I have my degree in writing, but because I switched into the major my last year in college, I don’t like to say I studied writing, mainly, I spent college studying Rilke, the little waterfall nearby, and the direction of my own life, which changed even more often than my major. Academically, I started out in Theology, added philosophy, then dropped them both for humanities, which I quickly lost interest in when I learned the program called for commitment. I considered History, but didn’t want the required economics course. My longest stint was a year and most of a semester in classical languages, but my own personal drama and my tendency to skip classes caught up with me junior year - I realized too late that the professor’s rule of dropping a letter grade for every 3 missed classes brought me down to, at best, a C. And then I forgot how to spell ‘led’. Not the Latin, not the Greek, the English. A huge part of the quiz involved a randomly chosen word, translated in all it’s forms. At first I was thrilled, to lead, simple, basic, and then I blanked. All I could think of was lead (the metal), which is the same as lead (present tense ‘to lead’). He has lead, he lead, they used to lead..I tried explaining the next day, because during class I couldn’t figure out exactly what was wrong in my mind. I dropped Classics after that semester, no one can take a Classics degree with a C in Latin.
Senior year I lived in a rush, the only class apart from writing and Literature I took was Political Philosophy. It was supposed to be a mental break, but my professor was a monarchist who hated Libertarian, and I was a libertarian who failed miserably in controlling her reactions, we didn’t get along. I loved the English program though! I spent the whole year wondering why I hadn’t started this sooner. I learned to edit, and to write papers in advance. I learned self-discipline, and a little humility. The writing program was good for me.
Like most people who study writing, I learned that writing can only be taught up to a certain extent. Beyond that, the writer needs something else, something not taught, but given. We’re very passionate about education in America, we like the idea of everyone going to college. But, while I do think college can be helpful, it can also be in the way of developing as a writer. Flannery O' Connor reminds us that "there's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." A bad teacher can form a writer in all manner of vices, and the best way to learn writing, through extensive reading, is something we can all do outside of university. I'm not against education, I just prefer not to see it idealized. A while ago in this conversation, Jenna referred to this as a very educated society, and I guess, thinking it over, that we are. But what does that education really mean, what does it bring to us as individuals? Next week I want to begin delve into words like educated, literate, intellectual, and scholar, primarily as they relate to us as writers, but this week, I just want to open up the topic a bit for your thoughts.