The Artist’s Inspiration

Being a writer, I am always looking for a sort of inspiration and depth; images that delve into the mind and explore the deepest desires within us all. This is exactly the reason I chose the piece Blank by Jasmine Hernandez as my favorite art piece. Not only does Blank split the idea of love open under a microscope, but the artist uses contrasting colors and vivid detail to engage the reader and tell a story no one else can. In it, I see the idea of human connection. The heart, which has always seemed to embody the emotions hiding within us, is in the exterior bringing into question a subtle battle between external and internal that I am too familiar with as a writer.

This conflict is what I always seek for in my writing. I use my character’s desires and needs to fuel the piece, allowing them to tell their own story, and that is what I feel that this piece does. I fell in love with this art for the same reason I fell in love with writing; having the ability to craft something new and give readers something to think about. Here we are viewing the struggle between an exterior world and interior emotions, which is both individual and universal, striving to strike a chord with all who see it.

I believe that the piece also represents Elan in this way as well. The art gives every person a voice by expressing the “heart” within us all, and I believe that this is also the mission of our literary magazine. We strive to make artists voices heard and express the emotions found within each and every one of them. As a team, we put a book into the world which holds something that cannot be recreated and is all new. After being on the Elan staff for almost three months now and finally experiencing what it feels like to upload a finalized issue, I can say that the book feels just like the heart in the piece. The art and everything in the book strive to evoke new emotions and with each twist and turn there is something lying under the surface you didn’t expect. To the staff, Elan is our heart and it is something which we hope to share externally in order to captivate an audience within.

I love this piece and Elan because they allow for the exploration into the self without confinement; they bring emotions to the forefront and speak not only about our emotions, but also the connection of our physical being and the things we feel.

Lexey Wilson, Junior Editor-in-Chief

Natural Insight in “Crossings”

Recently published in the Fall 2017 edition was “Crossings”, a story by Douglas Anderson writer Rafael Pursley. This whole edition, in particular, had a number of pieces which struck me deeply for their power in creating and enlivening images, bridging an emotional gap between the natural world around the more interior, personal conflicts. As an artist with a passion for science, particularly environmental and natural disciplines, I was thrilled to see such pieces filter through our reading process. “Crossings”, in particular, manages to sum up the distance, the closeness, the power of the natural world on our human lives often deemed entirely separate.

The range of imagery struck me from the first time I read “Crossings”. It has one of those near-perfect balances of the gritty, nasty and all too real of a mucky wood pond, but also the ethereal, the breathtaking of a solar eclipse. As someone who is constantly trying to fit her all-consuming connection to the natural world into her writing, I found the accuracy of these images exciting. It can be so difficult to represent both the beauty and the obnoxious about nature in writing. The story didn’t just use physical description, however, it fit the adjusting landscape into the conflict of the story. This was one of the most impressive qualities of all: managing to demonstrate a threaded-throughout dynamic and interaction with nature to a shifting personal dynamic. Too often, I find myself trapped in making nature one-dimensional. It’s either all beautiful, or all destructive. The ups and downs represented in “Crossings” were not only more accurate, but also managed to create a more real, immediate emotional conflict for the reader.

Within the story, a narrator explores their complex and changing feelings towards an old friend. The eclipse is a sort of climax to their tension filled relationship. Only when the two are set in the midst of something gorgeous can the narrator see in sharp relief the built separations between themselves and this person they aren’t sure whether to love or to hate. That eclipse isn’t just a random, outside factor. Much of the short fiction I read today possesses a sort of skepticism and mistrust of the world around us. Characters are doubtful of anything that is supposed to be beautiful, unwilling to see or believe in the reality in front of their eyes, and they rarely tend to change. “Crossings” seemed to catch this world, to understand it, without being isolated in this behavior or out of it. It recognized both sides, and in that, captured a growing cultural divide between the total immersion in a human-built world, and the need to exist in what is beyond human. I’m constantly thinking about this divide, trying to find ways to place my fiction on one ledge or the other, usually failing and landing somewhere in the easily categorized “nature” art. “Crossings” has inspired me, given me valuable insights into how to innovate my own fiction, my own attempts to capture a personal understanding of the world in my art.

In this way, “Crossings” represents Elan as well as any piece we’ve published. Elan, being a student literary magazine, is all about finding ways for young thinkers to express the world they inhabit, a world often forgotten because adults are the voices of our culture. By capturing some growing, new cultural divides which teenagers must try to navigate, “Crossings” speaks to the modern teenage experience, wrapped in skillful writing, lively use of imagery and insightful mixing of the emotional world and the physical world.

Ana Shaw, Senior Editor in Chief

The Rapture of Writing

It was towards the end of last school year when I lost my love for writing. All my pieces seemed lack-luster and dull, due to a combination of the persistent tiredness that usually rooted itself around all of the tests in May, and a lack of inspiration from a year of nonstop writing. I found myself hopelessly jotting down story after story and doing everything I could to finish out the year strong; I would make character maps and force myself to journal every day and endlessly research ways to regain what I had lost, however nothing seemed to work and once school ended, all of my efforts seemed useless and I gave up once and for all, taking the time off to stop stressing about what I was putting down on the page and focus more on relaxing.

The idea, in theory, seemed helpful, however the longer break I took, the more of a rift arose that, as time passed, produced a growing divide between my craft and I that wasn’t noticed until I tried to write again a few weeks later. I remember sitting in front of my computer screen for hours at a time, but eventually leaving the same word document blank, and far more uninviting than it had been when I first started. It felt hopeless and once again I gave up, deciding that I needed this break. That all that writing throughout the year had drained me and I needed more time. I had never once thought that perhaps my struggle came from my constant, invading thoughts and not the lack of creativity itself.

It was about a month after that, however when I was getting ready for a flight to Seattle with my stepmom, that my passion for writing began to spark up again.

I had heard so much about Seattle and how it was a city you can’t help fall in love with, a city crowded with graffiti and creativity and artwork. The image of watching the city move below me, as I sat on the balcony filling page after page with writing seemed more than inviting, so I decided to pack up all of my pens and hard-bound notebooks and my laptop to once and for all conquer my “writers block” and find the creative part of myself again.

It wasn’t until we were sitting at the airport, however, that I reached down into my carry-on bag to find my notebook and realized I had left that very book sitting on my bed at home after rearranging everything in my bag. Trying to problem solve in my head, and explaining the ordeal to my stepmom beside me, she introduced the idea of simply buying a notebook in one of the many airport stop-n-go shops we had passed along the way. The idea sounded senseless considering I had a very detailed organization system, but deciding to take a chance I made my way to the nearest stop, picked out a small red book and came back to my seat to just write. And I wrote. I wrote poems, and snippets of stories, and streams of consciousness, and character maps and everything I could think of. I wrote and wrote and wrote without stopping, not letting myself get in the way and not caring if the book tore or if coffee spilled on the pages or if the words smeared.

I realized that it was not that I had a lack of creativity or any form of “writers block,” but rather that I was overthinking everything I wrote and holding myself back. It was as if I had created a dam in my mind to stop all of the ideas and now it had just broken open again, making its way through my hand and onto paper. I realized then that writing has nothing to do with the tight constraints of how you write but more to do with finding that creative space your mind won’t let you into and diving in deep.

Since then I have found myself pursuing writing more and getting less frustrated when something doesn’t work out, and instead just moving on to something new and fresh. I journal every day and I read more often and I get random spurts of inspiration that lead to stocked up pieces on my computer and in my notebook, I look back on often. I’ve cleared my mind of harmful thoughts about what to write and how to go about writing and where to start, deciding to simply just let my mind wander and take me somewhere new every time.

I finally found the key to writing that I was looking for all along: imprecision.

Lexey Wilson, Junior Editor-in-Chief