• English Writing education, in and out of the classroom

    Writing was always my strongest suit in school. When everyone else had trouble with writing prompts or essay questions on tests, I could blow through them pretty easily. I could get through a term paper or longer assignment quickly, rather than taking the many weeks we were given to read and write out something. And I started writing more personal things on my own in my teen years. So, it was pretty natural that I’d become a writer.

    My degree in English Writing (from Purdue University Calumet) had a rather nebulous list of required courses. Most majors have a very fixed list of classes. Mine had only a few mandatory ones: the general introductory English courses, one in journalism and one called philosophy of art, which was like an English literature class in which you discussed the themes of a collection of works. Otherwise, students were free to choose from a list of classes ranging from journalistic (review writing) to artsy (creative writing) to business-oriented (business writing, which had at least as many management and business students as English) to graphic design and computer writing courses. I took all of the above, with an emphasis on computer courses because I figured writing for the web and other technologies would be a useful skill set.

    I learned some valuable skills from all the classes, no doubt. However, my degree represents only a small part of my education. Every classroom may have taught me specific skills, but what really developed my style, voice and ability was writing outside of classes. My internship with the university relations office and my job with the campus newspaper was instructive. I wrote much more frequently and with urgent deadlines, which really sharpened my skills more than a syllabus planned at the beginning of a semester.

    So, in pursuing a degree like this, the best advice I can give is to write as much as possible in addition to the classwork. Even if it seems like a lot, if you’re cut out for writing, you’ll be able to handle it. And practice makes perfect!