What I Learned from The Creative News

Joshua Farley, Sophomore Contributor

Writing is an art form. It also happens to be one of my favorite art forms. But the fact of the matter is that people often overlook the ability of writing to serve as a deeply meaningful piece of art, instead viewing it as a medium used to convey a dreaded Five Paragraph Essay or some sort of cynical-minded business report in our far futures. I’m not here to tear apart this view (not today, at least), but I want to talk about a special moment in my life when I first felt like I had accomplished something major and artistically meaningful as a writer. That time was about a year ago, when I began my project known as The Creative News, and maybe to encourage you to form a new relationship with writing as a concept.

Of course, I didn’t try creative writing for the first time only a year ago. I’ve been coming up with little stories for as long as I could talk, asking family members to actually write them down for me. Eventually, I progressed into Power of the Pen, an amazing opportunity to improve your creative skills and also make close friendships around this amazing activity.

More recently, I have also experimented independently, but with mixed results. Over the past few years, I had no shortage of ideas that could be turned into fairly lengthy writing projects, but I hadn’t really had any success in completing or sometimes even starting to work on these concepts. This has included a few ideas for full-length novels and countless short stories, but none of these really panned out. I had only written a few pages and poems out of my long-running list of potential ideas to write about.

I think there are a few reasons for this continuing problem of mine. I didn’t always have this perfect moment of the ideal inspiration, location, or mental space to begin writing (None of these really exist, by the way. I learned that you should always feel free to write), and I soon began to feel guilty for not writing nearly enough after sometimes missing several months in a row without putting down a single word. I want to be a prolific author and not waste a single idea I have, but these high ideas versus my ineffective reality of poor time management skills would have to be reconciled before I could begin the journey to the more expansive works I’ve been looking to create for years on end.

Shaking off the existential dread, there are so many positive things about writing to talk about. The thing that inspires me most about writing as an art form is its versatility. I felt very inspired to experiment with such possible forms when I came up with the idea for what would become The Creative News. I also wanted to capture a very specific set of feelings that became my whole world in 2020, making a very solitary and magical experience.

The concept I initially came up with to relay these feelings to others was to be twofold. One half was to be a very direct telling of the real-life events that happened that year. It would have been part journalism and part personal journal, chronicling events of both personal and societal importance just as they first happened.

However, the second half of the planned project is the closest thing to  The Creative News as it exists today. It was a highly experimental idea, a collection of short writing pieces that could be combined to create some sort of overarching narrative, but it was to be secondary to the feelings that these pieces would illustrate. Each individual segment of the process would communicate the feelings behind certain philosophical concepts, such as the nature of dreams, love, and time itself.

Many of these original visual and emotional pieces still survived in certain forms, but not necessarily in the same way as they may have been. This early conceptualization actually began about four months before I formally began this project in Journalism class, but at least I had finally found the idea that had truly captured my attention, and I couldn’t let it go until I had seen it through until the end. When my friends in class started up a conversation about creative writing one day, I knew that this was my big chance to fulfill my writing destiny!

After talking this over with Mr. Jennings, I began to outline. I used a formal outline for the first time, which I admit originally included eighteen months worth of writing, which was eventually cut down to nine for two reasons. The first was more cynical: I didn’t really have enough time to come up with eighteen stories. Being creative is one of the hardest jobs to do, and coming up with that many ideas on short notice isn’t something I’m capable of, at least right now. 

The second was much more creatively admirable: I recognized that not every month was unique, and instead, thematic through-lines connected them in ways that made more sense to look at together than apart.

Having laid out my ideas, which continued to shift, (My Springtime story went through several iterations before I landed on my final idea), I summarized each one and then began to write, which took a push of bravery to do.

There’s something very daunting about a lengthy writing project to me. I don’t really know what it is. I felt a sense of pressure to come up with the stuff and make it good from the first try. However, I came to realize that these perfectionistic visions are impossible to achieve, an important lesson for anyone to come to grips with.

I decided to commit and meet the challenge head on, putting a lot of my time and soul into this project’s creation. I was letting everything I was thinking be seen, which I’m very glad for looking back. This project means infinitely more to me because in it, I told the truth about who I am and what I mean.

Doing this work period, I learned so much that I can use to help me write more down the road. Scheduling! For the first time in my life, I have come up with a schedule and stuck to it effectively. Night was my time to write every day. I would go down to my basement and maybe put on a little music, and just write as many sentences as I could. I used my computer to do it, too. I always loved the idea of writing by hand on a manuscript, but for some reason, I only felt comfortable laying down brand new words of fiction in Google Docs, where they could be more easily edited and moved around.

I also got the hang of taking more risks. Using this format, I played with the form of my writing more than ever before— more than I ever even thought was possible. This style was something I decided to call “folk poetry” in my introduction to the series, but looking back this label may not be the best fit for what I was trying to do. In the end, The Creative News is a lot more of a “Novel-Anthology”, when considering its nature as a collection of short stories surrounded by what I call the “Shelf Piece”, which supports and structures all the individual stories that sit within it. I enjoyed developing this fragmented style that focused on the individual “atmospheres” of each world I built, as I feel like this is a great way to get people into the headspace of the emotion or idea a creator wishes to communicate, and it certainly deserves to be explored further.

Most importantly, I learned how to reach inside myself— to pull out ideas and turn them into something that other people could read and truly understand what I was thinking or feeling. This has always been an important goal for me in my writing. It’s very inspirational to me to think about the potential— no matter how small— to be able to impact someone and allow them to see things a little differently or make them feel a little better. I’d like to hope that everything I or anyone else does would be toward this end, especially in the world of art, where we are most open to receiving such experiences.

This project means so much to me, but it is a great start that I will use to keep going as I progress toward the world of writerdom. I know that every step of the way will be an exhilarating creative challenge to overcome, but I hope that the emotional honesty and experimentalism that I built a love for during this formative project will bring me several steps closer to getting there some day. For the meanwhile, I will continue with such “Novel-Anthologies”, and will look towards a full length release in the (relatively) near future, as soon as I have another breakthrough as important to me as The Creative News has proven.