The Education Debate: Great Authors that Never Went to College
Young, novice writers often wonder whether pursuing a college degree is necessary in order to become a best-selling author or professional writer. Not surprisingly, there have been many heated debates about this topic in the writing community, especially when it comes to creative writing degrees, and I often interject my own opinions into these discussions whenever they come up. Sure, pursuing a writing degree may seem like a logical path to becoming a cultured, accomplished writer, but is it the only path? Well, you'll have to answer that for yourself. While you ponder that thought, however, here is a list of wildly successful writers who never attended college.
Ray Bradbury is one of the most well-known science fiction authors in the world, but he never went to college. It's not that Bradbury didn't want to, though; his parents didn't have enough money to pay for the tuition. Instead, Bradbury took to selling newspapers in Los Angeles during the day and teaching himself about literature and writing at night. “I never went to college," he once famously said. "I went to the library.” His most famous work is without a doubt "Fahrenheit 451."
He is without a doubt the most well-known writer of all time, composing over thirty-eight plays and one-hundred-and-fifty-four sonnets, but Shakespeare's formal education ended early in his childhood. He attended the King Edward IV Grammar School, but left the school when he was fourteen in 1578. Shakespeare's education ended at that point. It didn't seem to affect his writing career, however. Shakespeare went on to write spectacular works like "Romeo and Juliet," "The Tempest," "King Lear," "Much Ado About Nothing," and numerous others without a college degree.
Mark Twain wrote nearly seventy published works in his lifetime and is known as a great travel essayist, journalist, and fiction writer. His professional education ended before he even reached fifth grade, however – although it wasn't by choice. Twain's father's unexpected death sparked the famous writer's decision to drop out and take care of matters at home. He was invited to join a writer's group at Yale later in life, which he gladly accepted. If you haven't already, read his greatest work: "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
Jane Austen is beloved by generations of readers, both male and female, and it didn't take a college education for her to attain all her literary success. Although, Jane attended school in Oxford, she ended up leaving at the age of 11 to be homeschooled by her father. Austen went on to write six novels and twenty-nine fictional works. You probably know her from titles like "Pride & Prejudice," "Emma," and "Sense and Sensibility."
Despite the fact that she has over thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities around the world, Maya Angelou never attained a college degree. She received a scholarship to San Francisco's Labor School for drama and dance, but eventually dropped out to become a cable car conductor. Her over 60 works, including poems, autobiographies, essays, children's books, plays, and screenplays, have found a worldwide audience.
Before he wrote the famous "Girl With a Dragon Tattoo" series, Larrson was a hard-working journalist and magazine editor at Expo. Though he didn't live to see the phenomenal success of his trilogy, Larrson was already an accomplished journalist in Sweden. His books have been adapted into films in both Sweden and the U.S. Larrson died from a heart attack in 2004.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald is well known for works like "The Great Gatsby" and "The Beautiful and the Damned," but not many people know that Fitzgerald never received a degree. He attended Princeton University in 1913, but never finished. Although he was immensely involved in the university's writing community, he neglected the rest of his university coursework. Fitzgerald was placed on academic probation by the university and dropped out in 1917 to join the U.S. Army during WWI.
Is writing a gift, or is it something that must be studied? Each writer is different in their styles and techniques, so, if you ask me, there is no universal answer to that question.
Nancy Wood is a freelance education writer. Nancy loves writing about education trends and often muses about what the classroom of tomorrow will look like. She also gives tips to aspiring college students. Feel free to send some comments her way!