Graduation season is once again upon us. And inevitably, the discussions start popping up on the major news sites about which degrees are worth the cost, which fields are hiring, etc., etc.
I actually have a degree in Elementary Education and a Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Am I working in either one of those fields? No and kinda. To understand this whole process, we’ll have to go back a little ways.
I took a semester (2 whole classes) of college right after high school…and was bored out of my freaking mind. I didn’t know what to do, took easy classes, had no direction, just plain didn’t want to be there. How I passed the classes, I don’t know. I can’t remember really doing any assignments, though I showed up for the tests.
Then life intervened. I got married, moved to a different town and after three years, decided I wanted to go back and try again. After much discussion, I signed up for three classes at the local college. This is a true story – my mother passed away halfway through the first day of my first class. No kidding. So again, I found myself dropping out of college, this time to help my dad take care of things.
Life continues to intervene. Divorce, dad passes, a few moves and working two jobs for a while to make ends meet. Every now and then I would write a little on the story I started after my mom passed. Most of it was hand written in a spiral notebook, where I had the house plan taped inside the front cover.
Fast forward a few years and I’m remarried, working ONE job (phew!) and the hubby finds out about my story. He sets me up, teaches me how to use Word, gives me a disk of my own and I start transferring all the handwritten scenes into a file. Daunting prospect for someone whose barely touched a personal computer before this point.
Not only does he push me to get the manuscript finished, but he starts pestering me about going back to school. Yes, dear, you pestered. 🙂 And I thank you for it.
Anyway, I slowly worked on the novel, but avoided the topic of school. After much discussion (again) and finally getting to a point where I was comfortable enough to go back to school, I enrolled in one online class during the summer session. It was a test to see if the format would work for me and how it all worked. I’ll tell you how it worked – fan-freaking-tastically.
Don’t get me wrong, I like being in a class where I can interact with others. For the most part, I learn concepts quickly. I learn, do the assignment, pass the test and am ready to move on. But I’m one of those learners that gets extremely frustrated by those who ask questions because they simply weren’t paying attention and are now freaking out close to test time because they failed to focus and are now holding the entire class hostage. Grr! Drives me insane!! So the online format was perfect for me. I could do the assignments when I wanted, get them turned in and move on without having to wait for someone else. That practice got me in trouble a few times in class because I sat working on the assignments instead of “listening” to the discussion in class (read: rehashing what I paid attention to the FIRST time you said it and am now doing the homework because I have a job to go to).
I lucked out in finding a school where I could work at my own pace. I finished 53 units in two semesters. No, that’s not a typo. Yes, that’s 29 units more than your average 24 units per year requirement. Online just clicked for me.
After graduating with the education degree, I was bored. I couldn’t get on with the local district. Luckily, my job held my position for me while I did the required 3 month student teaching portion of my degree, but I was bored. So I finished the novel that had been laying around gathering virtual dust. I “edited” it and started submitting it. *shudder* I apologize to those agents who saw that version. BUT the responses, or rather lack of, was what started pushing me toward really taking my writing seriously. I started looking at writing courses. I took a few online workshops but wasn’t sure how to apply the knowledge to my manuscript.
Finally, I found the degree plan at Regis University. There were a set of classes I had to take, but some of them were a ‘design your own syllabus’ type. The professors asked me what I wanted to get out of the classes. LOVED IT! They told me I had 7 years to finish my degree. I finished in 1.5 years. Why waste time?
So what does this meandering post have to do with anything? Here’s what. While I might not be teaching in a classroom, the work ethic and study habits I built as an adult college student translated into the discipline I needed to take my writing seriously. I learned how to research, how to decipher legitimate from bogus sources on the internet and I learned how to write. Even the hubby says my writing is drastically different now than when I first started-in a good way.
I work as an assistant to the accounting department head at my Evil Day Job **Thanks Raelyn for that description-I’ve completely stolen it!!** Accounting is the degree the hubby wanted me to get, which I fought tooth and nail against. The EDJ allows me to pay the bills while I pursue my writing. Everything finally came together at the beginning of this year. It may seem like everything is moving fast, but I’ve been at this for almost two decades now.
I’m still taking online workshops and I’ve looked at different college classes. I don’t think I’ll ever stop wanting to learn. Waiting until I was older helped me rediscover the love of learning I had as a child.
Basically, a degree is what you make of it. It may open new doors or even close a few, but it’s never a waste of time.
Have a great weekend everyone! Pics Tuesday of my very first book signing!