In another timeline where I’m probably very unsatisfied, I wouldn’t be attending art school. Before I landed on my current school, I was planning on registering at a college somewhere closer to my hometown in New Jersey. A sudden family move to Florida threw all my plans for college in the air, but the end result was more than I ever would have gotten in Jersey.
I’m currently a senior attending Ringling College of Art + Design, pursuing a degree in creative writing. You’re probably thinking, “Can’t you get that degree anywhere?” Not for the kind of writing I do.
I wanted to pursue writing because I knew there was a lot I wanted to accomplish. Novels, movies, TV shows, music — you name it, I wanted to do it. Above more traditional writing, I wanted to pursue writing for video games and comics.
I searched high and low all over Florida for the best creative writing programs, and not a single one of them offered classes that interested me. No matter where I went, it felt like each school was asking me, “Do you want to be a novelist, journalist or blogger?”
When I finally stumbled upon Ringling, creative writing hadn’t even started as a major yet. Even though I would be a part of the guinea pig class of 2020 for creative writing, the classes sounded extremely promising. Writing for video games, comic books, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, basically any genre or medium you can think of would be offered as classes. I was hooked, and I took a chance.
Before I go into the highs and lows of being a writer at art school, I want to emphasize a point that comes around every few months. Art school is not mandatory to becoming an artist. Art colleges are some of the most expensive schools in America, and most rarely offer scholarships. Not everyone can afford to attend an art institute, and this does not make you less of an artist.
My experience at Ringling has been both very up and very down. There have been days where I feel triumphant and proud of my work, and days where I feel I don’t fit in. Being part of the first traditional graduating class of writers at Ringling, I had to make a name for not only myself, but my major.
Over the course of my four years here I’ve had to prove writing is just as important as the other art forms at Ringling. I even needed convincing that what I was doing was art. In fact, I almost dropped out after two years because I felt I didn’t belong.
My junior year I found my stride, and dove deep into writing for games and comics, pushing aside all other mediums of writing. I found what I liked to make and I stuck with it. I also found a passion for traditional printmaking, which became a way for me to feel like a physical artist rather than one on a screen.
While every school has prerequisite classes before diving into what your major is all about, creative writing students jump into writing short stories their first semester of freshman year. A student’s first big art project is always challenging, but the writer you become on the other side is worth the hard work and effort.
I’ve been able to look back every semester at my projects and think, “Man, I could have done that better,” or “I would do that so differently now!” This isn’t a sign of regret, but of growing up and changing.
One of the advantages of writing at an art school is all the visual artists I’ve been able to collaborate with. Through illustration, animation and game art students, I’ve been able to see my writing come to life through art by working with students from other majors to make projects.
Another plus is how educationally diverse the major is. You want to be a novelist? Cool. You want to write movies? That’s cool too. We have six seniors in my class, and we’re all working in different mediums. There are two film scripts, one graphic novel, a non-fiction memoir, a sci-fi novel and a video game.
With writing, anything is possibly. This is the reason I chose this career. I’m able to plunge into other mediums and art forms whenever I want, and art school has allowed me to take the kinds of classes I need in order to get started in different mediums.
The downside to being in writing at art school is that we’re the mythical creature not a lot of people know about. I’ve met people who have thought I’m in every other major except for creative writing. The upside is that other students love to hear about the major, what we’re doing and how that works at art school. The problem is … the administration usually doesn’t.
While we are a newer major, there are majors younger than us that already have full labs. We’ve even grown to the point where creative writing is bigger than majors with entire buildings, and we’ve grown to become the biggest minor degree on campus. All of this growth and development, yet we still don’t have a lab — let alone a classroom dedicated to our major alone.
There is clearly an interest in writing at my school, but the lack of attention from the administration makes us feel invisible. I’ve been working towards fixing this, and making change happen, but it’s no easy road.
If you’re a writer interested in attending art school for your craft, I would say go for it: But be wary. Your art form may not be as respected as you would like it to be, but in reality there is writing in everything. Every piece of media needs a writer. You are needed, you are wanted and you are an artist no matter what anyone else says.