Writing Like Me

james-baldwin-the-fire-next-timeAuthenticity: n. The quality of being authentic; genuineness

On my first day of Senior Fiction, my teacher asked me to write down my personal definition of this word. For a Monday, starting my final semester as a senior in high school, I thought this was pretty heavy duty thinking. But after sitting at my computer, watching my cursor disappear and reappear a million –well, more like seventeen- times.

To me, being authentic is what babies are: one-hundred percent human, one-hundred percent embedded in their emotions—what they feel precisely in a singular moment— and completely uninhibited by what others do. If a baby wants to cry, no amount of food or rocking or begging on one knee will stop them from being heard. That’s what telling an authentic story is like to me.

While reading James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, I found myself fluctuating between two extreme emotions: awe (the man is a philosophical genius and an incredible wordsmith) and a high level of uncomfort. One of my favorite quotes from this book is “The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality—for this touchstone can be only oneself.” It is always my greatest fear that I won’t tell a story honest, that I’ll sugarcoat a character or over exaggerate the plot.

Doubt is the number one killer of good writing and after four years of trying to find my own voice in my writing I completely understand why. To doubt your writing is to, by extension, doubt a part of yourself. There is no greater justice to telling a story than by telling it how you see fit for it to be told, and this is the best way to be sure that you will be proud of what you produce. To be authentic is tell all parts of a story— the beautiful, the ugly, the stuff your mother should never know about.

And in the end, that— the moment when you no longer fear what your voice has to say— is one of the most defining moment of a writers’ life.

-Shamiya Anderson, Nonfiction Editor 

Beginnings Aren’t Definitive.

imagesBeginnings are weird. They stare at you, straight in the eyes and say, “Yeah, I’m here,” and they either excite or frighten you. Recently I have been staring at a big beginning in my life: starting college. This beginning does not only mark the beginning of adulthood for me but also the end of high school, the place I have found myself as an artist. Beginnings are scary in that way. They are the start of something but the ending of another. I think that’s why I have such an odd feeling when I think about starting college. It’s beautifully bittersweet.

But every story has a beginning. Looking back on my writing, beginnings were never hard for me to write. If anything, the ending was hard. From the first day of freshman year I knew how to hook a reader with a quote or an interesting fact. I knew how to grab their attention with a character or scenario. I’m good at beginnings. Yet when I look at my future, I think of everything that is about to begin and I just turn into a big ball of anxiety. I can write the beginning of a poem or an article but I can’t write my own life.
It’s so frightening when you think about it, because in your life you have control over a certain amount of things but at the end of the day you are not the one in charge, you are at the mercy of the world around you. Recently I’ve started to think of my beginnings this way. When I sit down to write something I don’t want to follow that formula I’ve had for years. Frankly, that formula is boring and I only use it for English class.

Beginnings shouldn’t be generic, they should be interesting. In real life, beginnings happen all the time. High school doesn’t really happen until you meet the people that will shape your experience there for the next four years. The truth is, when I start college there will be a multitude of endings and a multitude of beginnings and I won’t even realize half of them are happening. So why should I write like I know when these things are happening?

Beginnings aren’t definitive. You can start something but it doesn’t begin there. There’s always something arbitrary in beginnings. So the best advice I can give you is to start writing from where the story really starts. The beginning is never simple. Let it be complex.

-Grace Green, Poetry Editor

Ushering in 2015

While we have been taking a break from Blogging over the Holiday season, the Elan staff would like to share a few of our New Year’s Resolutions with everyone. A new year brings with it new opportunities, new goals, and new writing to create and explore. What are some resolutions that you’ve made?

My New Year’s Resolution this year is to win the Batten Award Scholarship and not pay a single cent for college!                                                                                                                            -Mariah Abshire, Editor-in-Chief

I don’t know if this is weird, but this is my very first New Year’s Resolution, which is fitting because 2015 will be a start of something completely new for me: college. In the year 2015, I want to 1) figure out my future, 2) hold off Senioritis for as long as I can, and 3) be ready for anything!                                                                                                                                             -Shamiya Anderson, Creative Non-fiction Editor

I want to maintain relationships with people from school after I graduate and continue to write poetry.                                                                                                                                             -Taylor Austell, Layout and Design Editor

I want to continue to write after I graduate, and I want to devote more time to studying (math especially)!                                                                                                                                    -Sarah Buckman, Editor-in-Chief 

I have never been the person that made New Year’s Resolutions but I have decided to try something new this year. In this upcoming year I have decided to be happy, find my Zen. I want to keep a positive outlook on life despite anything bad that may happen in this upcoming year.                                                                                                                                         -Anna Dominguez, Junior Poetry Editor

My New Year’s Resolution this year is to write some bomb fiction next semester and meet Blake Griffin!                                                                                                                                            -Madison George, Social Media Editor 

This coming year, I hope to expand my writing into more personal endeavors. I’ve been slacking, in terms of writing outside of school, and I think it’s starting to take a toll on my overall enthusiasm for writing. I’m going to work on taking it back next year, and start to immerse myself in some writing that is really close to what I want to see coming from myself.                                                                                                                                                        -Ruvi Gonzalez, Junior Fiction Editor

I’ve never really stuck to my New Year’s Resolution but since this is my last year at home, why not stick to it? This year I’m going to get a job.                                                                        -Grace Green, Poetry Editor

It shouldn’t take a set date to make changes for the better. A New Year is a new opportunity, but so is a new day; acting on a decision to change should happen at any moment, not just at the turn of the year. Ironically, my resolution is to keep that in mind.  -Jordan Jacob, Junior Editor-in-Chief

In the upcoming year of 2015 I hope to come to some sort of resolution in terms of what I want to do as a career in life. I will be a senior by next Autumn, and I really want to have a good grasp as to what I want to do later in life.                                                                                -Briana Lopez, Junior Social Media Editor 

I don’t normally do New Year’s Resolutions because they typically get forgotten. Plus, why wait until a New Year to make a new you? But I think I’ll play along this time. Next year, I’ll be funnier and more responsible. There it is. I think it’s ambiguous enough to follow.    -Rey Mullennix, Fiction Editor 

Resolutions are embarrassing. My resolution when I was seven would probably have been to stop picking my nose. My resolution when I was nine would be to stop sleeping with a night light. My resolution this year is to stop eating so many Reese’s. I eat them for breakfast sometimes, I eat them when I get home from school… It’s a problem. Maybe I could start eating some cantaloupe or kiwi or something. Anything healthier would be an improvement.                                                                                                                                           -Kat Roland, Art Editor

I resolve to read more poetry books, care less about the Kardashians, and most importantly, to feel how I feel and do what I want instead of letting other people’s expectations be in charge of my actions and thoughts.                                                                   -Savannah Thanscheidt, Web Editor 

This year I want to have more spontaneous moments. Being a senior and having less than a year before I run off toward another adventure I want to not worry about stuff and have more genuine moments of fun.                                                                                                            -Chrissy Thelemann, Submissions Editor 

I do not have a resolution for 2015. I don’t think people should focus on changing because a new year is coming up and everyone is buying into the “New Year, New You” perspective, but people should instead focus on change because they are striving for personal growth. I think making plans are good for yourself on a yearly basis, but for myself personally, I’m still trying to make good on the ones I promised years ago.                                                          -Stephanie Thompson, Marketing Editor