View Full Version : Teachings vs. Reality

12-05-2008, 07:32 AM
How often has what you were taught in college contrasted with what you experienced after getting out into the 'real world,' so to speak? (When it comes to writing.)

12-05-2008, 07:54 AM
How often has what you were taught in college contrasted with what you experienced after getting out into the 'real world,' so to speak? (When it comes to writing.)

This is an excellent question, and I'm looking forward to seeing what others report. My own experiences might not be very enlightening. I wasn't an English major and took only one class in creative writing. I did, however, take a number of journalism classes, and much of what I learned in them proved valid, and valuable--I might even say invaluable--when I got my first newspaper job. Of course, college instructors tend to lean toward academic rules (no surprise there), and they can help students prepare for further study, further academic activity and expository writing in various fields.

Creativity is something else again.


Dark Cyril
12-05-2008, 08:15 AM
I was an English major for a while. I've never really looked back on it, and while I'll freely admit, I don't have anything under my belt to show for it, I've always found that I need to trust my gut instead of a rule that a professor told me. I love Creative Writing classes because of the freedom in them, they are there to make you write and arm you with some tools that you can use if needed, but if writing classes are treated as anything more than that, I tend to ignore them. Just the way I am, though I've always felt the need to stand or fall on my own two feet (just a little headstrong that way, ask my girlfriend, lol).

The academia is interesting to explore some of the time, but the creative process can't be taught. It's something that's intensely personal to each writer I believe.

Ms Hollands
12-05-2008, 02:52 PM
At school, I learnt to never start sentences with 'And' or 'But', but in Linguistics at Uni, I learnt the opposite. And now I start sentences with both when I feel like it. :O))

I think everything else I learnt in my Arts degree (Linguistics, English Lit) has been valuable, even if I didn't think so at the time.

12-05-2008, 05:55 PM
I'm surprised I remember anything from school. It was a looonnnng time ago.

12-05-2008, 08:07 PM
In my college creative writing class I learned that genre writing is to be frowned upon; people don't want to see written scenes in their head like they're watching scenes in a movie; you should never use the word "seem" because something either IS or it ISN'T, it never just "seems"; and readers really, really hate complex words like "infinitesimal" when a cliche like "a tiny drop in a big ocean" will do.

Glad I decided to disregard most of what my creative writing teacher said.

12-05-2008, 08:15 PM
I was lucky enough that my college professors/instructors didn't give me any rules. No "you can't do this and you can't do that." Instead, they encouraged expression and creativity. When I was doing the creative writing classes, I did learn about all of the techniques such as POVs, dialogue, plot development, etc. and these techniques have been useful in the "real world." It helps that my teacher was a published author.

12-05-2008, 08:18 PM
"I've never let school interfere with my education." - Mark Twain

12-06-2008, 10:01 AM
I went to college twice, and am now too dumb to answer the question you asked.

12-06-2008, 10:11 AM
College is much more enthusiastic and optomistic. I was told in college that I would get a great "writing" job-- I studied "professional writing," and graduated at the top of the class. I ended up working in a factory. Now, I wouldn't believe anything a college told me. Just do your own thing. I believe in education, and in educated people, but I do not believe that education leads to success. You need heart, perserverance, and balls, you also need connections and the good fortune of living somewhere jobs are available (the last 2 on the last are only important if you want to get into something). I think that is true with any art though.

12-06-2008, 11:45 AM
Everything I've ever learned, regardless of how or where I learned it, helped shape me as a person and writer. It's given me my voice, and characters to populate the worlds I envision.

I have no idea what I learned in school. It all goes into the same bucket on top of my neck.

I do know that whatever it was, I value it highly.

12-09-2008, 11:38 PM
I was part of the honors program at my college so I was allowed to take Honors English. It was a class of 15 students and one amazing professor. I'll never forget how he structured the class. We were assigned a certain number of pages to complete each quarter. How we completed the pages was completely up to us. I completed a huge variety of compositions during this time. I was allowed to follow my muse and let it lead me in discovery.

It wasn't completely unstructured, though. We had to have something ready for every class period. Whatever stage our work was in, we needed to be ready to read aloud and gain feedback. He would also throw out writing prompt ideas during every class. He always ended, though, by saying, "or something else."

I gained freedom to write in that class. I was judged on my ideas and helped with my difficulties (grammar and spelling). My writing grew by leaps and bounds. I learned that writing was an experience in freedom, not a monotonous task chained to inflexible boundaries.

Several years after I took this class, I was able to return as a teacher's assistant. It was an experience I still can't find words to describe. It was just, perfect.

The real world may not always be kind, but if I love what I produce, it is enough for me.

12-11-2008, 04:07 AM
Most writing books say, "forget everything you learned in high school," which made me exceedingly glad that I learned from my mother, a five-time published writer. *sigh of relief*
Now, as a teacher myself, I try to keep my students updated on the latest trends. Last week I told them that fancy dialogue tags like "commented," and "demanded" are distracting, and they gasped as if I was telling them to shoot someone. Most people are still relying on archaic techniques...

12-11-2008, 10:34 PM
What Learned from my Creative Writing degree

1. Criticism is a suggestion, not a command.

2. Genre is just as acceptable Literary, regardless of what they tell you.

3. There is no concrete definition for Literary, but for college purposes it boils down to dead grandma's and broken relationships. For the rest of the world it boils down to are the characters believable and is the plot good. For the masses good is usually comparable to the number of the explosions per minute.

4. Most people who criticize Star Trek have never actually watched for more than 5 minutes. But they will use it as a basis for all Sci Fi...even if it has no bearing.

12-12-2008, 12:10 AM
Most of my English classes were great and I think I learned a lot from them. The only one that I think was detrimental was, ironically, the one creative writing course in college. According to this teacher every detail in your story had to be thought out in such a way that for every two pages of story you would have ten pages of story analysis (Sally wears a green dress because green represents freshness and Sally is. . . Sally and Sam meet at the lake because. . .) I actually flunked assignments because although I completed the entire story I failed to provide enough self analysis. I'm sorry. I agree that a writer should generally have a reason for each event and character in the story but sometimes a green dress is just a green dress. I was also told never to mention a character glancing at a mirror because it would immediately make them come off as vain and self centered. Really, worst class I ever had and I wish I had my money back.

12-12-2008, 09:11 PM
Most of my creative writing classes seem accurate (if only because the kind of advice we got was along the lines of "You can do anything as long as it works). I do disagree with the whole mentality that english majors will never get a job and science majors are guaranteed big money. Not sure who came up with that one (though the Canadian government still tries to shove it down the throats of unsuspecting teens) but it's 100% inaccurate. As a former biology major, I can tell you there are very, very few things I can actually do with my degree (underpaid lab technician or soul-selling pharmaceutical researcher being the only viable options that don't require additional education) that I couldn't do with any degree in general, whereas I see job postings all the time for people with English degrees - editors, journalists, marketers, copywriters, PR people, etc.

Soccer Mom
12-13-2008, 12:40 AM
Well, I have a BA in English Lit, but took precious few creative writing courses. I learned quite a bit about thinking critically. I think the most important thing I got was exposure to writers, themes, and ideas I might never have discovered on my own.

The experiences really were priceless.