Basic question, but one that some of us ask ourselves:
Do you need to go to college and get a degree in English or Creative Writing to be a successful writer?
Though it’s probably an extremely good idea, maybe even a necessity, to get a degree in English/Creative Writing if you want to do freelance work like I do, either as a freelance editor, ghostwriter, or any other kind of writing. This is kind of ‘well duh,’ because people need to have a reason to trust you enough to know what you’re doing before they start throwing money at you. Pretty much any job outside of writing books, whether it be an editor or journalist, are going to require you to know your stuff. You don’t get paid just for flapping your mouth.
Now, while college isn’t necessary to becoming a successful, or even a skillful, writer, education is a must, though most of the things that writer’s need to know in order to be either competent or good can be self-taught. We teach ourselves styles of writing by reading the books we love, and we can teach ourselves how to self-edit or refine our art by reading books written for the sole purpose of teaching the writer to do these things for themselves.
That being said, a college education by no means hurts. Education is education, and knowledge is knowledge. However way you get it is all good, and those who will be looking at your query letters are probably not going to be looking for whether or not you got an English degree or not.
Other well to do places to find knowledge in becoming the writer you want to be can be found in podcasts (I, personally, recommend Writing Excuses), writer’s conferences, and the library. Some books I have found useful myself are:
“On Writing,” by Stephen King
“Elements of Style,” by E.B. White and William Strunk Jr.
“Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” by Renni Browne and Dave King
“How Fiction Works,” by James Wood
And an overall intriguing read, “I is an Other,” by James Geary
Though, as a side note, I would have never found 4 out of five of these books if it hadn’t been to good podcasts and a sarcastic, Dune loving Creative Writing professor.
(I put ‘very’ too much in my writing…ugh. One of the biggest no-no words. I stink.)