) an in-depth editing course (a semester of nothing but the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition) and 2) a course called Stylistics. In my reply to Roslyn, I raised the idea that while creativity lets you light the fire, mechanics help you bend it to your will. Prior to those two courses, my mechanics were adequate (my mother was an English teacher), but that's where I learned the boring, repressing things I needed to know to improve the technical aspects of my writing. Stylistics is where I really learned to read critically. Prior to that course, I read only what I wanted to and only what I liked, but after that course, I started expanding my reading list and as I read, I tried to really think about how authors achieved the effects they did. What kinds of tools did they use to make me cry? What was it about this page that made me desperate to turn to the next? Truly, I had never read like that before. Maybe other writers out there are born reading like that, but I wasn't. I always read to escape, and those classes showed me other reasons to read. I think it had a profound effect on my writing. But, as we're seeing in other replies, others may have had much different, more limiting experiences. I try to keep an open mind and learn from every single person I can anything that has the possibility to make me a better writer. I would say, if that degree matters to you, though, don't give up. And admissions essays are total bitches. ;)

  6. This post cracked me up! If the writing is good the writing is good, whether the author has a degree or not. No lie :)


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris