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This past week I wrapped up an online Copy Writing course, my first “formal” effort to get practical writing experience and build my credibility. It was an exhilarating time of study, creative exercises and homework; I forgot how much I truly thrive in a learning environment.

It does return me to the question that begs my attention from time to time – Do I need a piece of paper that says I can do what can I do?

Simon Says

Twenty years ago this fall, I went away to college to do what everyone does who wants to “get a good job someday.” At the time had no clue what I wanted to do, because consciously I probably didn’t. My academic interests fell on History, and for about five minutes I considered teaching it. That idea quickly derailed – teaching is a calling, and something else was calling me.

I puttered along taking increasingly complex History classes, and English classes seeped into my schedule. I don’t remember making a deliberate choice, I don’t remember any of my advisers helping me to analyze my non-choice, and I certainly don’t recall the campus “career center” being of much help figuring out what to do with my choice. (Sorry, career center. I’m sure you’re much better at it now.)

Maybe it was my own fault. I majored in History and minored in English, and refused to take that bitter pill called “Grad School.” So what do I do with THAT?

Square Dance

I learned how to think, how to research and how to write. And then talked my way in to various jobs (see an earlier post/lament here). The jobs that I really wanted, the ones that had writing in the job description, eluded me because…I didn’t have experience.

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that, I’d have about a dollar, but you get my point. I suspect I really did learn something in college, although I’m hard-pressed to give you an itemized list.

What was this piece of paper really doing for me? The fact that I talked my way into most jobs means that I had to back it up. Did the piece of paper open doors (albeit, not the ones I wanted opened)? Could a piece of paper stand in the way of my dreams?

Cheer Squad

In the past year of writing this blog and working toward a freelance writing career, I have struggled with whether I should enroll in an MFA program. Would a “Masters of Fine Arts in Writing” piece of paper pave the rest of my path with gold?

I have decided, NO, it will not.  It’s just not for me.

I do not believe it offers anything better than what springs from my own passion.

I do not want to entrust my life’s dream to anyone else but me.

I do not want to pay so handsomely (again) for something that is likely an empty promise (again).

Follow the Leader

That being said, I do thrive in a learning environment (read: classroom, real or virtual). I love to learn, especially about topics related to what is central to my life, whether those topics are Bible study (don’t knock it ‘til you try it) or learning how to break into copy writing. I value teachers and learning over grades and degrees. Teach me something I can use to keep moving forward in life.

Sorry, Higher Learning, I respect you immensely when comes to trusting my doctor, professor, lawyer and veterinarian. I even respect you when it comes to people doing it for the love of education. But when you are corrupted into a panacea, a supposed street paved in gold, or a crushing student loan, I just can’t be with you anymore.

Taking the Road Less Traveled

There is a quote that is often attributed to Mark Twain:

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

Whether or not he actually said it doesn’t matter – truer words are rarely spoken. Not being able to prove who said this does not diminish its power.

I have been writing for thirty years. For the most part, I know what I’m doing. Not having a piece of paper that says so does not diminish my power. MFA programs, you can keep your piece of paper. I’ll write my own.

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  1. Terra, the only papers you need for a writing job are published pieces or other samples. 🙂 You might consider, though, expanding your opportunities for technical writing (to pay the bills while you write creatively) taking a course or two in the kind of software apps most companies use to update/create their documentation. Robohelp comes to mind, and Captiva come to mind.

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