Writing for Writing's Sake: An Exploration into the Process and Value of Creative Writing
Date of Award
Professor Sarah Smith
Professor Autumn Mortenson
Professor Carrie Sharp
What I call my "official" creative writing journey began in the fall of 2021, when I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Amy Sonheim on my directed study. I have been writing creatively for as long as I remember, but pre-university it was more of an off and on hobby. My earliest work was a hand-written book of short stories all fashioned after Beth March's original tale, "The History of a Squash," in Little Women. During my middle school and high school days I moved on to other short stories, poetry, and the beginnings of novels that were never finished - as you will find, I am still working on breaking bad habits. These pieces were rarely shared with anyone else (although having an ode to Dunkin' Donuts published in the school magazine was a highlight of my high school career), so I never considered myself to be a "writer." Perhaps if I had, I wouldn't have fallen out of my hobby. To me, being a writer was something akin to what I thought being an artist meant. "Art" is tangible only to the common man. It is an idea, a thought, a feeling - something lofty and unattainable. To create art, to be an artist, you must be passionate, have endless amounts of creativity, and see the world like nobody else. By this definition, few people could ever earn the right of calling themselves an artist or a writer. Certainly not a girl who began writing by plagiarizing Louisa May Alcott. As life got busier, I let writing largely fall to the wayside. Although I had always wanted to be a writer, it had never been my desire to pursue writing as a career. When I began college, I let my responsibilities as a student eclipse my interests in creative writing, as I let them eclipse many other parts of myself.
Dedication to learning and excellence is at the core of the honors program, and those values correspond with my own. I want to succeed and excel as a student. I wouldn't be writing this thesis otherwise. However, and this is a sneak peek at the end of my thesis, the biggest lesson I've learned over the course of my honors work is that it's not easy being just one thing. I'm a good student, but that's not a fulfilling role when you're not much else, especially when you're constantly focused on how you could be better. When I began my "official" creative writing journey, I think I was trying to reclaim the part of myself that wanted but would never claim to be a writer. Though, this goal was not included in my directed study or thesis proposal.
Over the fall of 2021, Dr. Sonhiem and I read children's and YA literature in order to identify characteristics of good writing. I would then write a piece incorporating elements of what we had learned and discussed. At the end of the semester, I chose several poems 2 to submit for publication in a magazine. None were accepted, but the process led me to ask a new question: why do I want to write? There was a time that having pieces be rejected would have greatly discouraged me, but even after spending a semester writing, this rejection left me unfazed. I would like my writing to be shared with and enjoyed by others, yet I experienced so much satisfaction from my directed study work without having anyone but my professor read it. To answer my question, I decided to conduct my thesis work over creative writing, building off my directed study. Over the spring and fall semesters of 2022, I have continued writing children's and YA pieces. To supplement this work, I read books on writing and reflected on my experiences working on these. What is my writing process and how can I refine it? What impact does incorporating creative writing into daily life have on me personally? If I'm not writing to produce a product to share, why am I creating these stories?
My thesis work was designed to answer those questions. I wrote pieces in three genres - realistic fiction, poetry, and fantasy - as well as writing reflective pieces throughout my time spent in each genre. This thesis is organized in that order and includes drafts of my creative pieces intertwined with reflective pieces. The word drops before each chapter began as creative exercises. Whenever I'm stuck, unsure of what words to use in a poem or what ideas to chase in a story, I do a "word drop". I start with something related to whatever I've written already - a feeling, person, place, etc. - and write down the word that next comes into my head. It's essentially a word association game, but it helps me loosen up the flow of ideas. The word drops are meant to give readers a taste of the tone and subject of each chapter. By including creative, reflective, and process pieces, I hope to take readers through the creative writing journey I went on over the past year. It should be noted that the journey is still ongoing. I plan to continue revising and working on all of these pieces. I've learned a lot along the way and I want to continue to learn more about writing and about myself.
I wrote that my "official" creative writing journey began with my directed study, but the work I did with Dr. Sonheim helped me realize that isn't true. I don't need to create a course of study, have my work approved by the honors council, or write the best stories or even good stories. The only qualification necessary to be a writer is that you write. In the words of Patricia Wrede, a favorite author and blogger, "Writers write". It could be a page or a paragraph or a sentence a day. I'm not the best writer. In fact, I'm often racked by doubt. However, I'm still a writer, because I choose to write and it's probably the best choice I've ever made. My thesis project has been some of the most fulfilling work I've done at OBU. It's allowed me to cultivate parts of myself that would otherwise have remained stagnant and take pride in my work even when I understand it could be better. Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you. Let's write.
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Firestone, Emma, "Writing for Writing's Sake: An Exploration into the Process and Value of Creative Writing" (2023). Honors Theses. 891.