Pepperdine is full of talented students working in all aspects of the arts. This week, the Graphic walked around with junior Joel Wood to talk about the craft of creative writing.
Q: What is your favorite means of self-expression?
A: I like writing.
Q: How long have you known that writing is a passion of yours?
A: I think it really started toward the end of high school. My friend Tyler and I would send an envelope that we’d fill with poems back and forth, each marking up the other’s every few weeks.
Q: Would you say you enjoy it more because it’s a challenge or the most accurate way to capture life?
A: I think part of it is a challenge, but I think it’s a challenge everybody in some way feels responsible to answer. I think writing — poetry, fiction, whatever — ties directly to the way we express ourselves in everyday conversation, to others, to ourselves, to our parents, to our dog. In the Creative Writing program, I think more of learning how to capture life holistically or definitively. I’ve gotten a better sense of what I can say or what I should speak to in the way I write and what I write about. I think it’s tricky to think of writing as an objective capturing tool because writers cannot suspend the way they see the world and how it operates when they set pen to paper. There’s always this human element that finds itself between world and words, and I think that element shows even more about the world.
Q: What artists and writers have inspired you in the past? Who do you try to follow in terms of artistic mission or style?
A: The first big writers in my life were from the Beat generation, I think; I still have a great respect for their aesthetic. Jean-Luc Godard inspires me. Folk singers inspire me. In terms of style I find myself unconsciously writing (badly) like Nabokov and Pynchon in prose, I can trace Allen Ginsberg in a lot of my poems. I wish I could write like Renata Adler. Joan Baez said, “Action is the antidote to despair.” I think writing counts as an action.
Q: How are you involved in your passion on campus, and how can someone reading this get involved?
A: This year I’m honored to be the editor of Pepperdine’s own Expressionists magazine, which is the annual literature and art magazine published by our school. It consists only of student submissions, and it’s student run. Anyone interested in being a part of the editing/reading process for our recently received submissions should go to Facebook.com/expresssionists or email email@example.com.
Q: Did you get a scholarship for this?
A: Yes, I feel blessed to be a recipient of the Douglas Scholarship, which supports students in the Creative Writing field/major.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do that you think helps clear your mind?
A: I’ve recently rediscovered cooking as a source of peace. There’s something about the routine and the care for the self, and the tactility that puts me at ease.
Q: Do you have any post-grad plans?
A: I’d like to find myself in a Creative Writing MFA program, though I’d need to look at the faculty and specifics of more schools before I know exactly what I’d be getting into at each. Also, if nothing else pans out there are yoga ashrams.
Q: What is the achievement or piece you are most proud of and why?
A: When I think of writing as thoughtful expression, mitigation, and reflection of the world, I think the writing I have to be most proud of is in the form of private correspondence. I think there’s something transcendent in private writing, beyond the expectation of audience or the burden of being at least nominally entertaining. The written word is certainly distinct from the spoken word, both in casual conversation and serious discussion, and I think it’s invaluable to be able to transcribe your thoughts, order them and send them directly to the person you were thinking about when you wrote them.
Follow Haley Laningham on Twitter: @haleylanz