It’s amazing how a thought evolves and takes on a life of its own. Once I get started on an observation or idea, it practically writes itself, taking me along for the ride, and ending up somewhere other than where I expected. But trying to find that idea is another matter entirely. You have to sift through a lot of dirt to find a glittering idea. And then you have to polish it. This process is at times excruciating, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work through it every week in columns and stories as an editor on The Heights.
When I started writing for The Heights as a humble sophomore, I had never done anything of the sort in my life. I went to arts meetings for almost two months before I even picked up a story, because I didn’t know what I would encounter at any given event. What if I listen to that album by an artist I’ve never heard of, and am totally baffled by it? What if I go to that exhibit on Medieval manuscript art, and say all the wrong things? Or worse, have no idea what to say at all? How am I supposed to report on art forms that don’t even use words, where the evocative performances speak for themselves?
I was always the concerned that I might have nothing legitimate to say about a topic. That might not make sense to people, because as I’ve written more stories and grown into an English major with a persnickety voice, I’ve embraced the work of a writer. And writers are supposed to know what to say, and how to say it, using their cultivated perception to write insightful commentary that properly honors and critiques the subject of the story. But as with anything, there’s a learning curve to writing, and joining The Heights has presented me the opportunity to delve into different arts events and works that I might not have otherwise experienced. And to my pleasant surprise, it turns out I have Niagara falls in my brain, so finding words to depict and analyze stories is not as daunting as I once thought.
I often enjoy what I stumble across in the deep world of arts, but I also tend to be hesitant to say that I simply didn’t like something I saw or heard. I’ve broadened my horizons to attend to the nuances and glaring qualities that make different art forms compelling in their own right. I’ve seen my own artistic interests shift with life experience and exposure to new artistic endeavors. Some art that I once considered opaque or otherwise disagreeable, I have grown to admire for its ability to elicit different reactions that would otherwise remain obscured from my conscious life. I appreciate the challenge it presents to me to consider an alternative viewpoint, or empathize with difficult characters, or restructure my expectations for what a song, movie, or a performance is supposed to do.
I think that’s one of the great joys of the art world, is that it can break up the everyday patterns that people inhabit. It can take you outside your intellectual comfort zone, and into a place on which you didn’t know you were missing out. While I will likely enjoy a superhero movie for its pithy one-liners and its nostalgic charm, I probably will not admire it for its recycled plots, bombastic chain of events, or otherwise stale reliance on formulaic tactics.
The campus arts community has amazed me time again with the diversity of immense talent and thought that exists within it. From theatrical performances, to music and dance groups, and everything in between, I’ve witnessed the heart and skill of so many students. For some, college is a window to developing their passions, and for others, it’s a scene to live them out one more time before starting new journeys in the next phase of their lives. Either way, the performers and audience alike will take their experiences at these events far into the future, the collective impact of which is immeasurable. I feel fortunate to have seen the enthusiasm and effort of the campus arts community flourish, and to have been reminded what it looks like when people love what they do. To have a thriving arts community to speak with and review has been a gift as an arts writer.
Now that my reign as assistant scene editor is ending, I will proceed into the fog-filled unknown better equipped to critique and write about anything out there in the shadows. I will continue to evolve as a writer, and carry the influence of the past couple of years with me as I approach new art works and write new stories, both on the page and off. And if I’ve learned anything about writing, it’s that I’ll end up somewhere I didn’t expect, yet thrilled with the trip I’ve taken to get there.
Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor