Why do I study biology instead of a writing degree?

Yup. This post is a day late. I’ve yet to purchase either time turner or Tardis, so such is my life.

Speaking of my life, what am I doing with it? I love stories above all else. I love to read and analyse and find patterns in plots and letters. People complain when we watch films together “Sonora, stop meta-watching”. So why am I not doing a literature degree? Or a creative writing degree? Or something “artsy”?

Well, here’s my rambling answer to that. If you’re currently trying to decide what to do with your life (i.e. what university degree to choose, or university versus all the million other things out there), then maybe my story will help you think about it.

First of all, I almost did do something artsy. I really wanted to go into theatre acting and briefly considered some sort of drama degree. Ever since starting a drama group when I was 14, I’ve loved to act. Something about standing on a stage in front of an audience and the energy in the air–I feel like I’m doing something meaningful. I feel like I’m making an impact. To me, acting is fiery in the way that writing prose is–you have your ideas, you have your paper, then it’s time to just go for it.

However, as tantalising as the RSC dream is, I didn’t want that to be my only path. If I’d taken it, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue science. Biology was a dream spawned from toddler-me poking at ants in the garden, watching vets stitch up wounds on horse legs, reading books by Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey. I’m the person who will happily spend hours watching a spider catch lacewings. I love everything artsy, but I can write and act and play music whilst doing a degree in biology. It just made sense.

Reason two is that I don’t know if I would have enjoyed a degree in writing. As much as I love to write, share, and analyse and write about what I’ve analysed (basically this entire blog), I’m not sure it would have suited me. When it comes to fiction, I’m a rulebreaker. I love the abstract, the grey areas, crossing the lines that all the How to Write books say “don’t cross”. I was afraid that doing a degree would have meant writing for someone in their ideal style. And I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed that.

Yes, in biology it’s similar. Part of essay writing is finding out what the lecturer who’s grading wants to see. Isn’t that similar in all aspects of learning? The traditional “five-part essays” and the “rollercoaster plot” and the “Figure legends must be written EXACTLY to the following criteria…” I don’t think this is wrong–we’re learning things because we want to contribute to society, and we’re humans. Humans love patterns. We like to predict what’s going to happen, to form a map in our heads. We love familiar sounding music and guessing the plot in dramas and not having to spend hours deciphering confusing graphs in scientific papers.

In a way, we’re all learning the ideal method to transfer our knowledge to those around us.

When I’m thinking about plot lines, that’s exactly what I’m doing too: looking for patterns to use myself.

The reason I didn’t do a writing degree is because I don’t want to be told what the patterns are and forced to accept them. I want to find them and test them. And maybe I would have loved being confronted with other opinions and discussing these issues in seminars, but my concern didn’t let me consider this. I didn’t want my degree to be me worried about stepping on people’s toes (Although, I have already done this in biology by discussing ethics in a heavily philosophical manner in a “scientific” essay about stem cells, and it was not appreciated…).

Besides, writing these blog posts for grades wouldn’t be fun at all! I much prefer sharing with all of you.

So, do I regret my choice? Absolutely not. Have a picture of my pet bugs:

Why am I studying biology? A rant that might help if you're trying to decide your future https://sonorahillsauthor.com/

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