I Don’t Have an MFA and Other Excuses

Recently, a friend confessed that her lifelong dream was to write, but she didn’t believe she could do it because she lacked a college degree. Her honesty struck a chord with me. Mainly because this lack of confidence is universal, whether we have an MFA or not.

Ironically, I had just seen a biography from a debut novelist that read something along the lines of: “Joe Author never attended college and has not received any awards.” His novel, some kind of zombie love story, was already garnering tons of praise, but it’s the bio that I remember.

This made me think seriously about the excuses that stop us from following our true calling. Lack of a college degree didn’t stop J.K. Rowling from becoming the world’s first billionaire author with her Harry Potter series. Nor did it prevent high-school dropout Dorris Lessing from receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature (2007). In fact, some of the world’s most memorable books were penned by authors without a diploma, including J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye), Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), and William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury).

I’ve got a confession of my own. I never took a writing class. I did earn a B.A. and an M.A., both in Communication Sciences and Disorders to become a certified speech-language pathologist. I love working with my clients and I am passionate about my career. Yet I always wanted to be a writer.

I’m grateful I have that SLP certification to fall back on, and I continue to work in that field today. But I’m also thankful I had the guts to give writing a shot.

I cannot imagine my life without writing. It is not just a job for me, it is a way of life. I write because it’s how I process the world around me. It’s how I think through the lessons I am given and how I learn from the everyday experiences that might otherwise go unnoticed. I write because it forces me to slow down and appreciate the many blessings in my life. I write because it’s my way of listening to my soul, a voice that gets drowned out by life’s hectic pace.

Today, I challenge you to write. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or whether those thoughts will ever make it to a bookstore shelf. Write because you are giving yourself that gift. Write because it’s what you’re led to do. Write because you want to think, and learn, and grow.

Follow the lead of Rachel Ray (creator of original cookbooks and her own magazine), Ben Affleck (screenwriter of Good Will Hunting), and the Wachowski brothers (writers of The Matrix), all of whom never graduated from college. Don’t let any excuses get in the way. Just write.

Simple Ways to Polish Writing Skills

  1. Keep a journal
  2. Write letters
  3. Maintain a Blog
  4. Write a local newspaper column
  5. Pitch freelance articles

6 thoughts on “I Don’t Have an MFA and Other Excuses

  1. “I write because it’s how I process the world around me.” I totally, totally get that. Thanks for encouragement.

  2. This is great. We honestly don’t need a college degree or any other sort of special training to be an accomplished writer. It’s something that is inside of us and the most important thing to have is the passion and desire to write. This is a great post! I’m so glad you shared. No more excuses… just write!

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