Ready for the World: The Only Option Pt. 1

On Monday, I had the joy of talking with Selene Yang, a senior majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience with a minor in Creative Writing. It was one of those long conversations where we got carried away and explored some unexpected topics, so I’m splitting this interview up into two parts. This week is about Selene and her personal journey with creative writing. Next week, we discuss “Writing Twitter.” Stay tuned.

Benefits to Sharing Your Writing

Sometimes, sharing our own writing—especially with other authors—can make us feel vulnerable. The process of writing can sometimes feel like a laborious job and an emotional roller coaster, let alone sharing it with others. We don’t want others to judge us or our writing in a negative way; however, sharing our writing can actually be beneficial for the craft and its process.

Good writing requires honesty even if the truth is not always what we want to hear. Even writing a blog post can be intimidating. I know not many people tend to comment on or read my posts, but the idea of others critiquing my thoughts and amplifying every small mistake I make is terrifying. Crafting an arts, ink. blog post is often a simple process of taking my thoughts on artsy things and expressing them in text. While it seems like a trivial matter, I’m still making myself vulnerable to judgment, criticism, and misinterpretation. With my creative writing such as short stories (or the poetry I occasionally dabble in, though I know nothing about poetry), the feeling of vulnerability is amplified.

With our own writing, it’s easy to become attached. While it’s great to be passionate about our work, it’s another thing to be so defensive we reject any possible critiques. On the flip side, perhaps a writer isn’t confident with their writing, and refuses to share in fear of rejection. Either way, sharing writing with others can be beneficial in gaining an outside view on the clarity and meaning of our words. It can be both a humbling and helpful experience when we are open to suggestions made by others. Maybe certain content makes sense to the writer but not to the readers; yet, there is no way of knowing this until getting feedback from others. Why does the character do this, or what did you mean when you said that? A fresh pair of eyes will be able to pick out flaws that the writer overlooked and note if the writing is convoluted or otherwise confusing. Overall, feedback can be extremely valuable in revealing what was good about the piece and what could be worked on.

I strive to grow in my writing skills and become competent at crafting creative works. It’s something I’m passionate about and would like to continue improving on after school. Why, then, would I readily subject the product of my blood, sweat, and tears to criticism? Well, writing is a balance between being critical in a constructive manner and submitting yourself to self-criticism. By sharing my writing, I’m letting others know what’s on my mind and in my heart, even if it’s through other characters or other worlds. The sharing process ultimately helps me with the examination and reexamination of my story ideas. Receiving feedback helps me discover the strengths and weaknesses of a piece in addition to the strengths and weaknesses I have as a writer overall.

Declaring a Creative Writing Major

“Would you like to declare today?”

 

While I’ve always wanted to either major or minor in creative writing, I didn’t expect to make it official when I walked in to my advising appointment today. Planning ahead, I had made the appointment to go over some questions I had regarding the major. My advisor and I went over distribution requirements, course options, and my track to graduation. At the end, since it was pretty evident that I was going to major in creative writing, my advisor asked if I was interested in declaring. A signature later, I was officially a creative writing major. I even received my major shirt, a purple spectacle that would let everyone know I’m majoring in creative writing through the Residential College.

The truth is, I am currently taking my first creative writing class this semester. So far, I’ve absolutely loved it, enough to declare my major on the topic; however, my love of reading and writing started long before my adventures here. Since I was young, I’ve loved to write stories. In middle school, I made it to 70+ pages in two or three novels each before abandoning them. Yet, as time went by, it became harder and harder to write for non-academic purposes. By my sophomore and junior years of high school, my creative writing practice stood at a halt.

Last year, becoming a blogger for arts, ink. was a great opportunity to start writing again. The work I feature here isn’t so much my normal writing as it is a stream of current thoughts, but it has still been a great creative outlet. This year, Narration (RCHUMS 220) has acted as a revival of sorts for my love of creative writing. While I’m pretty rusty, it feels good to write again. Whether reading other students’ work or creating short stories of my own, this class has been a nice balance to my other ones. Whenever I am feeling particularly stressed, working on homework for this class — of which typically entails crafting short stories, responding to other students’ work, or analyzing famous pieces — is something I look forward to. I’m very excited to take future courses surrounding literature and creative writing.

In majoring in creative writing, I’m pursuing a passion more than money. Believe me, I’ve heard plenty of comments regarding a creative writing major and the decision to pursue a “useless” or “unrealistic” degree. Sometimes, the same is also said about my other intended major, Sociology, though not quite to the same degree (people typically just don’t fully understand what it is or what students can do with it). I accept this as reality, but while I understand and appreciate where people are coming from, I also believe certain areas — such as creative expression and the humanities — might hold more merit than they are given credit for.

Even if not directly translated into a job, the skills I will develop though a creative writing major will be beneficial wherever I end up. I see the major as a unique opportunity to build skills not just for writing as a hobby, but for clear and efficient writing overall. Storytelling, critical analysis, and effective communication are just several skills gained through the major, not to mention persistence, initiative, and humility as individual traits. Throughout the years, creative writing has been a huge part of making the world a better place, and even if I don’t change the world with my writing, it will have impacted me for the better. Overall, I’m glad I declared my major today, and I’m ecstatic for what the major has to offer.

 

Why I Write

Power.

The undeniable assurance that I am a woman who has riches building in my veins, elements of the cosmos running through my blood, the pressure of the universes accumulating like the process of impure carbon turning to gleaming diamonds, the diamonds of words, of expression, of articulation. There is nothing in this world more powerful than a person who can speak and who has something worthwhile to say. There is nothing more powerful than an articulate woman. There is nothing more powerful than putting one word in front of the other, one sentence after another, building mosques and schools and homes and worlds with nothing but the faculties of my mind, the untarnished tools I was given at birth combined with centuries of human development. There is nothing more powerful than words.

Expression.

Where there is power, surely, it must come from something, and here is the secret of writing: that it takes the sticky, messy, confusing parts of human life– the conflicting emotions, the mundane routines, the war of evil and good– and gives it back in eloquence. It aims to understand, not merely as a means to an end, but just for the sake of the thing itself; writing aims to know, to untangle, to explore, to marvel at the gloriousness of life and living. To express what is in the heart, mind, soul, body can’t be an easy task, but when it is done and done well, it hits with the force of change. When it is done well, I’m sure the humanness of writing becomes utterly divine. Besides, in all different cultures of the world, hadn’t god spoken to his messengers? Speech is divine because it is an invention of man. The most powerful invention.

Beauty.

I know there are people that disagree with me, but beauty is the double-edged purpose of writing. There is more to words than mere aesthetics– there is argument. The beauty of words comes from their ability to cause real change in the world. I want to make a massacre of beauty and re-gift it as power– I want to burn the aesthete and use his ashes as fodder for the philosopher. I want to seize language by the reigns and shout at the mute: “Look at you, caged by your pragmatism, daily routines, your boorish practicality– how, if only you could speak, you would have been free.”