Opinion

In Defense of the Creative Writing Major

IMAGE BY ERIK MAGNUSON

By Spencer Bible
CONTRIBUTOR

I was recently informed of a departmental prejudice at Beloit College when a biology major, who will remain nameless, informed me that creative writing majors are a punch line among more ‘practical’ departments. When beady eyed, cold-blooded scientists think of experiments not fit for human trial, they cackle and exclaim, “We’ll just use some creative writing majors!”

Haha, indeed.

I don’t know if this is a slight at our impending poverty, or if they’re jealous of our extremely attractive hands, but it would appear that as an intellectual cast, we, the people of the creative writing department, are often not taken seriously.

Shame, you future contributing members of society. Shame.

I admit we have one of the lightest workloads, (no one’s buying it, religious studies) spend our time reading things that are actually entertaining, regularly express mundane emotions, and act like we’re cooler than we actually are. It’s well known that if a student takes a creative writing class and tries, they will get an A, no matter how bad the story about their high school girlfriend/first lesbian experience/time they took too many drugs is.

On all that, you got me. I can’t say that I could be a physics major if I wanted to, because I do want to. I’ve tried, and I can’t. If the homework didn’t kill me … the homework would kill me. That goes for most everything taught in that big building with all the glass.

Most of my classes are in the World Affairs Center (WAC), which has all the charm of a colonial era mausoleum. The couches are worn with the asses of Beloit Fiction Journal editorial boards, the stairs are disconcertingly narrow, and the basement is a Kafkaesque labyrinth of offices and leaky pipes. Most of the classrooms either feel like somewhere you would take a mandatory alcohol education class or watch a presentation about growth projections. None have the placidity, class and charm that we writing folk desperately attempt to embody.

I can understand why those of us who choose to graduate with degrees in creative writing are laughable. It is an unglamorous, quasi-artesian, largely impractical pursuit.

But I don’t think most of us would change that. To put it simply, writing is liberating.  It may not seem that way — our school has us write more papers in one year then our library could hold—but being asked to write anything you want makes the only limitation one’s mind. You find things out about yourself in writing. Often, after an hour, I look at the page and realize I have the exact opposite opinion of what I thought when I began.

At its best, writing is a direct expression of the mind, yet I’m struck by my inability to express things as grandly as I imagine them. This humbles me, and the pursuit of shrinking the gap between idea and expression is often the ‘carrot on the stick’ for creative writing students. That’s why writing majors have infinite value. We strive to translate new thought into language that can be understood by others.

If you’re sitting there thinking, “well, any dope can do that” then try and write a story that’s more than fifteen pages long. Then, let four of your closest friends read it. They won’t tell you it’s bad, but you’ll know … you’ll know.

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