14 Literary Inspirations that Did Not Get a College Degree

There is a stigma which is programmed into us in this Western World that if we want to make anything of ourselves, we have to go to college.

I have been fighting that since I realized I was in a system. When I was about 15 I was cooking dinner, loathing that in the morning I would have to go to school again, do the same song and dance I do every day to get through the day, then come home, do homework, make food, and go to bed. Lather, rinse repeat.

This drove me nuts! I began to consider how much time is devoted to school – 13 years of our childhoods. It shocked me. All I could think was that this was the time that has the most development, that this is the time when I should be doing all those dangerous things because my bones are limber and will heal faster. This is the time I should be having fun and getting all my energy out. Why on earth would I swallow all that – stifle my creativity for an “appropriate time”, sit down and learn about things I couldn’t give a damn about? Why was I being forced to waste my childhood?

So, I rebelled. I skipped a lot of school. I figured out how much the minimum amount was that I would have to be around for me to get a passing grade and I did it. I even graduated too. But I did it on my terms, and with a pretty low GPA, purely for lack of attendance.

What is all of this getting to?

My goal was to be a writer. All I wanted in the world to do was to become a writer and write and travel. Write Write Write! Of course I had other ambitions, like being a linguist and an herbalist, but the core of what I needed in my life, and always have needed, has been writing.

Up until now, I have always said that I never needed college to write. After all, it’s just a piece of paper that will says, “Why yes, she can in fact put pen to paper and make some symbols. Now, she’s in a great deal of debt.” While I still believe the same, I am going to college to regain the focus I need and some inspiration. I know, it’s some pretty expensive inspiration, but never the less, I need it. I want to learn to look at the written word differently, learn different styles, and if nothing else, I want the experience.

The reason I do anything is purely because I want the experience. Experience in anything will help a writer go a long way. Experience = new perception, which equals variety in a writer’s work.

However, school is not necessarily the way for everyone. To help encourage the writer that refuses to play into the system (good for you!), I have compiled a list of encouragement – a list of writers that made their mark in history and the world without higher education.

14 literary inspirations

  • Charles Dickens
    Due to family money problems, his education halted at the age of 12
  • Harper Lee
    famous for that bit of work we all got to read and study in high school: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Augusten Burroughs
    Wanted to drop out of school at 13, and managed to by the age of 17. He even produced a piece that is the the process of becoming a film: Sellevision – though is mostly known for his memoir, Running With Scissors
  • Jack Kerouac
    On his way to sports stardom through football, he injured himself which put an end to it, causing him to drop out of school entirely.
  • Mark Twain
    Another example of a writer who was forced to drop out of school at a young age, Twain went to work for a printing company at the age of 12 to help with finances for the family.
  • George Bernard Shaw
    “Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parents.”
  • H.G. Wells
    He was pulled out of school at 11 to work for the family, however, went on to pull one of the greatest tricks on the public when War of the Worlds was released as a radio show.
  • Jack London
    Writer of Call of the Wild and White Fang, dropped out of school at 13 to pursue a variety of jobs.
  • Oprah Winfrey
    While she did make it all the way to college, she opted to drop out without completing her degree.
  • H.P. Lovecraft
    This writer was self taught and went on to create many of horror classics we now know including Call of Cthulu and Dagon, as well as the very philosophical piece, The Alchemist
  • Terry Pratchett
    “I didn’t go to university. Didn’t even finish A-levels. But I have sympathy for those who did.”
  • Ernest Hemingway
    A self-taught student, growing up he read everything he could. While his parents wanted him to attend college, he opted for being a reporter instead. Hemingway is of course known for his works Old Man and the Sea, The Garden of Eden, The Sun Also Rises, and The Torrents of Spring, to name a few.
  • Ray Bradbury
    Known for his science fiction work and some horror stories, he decided against college. “Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.” He wrote Something Wicked This Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451,  and had some of his stories played out in Tales From The Crypt
  • Alan Moore
    Creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta

This is an inspiring list of authors that neglected college education. There are ways of going about writing without the traditional tools (cheaper ways, too!). There are lists of other people in the media that also dropped out of college, if they went at all, including Mark Zuckerburg, Jim Carey, Brad Pitt, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs.

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