How to Major in Awesome and Fun

17 May

By Sammy Bina

~~~

Well, it’s official! I graduated. I’ll never have to write another thesis, worry about being late to class, hike up a ridiculously large hill to turn in a bunch of useless forms, or do homework. As of Sunday morning, I’ve stepped into the real world. And you know what? It’s scary.

For the last five years I’ve been waiting for the day when I’d no longer have to worry about school. Since 2006 I’ve attended four different universities, each one a bigger challenge than the one before it. And while I accumulated a decent amount of knowledge from one very large stack of textbooks, I also learned a lot about myself. So, while I’m feeling nostalgic, I thought I’d take some time today to share a little of what I learned over the last few years in regards to being a Creative Writing major.

I’d like to preface this story by saying I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. I began my college career as a journalism major, spawned by my love of Kirk Cameron (who played a journalist in that one movie, Left Behind). It sounded like such a glamorous lifestyle — jetsetting to all these foreign countries and interviewing important people. “I could totally do that,” I said to myself.

Well, it turns out I couldn’t. That was the first (and most important) lesson I learned in college: I wanted to write for myself, not because other people told me I had to. It was the reason I switched to Creative Writing and transferred colleges. Both of those decisions were key to getting me to where I am now. So I urge you all to remember, when you get frustrated with your writing, remember you’re doing it for yourself. What other people think doesn’t matter. If writing makes you happy, then that’s all that matters. Never let someone tell you differently.

As someone majoring in Creative Writing, it’s safe to say that you’re going to be asked the following question more than once (probably way more than that, actually): “So… what, uh, do you plan to do with that?” I was asked that so many times that, for a while, I really began to doubt my choice. What was I going to do with my degree? Being a writer wasn’t going to pay the bills. Hell, I didn’t even have an agent, let alone a book deal. I just knew that writing was what I loved to do and I learned to be satisfied with that. It wasn’t until after I figured that out that I really started looking into publishing.

And these days, I am satisfied. Quite satisfied, in fact. College was certainly a trip, and it had its ups and downs. But I can honestly say that I had fun. The Creative Writing department at my school was awesome. I learned so much about writing, characterization, setting, plot, and most importantly, how to put together a story the night before it’s due. I made great writer friends that I still have to this day. Which leads me to my next lesson: never turn away a fellow writer. Because no matter what, you’ll always be able to learn something from them. And you’ll probably make some really great friends in the process.

Another key piece of wisdom I’d like to impart would be this: don’t be discouraged. People are going to doubt you, including yourself. You’re going to get ripped apart in workshops, or by others who read your writing. You’re going to get ridiculously stressed out and wonder why you even bothered to go to college in the first place. There were definitely times when I considered dropping out and just looking for a job. But you know what? I stuck with it. And if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have this totally awesome picture to show for it:

(Yes, we’re 23 and still play Harry Potter in our caps and gowns.)

Some more advice: get involved. It’s so cliche, and everyone tells you how important it is, but it’s true. Most universities have some kind of newspaper, or magazine, or literary journal. Find out what your options are and sign up. I worked for my school’s literary journal for over three years, and I probably learned more from that than I did from my workshop classes. I saw so many different styles of writing, in so many different genres. I learned what worked and what didn’t. I also made writer friends which, as I said, are totally awesome. Tuesday nights will never be the same, knowing I don’t have a meeting to go to. But the 3+ years I spent with those kids and the stories we got are some of the best memories I have of my time in college.

Being a Creative Writing major also taught me not to be afraid to ask for help. I’ve always been pretty independent, but the last few years I’ve accepted the fact that sometimes I need help. Those writer friends I made? They were the people I turned to. When I couldn’t think of a word, or a name, or needed help with my effed up plot, they were there for me. And not just when it came to writing. They were indispensable in other areas too. When my work got plagiarized, when I moved halfway around the world, when I wrote my thesis, when I began querying, they were there. I’ll never forget that.

There are lots of other things I could say, but they don’t really have a lot to do with writing, so I’ll leave them out. But I can say this: two days after graduating college and I feel on top of the world. I’m still struggling to figure out what I’m doing, but I’m okay. I’ve got some time to make plans. Sure, the job market is terrifying right now. And I’m sure I’m going to be doubting my degree again in the near future. I’ll just have to remind myself that I majored in awesome and fun, and that if I try hard enough, I’ll find something. You guys will too.

So I know it’s cheesy and cliche, but I feel the need to remind all of you of one very important thing: Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t do something. If you want to major in Creative Writing, do it. If you want to be a writer, do it. Don’t major in business if you’d rather be plotting novels. Do what you love. I turned out okay, and you will too.

~~~

Sammy Bina graduated with a degree in Creative Writing, and is an intern for the Elaine P. English literary agency. She is currently editing her YA dystopian, SILENCE. You can follow her blog or find her on twitter.

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23 Responses to “How to Major in Awesome and Fun”

  1. Najela Cobb May 17, 2011 at 2:03 AM #

    Congrats, I know how you feel. Some of my best friends are creative writing majors and I never would have found them if I hadn’t taken the plunge and just followed my dreams. I technically graduated in March with a degree in Creative Writing(but I haven’t walked yet) and I’m living the bohemian life right now, looking for a job, took a fun but underpaying job babysitting right now. Good luck on making your dreams come true. This is such an exciting time in our lives!

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:47 PM #

      I think I’m joining you on the bohemian lifestyle thing, haha. Moving back in with my parents for a few weeks before wandering out east. Job hunting… But hey! At least we graduated! 😉

  2. Sammi K Walker May 17, 2011 at 2:17 AM #

    “and most importantly, how to put together a story the night before it’s due.”

    I’m pretty sure that’s the perfect quote for nanowrimo 😀

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:48 PM #

      It’s so true, too! I got so good at writing stories the night before they were due, haha.

  3. Nicole May 17, 2011 at 3:39 AM #

    Congratulation on graduating! I’m a freshman in college and I’m Communications/journalism intended, and I can say I’ve learned so much from being on my school’s paper. *PLUG ALERT* And let me tell you how much being on the paper makes you involved, you have to go to thing and actually talk to people!

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:49 PM #

      Thanks! And you’re totally right. You learn a LOT by being involved with any kind of publication. Good luck on the next three years!

  4. Maya May 17, 2011 at 8:00 AM #

    Congratulations on graduating! I wanted to major in Creative Writing but there weren’t many programs where I wanted to go so I just took as many classes as I could. Here’s hoping everything works out for you and you find an agent soon. 🙂

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM #

      Thanks, Maya!

      That sucks that there weren’t really any programs near you, but hey, as long as you got to take some classes, that’s all that matters! And honestly, for my degree, I only had to do three workshops and a thesis, so… :-p

  5. Savannah J. Foley May 17, 2011 at 8:29 AM #

    Congratulations again on graduating! So proud of you! And that picture is totally awesome. ❤

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM #

      Thanks, Sav ❤

  6. Rowenna May 17, 2011 at 8:51 AM #

    Congrats! And for something else cheesy–commencement means beginning something, not ending it. College is just one step–you’ve got so much more to learn and do! And never stop playing Harry Potter when you have the chance to wear robes!

    And the old lady in me feels she has to add–don’t feel that you picked out your life just because you’ve picked out your degree. You can major in business and still end up writing novels–you get to change your mind. You get to be more than one person in life. You can change your mind midway through college, like you did, Sammy; you can change it after you graduate; you get to keep changing your mind until you die. Life is awesome like that.

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:53 PM #

      You’re right – I totally left that out. Which is stupid, since I myself changed my mind! But yes, even if you major on business or nursing or whatever, you can always go back. Or not go back but still write. Some people have two loves, and that’s totally awesome, too!

  7. Susan May 17, 2011 at 9:05 AM #

    GOOOO SAMMY!!!! WOOOOOOOO!!! This is so exciting, and I’m so happy for you! Go drink a lot of champagne and relax your brain muscles for a while!!

    That said, this is an amazing post. Really, *really* inspirational. My heart feels all fuzzy inside, and I think I might’ve choked up when you said “don’t be discouraged”. Yeah, that’s a hard lesson to learn–one I still battle everyday. But it’s a valuable one, and I’m so glad you didn’t get discouraged, you powered through, and now you’re traipsing around like Harry.

    ❤ ❤

  8. Caitlin May 17, 2011 at 11:36 AM #

    Hear hear! I’m a Creative Writing major as well, and I love it, I wouldn’t want to major in anything else.

    Congrats on graduating!! And Harry Potter = awesome use of caps and gowns. 🙂

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:55 PM #

      Thanks, Caitlin! And I agree, CW is definitely the best major 😉

  9. Kathryn Leigh May 17, 2011 at 12:34 PM #

    Ohmygoshthismakesmewanttogobackandgetasecondmajor!

    Congrats.

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM #

      Hahaha ❤ Major props to anyone who goes back to school or goes to grad school. I am, sadly, not that person. At ALL. :-p

  10. Vanessa Di Gregorio May 17, 2011 at 2:28 PM #

    Congrats Sammy! WOOOOOO!

    Also, I LOVE that picture of you guys playing HP! EPIC! ❤

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM #

      We’re epic like that. Totally. 😉

  11. Emery May 17, 2011 at 4:03 PM #

    Another thing that continues to reappear in my life is that major rarely matters. I just finished my freshman year as an English major, and I’ve already heard of a handful of stories where people start with one major and end with another job. Apparently, Wheaton college’s music conservatory graduates many music majors who end up doing business or a career not using music as its crux. Our head of career department spoke in one of my classes and said that, of the top 20 things employees look at for employment, GPA and major aren’t in it. Though I do hope to use my English major to work with words, my major doesn’t cancel out other future options.

    Majoring in awesome and fun indeed! ^^

    • Sammy Bina May 18, 2011 at 1:58 PM #

      It’s true. You really just need a degree these days. Everyone I’ve talked to said GPA doesn’t matter at all, really. As long as you have a diploma, it qualifies you for a bunch of things. Which makes me feel better and worse about the prospect of finding a job :-p

  12. leslie May 19, 2011 at 3:35 PM #

    Congratulations on graduating!! I’m so happy for you 😀

    p.s. i totally love the pic of you playing Harry Potter ^_^

  13. Sarah Brand May 19, 2011 at 6:17 PM #

    I also graduated last week, so I know what you mean when you say you’re on top of the world. It’s an awesome accomplishment, so congratulations! (And good luck with the job market. I don’t have a permanent job either yet, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for both of us.)

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