A few days ago, the Anchor got the chance to sit down with Emma Clark (’22). The goal in mind was to discuss her recent switch from a vocal performance major to a creative writing major (communications/music double minor). We also wanted to learn more about her creative writing techniques, how she gets out of writer’s block and her goals for publishing in the future.
Why did you decide to leave the music department?
“I started as a music theatre gung ho. Really into that stuff, still am, but then during the pandemic, I really started to write more and learn that I have other interests than these art things that I have been doing since I was a child, so that is kind of where that shift happened. One of my role models, Rachel Dion (’19), graduated when I was a freshman, and she was a communication and theatre double major, and now she’s working for the admissions portion of the Music, Theatre, and Dance Department at [the University of Michigan]. So, I was thinking, ‘I know that I would like to perform if I did, but I really want more than that.’ I don’t want the lifestyle of having to travel around and find auditions. Auditioning for the rest of my life seemed very bleak. So, I thought maybe arts administration could be something in the works. I really wanted to improve on that writing craft, and I like to write too.”
But, there seemed to be something missing from this — was there another reason that she downgraded music to a minor?
“There was a lot of unrest in the Music Department when I was a freshman and that made it very difficult as a student of the department because I came in as a freshman not having known the professors that were in the subject. I was just very confused and felt the aggravation from all the other students, but didn’t understand what was happening. I felt like a baby. But it was definitely another reason why I decided to change. It was hard to gauge what I was doing because I didn’t have anybody else in the department that was actually the same [vocal performance] major as me at that point.”
Clark decided not to go into depth here, which is understandable. This is not meant to be disrespectful to the music department, simply a presentation of one student’s opinion. Nonetheless, it is a valid opinion; isolation can be difficult, especially as a freshman.
From this point, the Anchor wanted to know Clark’s tips, goals and even fears.
So, why switch to specifically creative writing?
“I love to read. I think that there are definitely books and stories that got me through very pivotal points in my life. […] That and knowing that I enjoy writing, so having the ability to write some of those stories that can also help people through that change, but I have been having quite a bit of writer’s block lately.”
What efforts are you making to get out of writer’s block?
“Well at first I was like, ‘I’m not gonna write, I’m done. I’m so tired of writing.’ And then I was like, ‘Well, I am in a creative writing class.’ My professor recommended some writing exercises for me to do and some places to find writing exercises. Keeping a journal is really big, and even just writing when you feel like you have something to write. There are always points where you just absentmindedly go through life and you’re like ‘Oh, I could write that down.’”
What genre of creative writing do you normally write?
“I haven’t explored a lot outside of realistic fiction. Maybe a little bit of magical realism, but I would really like to start working on more fantastical things. But, right now it’s more realistic fiction.”
What creative writing classes are you currently taking?
- Advanced Creative Writing with Dr. Susanna Childress (English 454) (Clark also took Professor Childress’s intermediate fiction class)
“Both of those classes have been relatively small so being able to workshop those stories with a small group of people is really helpful.”
- Children’s and Young Adult Lit (English 375)
“Reading some of those stories, re-reading stuff like Percy Jackson that I read as a child has made me feel like I want to write again too.”
Are you a fan of poetry?
“I really like poetry. I think that poetry is one of the hardest things to write just because it’s easy to get it on the page, but the editing process is so difficult because it’s like deleting. Poetry is like your inner thoughts, your inner monologue sometimes, so it’s so hard to get rid of stuff and change it because you always feel like it’s perfect.”
How do you approach the editing process?
“I am definitely someone who tends to dislike their writing, which is common. One thing that I do is I print it out and then I take a red pen and I go through it and mark it up, and then I retype it, and as I retype, I see more errors in the plot and the story, and it actually helps me to get some of those changes out. If I just edit in a google doc, then I’m not seeing everything, and I have to actively read through it while I’m editing it.”
Have you published anything? What are your fears about publishing?
“I have not. That very much scares me –– I one, have no idea how one would go about that, and I also feel like the works that I have written right now are things that I’m uncomfortable with a lot of people reading just because I don’t feel like they’re good, and they’re not at the place that I want them to be. But something that is really helpful is that my prof right now really encourages us to think about publishing and submitting to OPUS. Like, I’ve never had anything in OPUS, but just having submitted something feels good because even if it doesn’t get in, I conquered that. I sent it.”
Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into creative writing?
“Something that I heard at the recent visiting writing series is that you just have to keep writing — even if it’s hard, even if it doesn’t feel good. It might not be good, what you’re writing. It might totally suck in your eyes, but just the act of getting the words on the page is just so helpful.”
Favorite genre of creative writing?
Do you write more comedic or depressing stories?
“I write more depressing things, and that’s probably just easier for everybody in college. That’s why it’s so hard to show them to people.”
“Just do it. Just write. You just have to go for it.”