Do Writers Need College To Write?

Experts, Professionals, and College

“Do I have to have a college education to make it as a writer?”

“I haven’t finished high school. Can I still write?”

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I’ve done a lot of writing, but I couldn’t afford to go to college when I was younger . . .”

This question arrives in my e-mail box about once a week, worded in any of a dozen different ways. Some of the questioners tiptoe around it, embarrassed to ask, pretty sure they know what the answer is going to be, but hoping that it won’t. Sometimes I can feel the frustration and the pain, the barriers erected by poverty or lack of a diploma or lack of time. Some of the questioners are as young as thirteen, some have been as old a seventy.

All of them are pretty sure that formal education is the road to writing; that a degree will confer legitimacy to their words and their lives; that if they could just get more schooling, publishers’ doors would open.

They’ve been brainwashed by experts, by a system designed to create people who fit neatly into categories like ‘accountant’ and ‘nurse’ and ‘manager’. They’ve been trained to believe that the best education is an education that comes from sitting passively in a desk in an overcrowded room, being talked at by an expert.

Obviously, experts have gone to a great deal of trouble to make sure their potential customers (and perhaps you) believed this. They’ve tried to get employers to make grades the basis for hiring — a move most employers have so far been bright enough to refuse. They have managed to close many fields to anyone who hasn’t sat in the box like a good little drone for sixteen years or more.

You now have to have a degree to be an architect, a doctor, a teacher, or an engineer. Experts are trying to make sure you have to have a degree to become an RN. They’d also prefer that you had to have a degree in order to be a social worker, respiratory therapist, an interior decorator . . . and sooner or later, when they make degrees mandatory to those fields, I imagine they’ll get to work on truckers and plumbers and bakers and hairdressers. College-educated experts are trying to close every field, because college education is big, pricey business, and the more people that have to go through it, the more money the experts make.

And if you think I’m full of shit here, and that people really do need college educations before going out and doing great things, consider this — the gothic cathedrals, the pyramids, and the Roman roads and aqueducts were designed and built by men who did not have college educations. Michaelangelo did not have a college degree, nor did Leonardo da Vinci. Thomas Edison didn’t. Neither did Mark Twain (though he was granted honorary degrees in later life.) All of these people were professionals. None of them were experts.

Get your education from professionals, and always avoid experts.

An expert is somebody with a degree. The degree doesn’t mean he knows how to do what he’s an expert at — he might have absolutely no practical experience. But he has the degree, which confers on him the right to impress other people with his accomplishment (which was the getting of the degree), and to get paid for his expert opinions. An expert gets paid by third parties — his work is never placed in the open market where it will either sink or swim on its own merit. Experts earn more money and more security by conforming — if they conform for a long enough time without annoying anyone or doing anything unexpected, they can earn higher positions or, in college systems, tenure. Therefore, in an expert system, the talented, the challenging and the brash are weeded out, and the inoffensive mediocre remain. Many college professors are experts.

A professional is someone who makes a living working in the field in question. A professional architect designs and builds houses for clients. A professional hairdresser cuts and styles hair for clients. A professional writer writes stories, articles, or books for readers. All of these people get paid by the people who are direct consumers of their work. If they do bad work, they don’t get paid. The open market will weed out the bad professionals, so the ones who have been around for a while and who are still working are probably worth learning from.

What I learned from two years of nursing school at a community college was primarily political — “Get involved in your local chapter of the North Carolina Nursing Association, fight to keep the ANA from making a bachelor’s degree the entry level for an RN, don’t stand up when doctors come into the nurses’ station or give them your seat.” I learned some basics on patient care, too — but I didn’t really learn to be a nurse until I was out in the field working with other nurses. They were the ones who said, “Look, you see somebody who comes in looking like that, don’t wait for the doctor to get here before you stick O2 on him and order a twelve-lead. Just do it. And break out the D5W and start a microdrip IV right away, too. And for godsake, make sure the crash cart is ready and the paddles are warmed up.”

In writing, too, I learned the things I needed to know about the profession from a brief apprenticeship with Mercedes Lackey and another with Stephen Leigh. From Stephen, I learned the nuts and bolts of writing: 1. Avoid passive voice, 2. Use active verbs, 3. Eliminate most adjectives and adverbs, 4. Use concrete detail, 5. Tell a story worth telling, 6. Know your characters. From Misty, I learned how to be a professional — and that I learned from watching her. She came home from a full day of work and went straight into her office and wrote her ten pages . . . every day, no matter what kind of a day she’d had. Only when she’d done that did she come out and hang out. She was invariably polite and friendly to her agent, her editors, her publishers, and her fans. She worked on ideas for one project while writing another. She didn’t have a shit fit about having to do rewrites — she just did them. She hit her deadlines. She wrote stories she wanted to write.

There. I’ve just given you a complete apprenticeship in writing. You have everything you need to know to become a professional writer, and it took you a couple of minutes of your time and didn’t cost you a penny. The rest of being a professional writer is writing — sitting down and putting words on a page, one after another after another.

If you want to pay $40,000 or $60,000 or $200,000 or whatever for a college education, you can do that, and perhaps you’ll even have one or two professors in your program who are actually working as writers. They aren’t doing it full time, of course, because if they were, they wouldn’t be supplementing their income by teaching, so you won’t be able to model a full-time writer by watching them. You’ll have to spend a lot of time doing things that have no relationship to what you want to do with your life. And you need to remember that most people who go to college to become writers don’t. They find their focus shifted to education, or business, and they give up on their dream. College educations are designed by conformists to create conformists. Even those colleges which point to their radical stance and avante garde teaching are creating students who conform to their mold — their sort of radicals, their sort of avante garde. Students in college have to earn the approval of their teachers in order to get their grades and graduate. And you don’t learn anything new if your main goal in life is seeking the approval of experts.

If you’re looking at writing as a career, you’re looking at a future of tremendous freedom. You can do what you want to do with your life, and publishers and editors and readers don’t ask if you have a degree, and don’t care if you have a degree. They only care that you can put good words on a page, and that you can tell a story. They’ll pay you well if you can do those two things — and you can learn to do them without a college education, without a high school education, without having spent a day in your life locked behind the walls of a classroom.

You’ll learn to write if you teach yourself. Put yourself in situations where you can learn new things from the people who actually do them. Hang out with policemen and painters and long-distance runners and carpenters. Get them to show you the tricks of their trade. Learn how to build a stained glass window, how to paddle a canoe, how to swim, how to bait your own hook and tie your own flies and how to identify the flowers and shrubs and trees native to your region. Grow a garden. Paint your own house and fix your own leaky faucet. Go camping with a couple of outdoorsy friends. Read lots and lots and lots of good books. Read fiction, read non-fiction. Especially read lots of books about complicated subjects written for the intelligent layman.

Never, never pick up a textbook — textbooks are worthless. They’re politically correct pablum designed to spoonfeed tiny bits of information to people who aren’t interested in the subject matter without offending those people’s parents. Anything designed with being inoffensive as its primary goal isn’t going to be worth your time — life itself is pretty offensive, ending as it does with death.

And while you’re doing all this reading and self-educating, keep writing. Have the guts to believe in yourself, have the guts to ignore the experts who want your money, have the guts to take a chance on making your dream a reality. You can do it.

Am I sure?

Yes, I am.

You see, I’m a full-time professional writer, and I don’t have a college education either.


NOTE: I offer a comprehensive introductory class based on my fiction-writing and publishing experience. It’s called How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t SUCK, and it is no-strings-attached FREE, including a private classroom, downloadable lessons, and a friendly, well-moderated forum where you can work with other students. I hope you’ll try it out.



48 responses to “Do Writers Need College To Write?”

  1. Mollie Lyon Avatar

    I am an RN of forty years- diploma school, thank you, very much. I always wanted to be a writer and one day about ten years ago, said, “I am a writer.” I did have to keep my nursing career, but it enhances my writing.
    I am curious. It sounds like you left nursing. I found your site today, so I am still perusing it.
    I couldn’t agree more about the college education. The most important lesson is S.O.C. and I don’t mean Start of Care. Writing. Writing. Writing.
    After a period of darkness, I emerge again to write professionally. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    1. Mollie Lyon Avatar

      I am also on Medium. My muse now comes from being “Miss” as a nurse technician at a high school.

    2. Holly Avatar

      Hi, Mollie.

      I have a two-year Associate Degree. And I was the weekend house supervisor at a small hospital in South Carolina one weekend when we had young kids come in, both being coded. And those kids (the same age difference as my two, with an older girl and a younger boy like mine) did not survive.

      That day changed me. I realized that me being home for my kids could literally be a matter of life and death — and while it took me seven years and change from that day to go from nurse to full-time stay-at-home divorced-mom-who-writes-novels , it turned out that my being at home for them was the thing that saved both of them.

      My gut had been right. So… yeah. I left nursing. I loved it, and when I got my ACLS certification, I just kept thinking of how much I was going to miss the work. And I do miss the work, even now. It was hard, it was grim, it was a dirty job… but I never, ever went to work thinking that what I did didn’t matter.

      Staying home just turned out to matter more.

      Let me know how the writing goes. I’ll be here.

  2. Roxie Avatar

    I started a creative writing course and withdrew in the second week. The reason? We were given a piece of narrative text we had to analyse and de-construct. The magic suddenly went and I realised that if I were to proceed with the course, all my magic would also disappear. I wasn’t reluctant to withdraw. I raced to do so!

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Writing fiction is not about analyzing and dissecting fiction by other writers. That process creates teachers who teach fiction. It doesn’t create writers who write it. You did well to flee.

  3. Tammy Rabideau Avatar
    Tammy Rabideau

    Thank you for this article. Very useful information.

  4. DAVID Brent LARSON Avatar

    I have had many careers with no college degree. I have also hit the educational ceiling in a few of them.

    Right now, I would almost take a creative writing course [Tim Waggoner, author of Nekropolis teaches at the local community college] just to have someone read and critique my work.

    I had some agents give great feedback, and I revised accordingly, but that was a decade ago.

    The rule of getting what you paid for seems to hold true in regard to beta readers. If someone will read your work in exchange for having you read over theirs, I find they are usually worse writers than I am.

    Naturally, those who know how to write well and what to look for have no time unless you are willing to pay for it.

    I guess I am waiting for READERS MEET WRITERS to go active?

    1. Holly Avatar

      That’s still on hold because I can only do big work on one project at a time, and is STILL not out of beta. It’s a case of one person designing enterprise-level software, and one person building it. It’s taking longer than either of us had imagined.

  5. Thomas Avatar

    Holly, You are an inspiration! Thank You.

  6. Lynn OBrien Avatar
    Lynn OBrien

    Wow what a lot of interesting and appreciative comments triggered by this article. Now I will tell a cautionary tale. I did well at school and could have attended university. Instead I attended Teacher’s College. (In my country they have now combined both establishments of higher learning) I am a qualified Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages. I love words and have great knowledge of them. After writing affidavits, teaching in many areas, provided support for people doing assignments for their higher learning courses, had a father who had been in theatre who thought he knew every word in the English language and I competed with him. I became a walking dictionary and have always been asked to spell problematic words for family members(too lazy to use a dictionary). So then I wrote a book! Did I? Yes. Could I? No. What a shock to find out I write writenese with words no one has heard of, no one can read or would even want to. Not to mention stage direction detail ad nauseum. One mentor who specializes in writing said to me it would be interesting for me to consider how being an English teacher has impacted on my writing. It was not a compliment. So now with all I have unlearnt and relearned about writing I am doing a complete overhaul of my story. Degrees are a disadvantage 100% I hope this inspires those who doubt themselves.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Formal English has no place in fiction — and the distancing of “one” and keeping apart from your subject matter doesn’t either.

      All of us who learned the careful English of school designed for the writing of term papers and the getting of As had to unlearn all of that before we could begin to sell our fiction. So… yes. What you said.

  7. Alyssa Avatar

    I think school is surely helpful for learning the technical aspects of writing (eg. grammar), but the actual art of writing? Meh… I guess it can be good for learning the basics but mastery is only achieved through practice.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Agreed. And most college writing programs teach a lot of bad habits that writers who want to do this for a living have to unlearn in order to succeed.

      1. Anita Cline Avatar
        Anita Cline

        Such as? What are some things that the educated writer has to unlearn in order to be successful at professional writing? This is an incredibly interesting conversation, but it is extremely biased, so I’m wondering what specifically one would have to unlearn.

  8. April Avatar

    The flow of this article is beautiful. I’m very interested in the courses you offer. Thank you for helping to guide and reassure me at a critical juncture.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      I’m delighted you found it helpful. And I wish you great success with your writing.

  9. Mbalenhle Zulu Avatar
    Mbalenhle Zulu

    I’m South African. Unless you are a rapper around here, there isn’t much you can do without a collage education. Even writing seems like an impossibility. Most South African published works are very derivative. Unless you’re writing a legends biography or a soap opera script, you are writing from what you have learned in college about writers from all over the world and those people know absolutely nothing about life here. Black parents around here sincerely believe you will amount to nothing without a degree… So I went to college after high school to study copywriting. This school is soaking up all that both my parents are worth but they don’t mind cause they believe in this success dichotomy… “Degree equals stability,no education a lifetime of poverty and disappointment.”
    I’m miserable here, I thought I’d learn how to write but I’m only learning how to advertise. I suck at advertising, I don’t care about brands. I care about words, books, stories, life in my township and putting on paper. My parents will never understand my wanting to quit school to peruse a writing career, especially with the way things are for a middle class black girl in my country. I’m failing miserably at school because of my lack of interest but I’m still here because don’t know what else to do. I had a miscarriage last week, turned me into a miserable sod but I’ve been writing non stop ever since. I’m so consumed in it that I’ve missed two assignments already. I won’t be able to make it through school… I’ve decided to quit dispite all my fears and the disgrace it will cause my family. This article feels like my lifeline. I know I can make it now as a writer without a degree. Writing is all there is to it, and that’s what I was born for, I’m convinced. Thank you for this, it’s really given hope. I won’t tell my parents about leaving school until I’ve written a punishable manuscript. I hope for the best for us all who’ve found home in this beautiful art form.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Hugs, and I’m really sorry. That sounds awful. If it helps, I offer a free flash fiction class here, and some really inexpensive (under $10 US) classes on plotting, character creation, scene building, worldbuilding, culture building, and language building here. Scroll down past the expensive stuff at the top.

      Community membership is free, too, and there are a ton of writers in the community who would be happy to help you. I have a great bunch of writers in there, superb moderators, and I’m in there myself as I’m able.

      Most parents in the US also believe a college education is the only way their kids will succeed (in spite of the fact that massive numbers of college grads graduate with massive debt and end up working retail because their college educations don’t translate to real jobs.

      Luckily for me, my folks couldn’t afford to send me, and I wasn’t willing to incur massive debt to go.

  10. Colleen Avatar

    I agree with the fact that no amount of school is going to make you creative. You either have something to say and have a story or you don’t. The problem mainly comes from after you write a brilliant piece where do you take it? You use to be able to send unsolicited scripts to producers or places like the BBC, all of that has been stopped now. These windows of small opportunities are slowly can currently put a script up on amazon studios, but what are the odds that they will pick you script up? These days you need a entertainment lawyer and an agent and it is hard to get a agent. So where do we go after a finished script? Thanks you x

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      I’ve never had any desire to work in Hollywood, and don’t write scripts, so this part of the industry is completely beyond my area of expertise. You’ll have to ask someone who knows the business.

  11. Tess Laura Avatar
    Tess Laura

    Hi! Thank you for writing this article. It really does help. I’m here because I’m not a fan of school. Never was. I never enjoyed the system that it is today because of what it is. The teachers are measuring our intelligence based on tests and quiz scores. It’s also very discouraging when your sitting around people who get straight A’s all the time and you don’t. I’ve always enjoyed writing. I would like to become an author. What I’m thinking of are the connections that colleges and universities have that could get you through the doors to become a professional writer or author. I’m just 19 years old and I don’t want to be in debt till I’m 40 and start my dreams there.

    I’m writing to you because I’m wondering on how you could really get your foot into the door of becoming an author like J.K. Rowling. There are many scams out there who just want your money. So, I’m just wondering if you have any ideas on who’s real and who’s not. Also, any tips of beginning your first book? And how to get your book published the right way without attending college? Thanks for taking time out of your day for reading this. I really appreciate it!

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Work your way down the sidebar of this page. Read every article. I’ve already answered your questions, created free workshops you can use to improve your writing, and have demonstrated through my own life that writing for a living is more of a reason to avoid college than to attend it.

      As for J.K. Rowling — you can’t be like her. And if publishers had any clue whatsoever for how to replicate what she did, every writer would sell like her. Publishers are utterly clueless about this.

      Write because you love the work. Learn as much about the process and the professionalism as you can on your own. Use the resources on this site to learn how to improve and sell your work.

      This is the best job in the world… IF YOU LIKE THE WORK. But it is work. Lots of it. And I needed seven years of working for no pay while I learned the job before I sold anything. This is not easy, is not a fast path to riches. It’s a job, and has to be approached as one.

      If you want to go deeper, with classes that include worksheets, forums, other writers to ask for help (including me), my writer site is here:, and whatever classes I’m currently offering are available here:

  12. Margaret Grant Avatar
    Margaret Grant

    Thanks for your help. Where is the info on your classes?

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      Hi, Margaret. Free workshops and help are here, in the sidebar on this page:

      My classes are here:

  13. Daamini Avatar

    I m doing my graduation in the field of science(medical) but i want to become writer. I want to write hindi poetry. I also write shyaris in hundi and post as my status and i get appreciation from my friends but i dont know what to do further. Plz help .

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      I’m not familiar with markets outside of the US. What I know of American markets may or may not apply, but poetry in the US will generally pay you enough to feed a cat. Occasionally. If it’s bumming food off the neighbors on the side.

      Outside the US, it may attract more readers and more respect. Here, there’s a reason why I tack mine into stories, or just post it for free on my website.

      If you’re writing just it just for the joy of the work — which is what I do — then it makes a nice break from medical work, and can give you a place to be someone your co-workers don’t see.

  14. Lorrie Dawson Avatar
    Lorrie Dawson

    I am really great full for the article you wrote. I am 33 and very terrified of college. The reason being, I almost failed my senior year. I love to write, and often my characters form a life of there own. I believe my job is to tell their story. I often tell people that if they could see what is in my head they would have me committed. My only question is beside just writing, what else do I need. You mentioned a agent, editor, and publisher. How do I obtain these things?

    1. Holly Avatar

      If you look at the sidebar (or if you’re on a phone, at the very bottom), you’ll find that I have about 100,000 words of free articles that answer these questions and a lot of others.

  15. Molly C. Avatar
    Molly C.

    I am a 15 year old who wants to become a writer. The school that I’m currently going to does not make me happy and it’s probably one of the hardest schools I have ever been to since it’s an IB school. I don’t have a lot of friends there and I’m always reserved and shy. It’s weird because my English teacher once said that if you’re a good speaker, then you’re a good writer. I never believed that because everyone is different and most introverts are great writers. For example, John Green and Thomas Jefferson. I have to say, I always get caught up in my words when I talk and my mind usually goes blank which causes me to stutter. But when I write, my imagination goes free and tend to create such good sentences with forms of imagery, personification, etc..
    This makes me want to pursue my dream to become an author but I was so worried about school becuase I don’t have the best grades and homework is so time consuming. I was afraid that I would never have time to write because I’m currently writing a book. ( I started this summer while I visited England and France. ) I was afraid that colleges won’t accept me if my grades will always be low. I don’t want to disappoint my parents and they usually get mad if I make bad grades. So I decided to do research and figure out whether or not college is required to become an author. I found your article and to my relief, it’s not. Your words made me inspired to continue my dream to become an author and it makes me feel so much better to know that not all authors went to college. I know I should still do good in school but it feels like I should pay more attention to what I want to do later on in life. Thank you!

    1. Holly Avatar

      …my English teacher once said that if you’re a good speaker, then you’re a good writer.
      Absolutely false. You’re right, and your teacher is dead wrong.

      Many, many writers are introverts who live inside their heads, and express themselves through their fingers, either by typing or handwriting.

      Even those of us who ended up doing some public speaking frequently find it daunting and uncomfortable.

      Figure, the job description for writer is this:

      • Sit in a room by yourself.
      • Think up weird and interesting stuff.
      • Type it until it’s done.
      • Find the parts in the story that are good and save them, while identifying the parts of the story that suck, (which you change or remove).
      • Fix everything that’s broken.
      • Make sure that what you’ve written is meaningful to you.
      • Send the story out, or publish it yourself.
      • Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

      You can do this from the time you’re your age until the time you’re twice my age (I’m now 57) and if you keep your mind sharp, you can work until you die. Which is the reason, when I was in my early twenties, that I decided this was the job I wanted.

      NOWHERE in that job description, however, is “stand up in front of people and be interesting.”

  16. Chris Avatar

    This article is refreshing. I’m 33, married with 6 beautiful children, and college is an impossibility for me for sure. Knowing there’s still hope of putting my stories out there for readers is energizing. My wife and I have been bouncing stories around since before we were married 12 years ago, and now that I’ve accepted that college simply won’t happen I can focus my energy on doing what I’ve always wanted to: writing. Thanks for this.

    1. Kalah Hewitt Avatar
      Kalah Hewitt

      This calms my soul! I am a 20 year old mother from california. I have a total of 5 books ive written and want to get published not for money but for my love of writing and for the love of a reader who likes my novels. My books arent small either. They are quite long and i have worked on two of them since i was 15. I dont have the money for a degree in english lit or anything else. The only thing i got from college was a diploma to be a medical assistant taking a 9 month course. However, being a writer is my dream. It never stopped me to know that becoming an author is detailed and hard work. Now i only wish to publish and write more and more and more. I dont just write a certain genre i love to fiddle around and see wgat my imagination can create. I write as i go. Sometimes i look back and realize that i write alot in such a short time. I spend 4 to 5 hours for 2 days doing nothing but brainstorming and rechecking my paragraphs. I want to be sure it fits just right. For the rest of those 5 days i take 2 hours to write. I just cant get enough! I love to write!!

  17. Diogo Almeida Avatar
    Diogo Almeida

    Hi there! I loved your post.
    I am a portuguese 19 year old and I write a lot, I´m now finishing my first fantasy novel but I have some questions.
    I surely want to be a full time writer, and I write everyday as well as read. But I got into a Journalism degree (1000 euros a year) so that I could buy myself some time, but I’m not really investing in it, because my parents put a lot of pressure for me to know what I want to do with my life. And now I do, but they think it’s just another wave.
    I’m living with my dad, he is a 74 year old man, and I feel really bad for absorbing his money, and doing what he thinks is nothing.
    If you could advise me I would thank you.

    1. Holly Avatar

      “Buying time” is exactly what you have to do. Fiction very rarely pays for itself at the beginning, and you need to write regularly while also earning money. I worked as a nurse for ten years while I was teaching myself to write publishable fiction.

      A writing job, however, is a lot less likely to leave you wanting to write fiction after work. I knew a lot of journalists who wanted to write fiction, but who never did, because when they were done writing all day, the last thing they wanted to do was go home and work at night.

      Jobs that pay you for your muscles allow you to develop stories in your head while you’re working, and go home and write them at night. Jobs that require a great deal of thought are less helpful to an eventual career as a novelist. Nursing wasn’t ideal, in that it required a lot of thinking, and most days I got very little writing done when I got home.

      I might have been publishable faster if I’d been working as a cashier.

  18. Gabriel Avatar

    I’m 16 years old and I recently dropped out of high school because I was caught with marijuana. I didn’t feel like going back to another one of those hell holes with the brick walls and the under qualified asshats who preach from a page. I want to be a writer. I write pages of memoirs of my life and nostalgic moments. This page gave me hope that I don’t need to go back if I write and publish one day. Thank you for your inspiration!

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      You can make it happen. What you have to do to make it happen is write every day, read good books to understand what makes them good, read awful books to understand what makes them better, and apply what you learn to what you create.

  19. Laura W-A Avatar
    Laura W-A

    I’m taking most of your classes (I may be missing a couple), and I’m so glad I read this. I listened to some random YouTube lectures tonight, and ended up thinking maybe I should go back to school. I did that for a few semesters the last two years, but it drained my savings. Ironically, the most expensive was a two-week writing workshop, because I had to leave my work assignment for three weeks… Anyway, I’m glad I read this. I don’t need a diploma*, like the Wizard handed the Scarecrow. I just need to keep writing and listening to people like you. 🙂

    *I can’t remember what the Wizard called it – a testimonial, maybe?

  20. Lexi Avatar

    I am 18. I am graduating this Friday. I am the second child of six.The oldest girl, the mother hen so to say. I am the first girl on my father’s side in forty-seven years. My brother is a drop out, so is my younger sister. My parents expect so much of me considering there is only a hand full of relatives on both sides who actually got an education and wasn’t pregnant by the time they were fifteen. I want to make my mama proud because she’s worked hard to make life easy for me and my siblings. I don’t have money for college. I barely have money for a good meal at times, but me and my family have survived these troubled years and we’ve fought through. They expect me to become this “family legend” and when I told them back my freshman year I decided on my career path, my mama never looked prouder. I wanted to be a lawyer. All through high school I done research on law schools, took notes on what it would take for some small town, poor girl like me to make it big in a profession as that. I finished school back in January and as I was finishing up my paper work, my guidance counselor basically told me my test and academic scores weren’t good enough to become a lawyer. He said no school would even touch me with how low my ACT score was. It was a seventeen. I’m not stupid at all, I’m honestly very intelligent, they just expect so much for us these days. I’ve always been doubted by my peers and even some adults as well. I never, even as a child with the dificulties I faced, gave up. I like to prove people wrong, the ones who belittle me. Around the time I was supposed to apply to school, I hesitated. Not because of what my counselor said, but because I actually started thinking about it. I don’t want to become a lawyer who drones over their work. Who eventually become a zombie. I have an open personality. I’m full of energy and my friends consider me outgoing. I love the person I am, but I feel like if I become a lawyer I wouldn’t be able to express myself and show other people who I am. Even when I was little, during stressful times, I wrote. I wrote songs and poems and stories. I still to this day do that. Hell, I write down everything. English has always been my favorite and best subject and now that it’s almost time for me to be somebody, someone better, I’ve decided I want to write. I want to tell my beautiful and tragic stories. I want to bring hope and sorrow into my reader as my favorite books and authors have done to me. My parents don’t know about my career change and I’m not sure how they’ll handle it, but it makes me happy. I was just worried about what college I should look for to go to, and what kind of major and minor I need. Thanks to this article, I feel relieved because I don’t have the money for college, I have nothing saved up. I just love day by day. So thank for this, it’s gave me hope and right now I feel like I’m unstoppable.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      I have a free class that helps folks create salable short stories, with the object being to submit them to places that take very short fiction, or to put them into collections and put them on sale.

      The free flash fiction class is here.

      Good luck. I grew up in trailer parks and on mission fields, and I know first-hand about college being an impossibility. Writing isn’t.

      1. Lexi Avatar

        Thank you!

  21. Palkichu Avatar

    thx for advice I needed to see do you need to graduate from a school to be a writer so i can tell them this at my show n tell 😀

  22. Dot Avatar

    So glad I came across this article. Just plain speak – so refreshing – off to explore your website – thanks Holly .

  23. Brian Avatar


    Thank you for your honest opinion. Well said! I’m actually, kinda glad I wasn’t able to finish college… I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

  24. don Avatar

    very informative and inspiring.cuts through the B.S.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Thanks. 😀

      1. Gregory Wright Avatar
        Gregory Wright

        I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I am 17 and I know what it takes. But I don’t know who to trust. I try to sneak my writing because I normally get it taken away. But my birthdays coming up, and I wish I could be a full-time writer. I wish I could. But I know what my worker and my mom and my friends will say. They will all judge me, and say. “Get an education.” But I’m not. I don’t know what to do.

        1. Holly Lisle Avatar
          Holly Lisle

          I worked hard jobs while teaching myself to write. It can be done. It takes work, and dedication, and a willingness to not do a lot of other things that are more fun.

          But you can get where you want to be from where you are, and you can become who you want to become if you identify who that is, and then take the steps to become that man.

          1. Holly Lisle Avatar
            Holly Lisle

            Glad you made it, too. 😀

Leave a Reply to Colleen Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x