Reflection and Advice by Solange Baker

As our nonfiction unit comes to a close, so does my time in Creative Writing II. In a week, we’ll be in our playwriting unit (this year taught by Sara Broady), which is taught to the whole of Creative Writing. I’ve had the same conversation with several of the other Creative Writing Seniors about our sudden realization that our four-year ride at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts is rapidly coming to a close.

This coming week is my last in Creative Writing II, in a month or two I’ll know where I’m going to college, in two months I’ll have my last show (April 26, our playwriting show), the day after is prom, and a month later I graduate. It’s a bittersweet feeling. I’m excited to graduate, to start a new chapter in my life in a new place with new people. But on the other hand, I’m deeply saddened by the idea of leaving San Francisco, leaving my friends and my family, my pets, all that has been my world for the past nearly eighteen years. I’m trying to live in the moment and appreciate what’s happening now, it’s hard with the chaos of financial aid, scholarships, and general life. But as I approach the great old age of eighteen, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my time in Creative Writing.

Three pieces of advice I have for current/future members of the department on your time in Creative Writing:

  1. Learn to workshop: Workshopping is the core of Creative Writing. You improve by both having your piece edited and editing the work of your peers. At first it’s a daunting concept; other people (older than me, better writers than me) are going to read and critique my work? But learning to distance yourself from your work and understanding that the edits you get are not malicious but born from passion and a genuine interest in helping your work succeed is important. Learn when to take edits and when to leave them; when to know that yes, this Junior is right this paragraph is convoluted and has way to many adjectives, versus knowing to maintain your artistic integrity.
  2. Take opportunities: Heather and other teachers will present opportunities to you both within SOTA and outside of SOTA. If they interest you, take them. No matter if they seem intimidating or if you don’t think you’ll get into the program or whatever it may be, take the opportunity. You never know where it may lead you. My Freshman year I auditioned for an original play along with three other Creative Writers. I got paid to act in the production, which was wonderful, but it was also an enriching experience. I improved my performance abilities, made connections, and could say I felt proud of what I accomplished. My Sophomore year I performed at the Nourse Theater with Youth Speaks for their 20th Annual Bring the Noise event. I don’t get terribly bad stage fright, but that was one of the scariest things I’ve done. Looking out at a sea of 1600 people made me dizzy, but performing and hearing an audience respond to my work was euphoric and beyond well worth all the hours of rehearsal and anxiety.
  3. Focus on your own work/Don’t try to emulate others: It’s hard not to compare yourself to others: how many times people have been published, how many edits they get on their papers, grades they get on their assignments. In an environment like SOTA you’re surrounded by extraordinarily talented teenagers and it’s easy to forget that a) this is not a normal school and b) you’re one of those extraordinarily talented teenagers. Comparing yourself to others does absolutely nothing but make you feel bad about yourself. Art is subjective. Getting published doesn’t automatically make someone a better writer than you and getting published doesn’t make you a better writer than anyone else. And besides, sitting around complaining that you think everyone else is better than you isn’t how you improve your craft. A mistake I made in Creative Writing was that I got caught up in what other people were doing. Consequently, I stopped writing the way I wanted to and started writing what I thought other people wanted. The results were not my best work. Once I regained my voice, realized that trying to emulate others was boring and that I have my own skill set to offer, I started producing work that I was genuinely proud of for the first time in a long time.

Although it may not feel like it in the moment, high school goes by fast. My biggest piece of advice is this: make the most of it, whatever that may mean to you.

Solange Baker, class of 2019

12 thoughts on “Reflection and Advice by Solange Baker

  1. Coco Johnson says:

    Hey Solange,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. What emmulated with me was when you reflected on how fast your senior year is moving. When I look back at my eighth grade year, I completely rushed. I didn’t cherish the time that I spent at School of the Epiphany. I thought that I was ready to move onto bigger and better things (which I was) and I disliked a majority of my teachers. Now a sophomore looking back, I realized how much I took my friends for granted. How fast I breezed through that year that I don’t have a lot of memories from that time. I didn’t take the time to stop and think about how much that school had to offer me. Looking back, I really wish that I would have made more friends. Most of my friends and I stopped talking during freshman year.

    Your advice about workshopping was stop on. Last year, workshopping was an uncomfortable thing for me. I wasn’t even familiar with peer editing. I was scared that my work wasn’t up to par and that I wasn’t a good writer. I also needed to learn to not be too sensitive and to remember that my peers wanted me to succeed and they were offering support, not trying to tear me down. Disagreements are healthy and a part of life. It’s important for everyone to know how to respectfully do so.

    Nice blog post, Solange. Good job!

  2. Otto says:

    On the Reflection and Advice article by Solange Baker, about the advice for future members of the department, I should have done a little research before doing workshopping. As a current freshman, I felt that when I came into the department, I had never done the kind of critiquing of student work we do in creative writing and I feel as though I would have researched and reviewed workshopping techniques before engaging.

  3. Tess M Horton says:

    Thanks for the advice, Solange. I can’t quite wrap my head around Creative Writing ever coming to an end (for the end is far, far away, from the perspective of a sophomore). Your advice on writing for yourself rather than for others really resonated with me. I’ll try to think about the better aspects of high school; maybe that will make the time go by at a more pleasant pace.

  4. Hannah W Duane says:

    Thanks for the advice Solange! I remember you were in one of my first ever workshopping groups as a freshman and I was terrified of you, I don’t remember what your piece was but I remember being floored by it. Even that first time workshopping, when we were told it might make us cry, your comments and presence was respectful, clarifying and constructive. We’re all going to miss you in cw next year…

  5. Rae says:

    Solange! I’ll miss you so much! You have always been a font of advice and information. I hope I can apply this advice to be a better senior and a better person. I will take your warning not to compare myself to others, to my grave. That is so important, especially in high school, and especially in a department like ours, where competition is mostly against oneself. You have built a world of knowledge! We don’t even have to go through that process now that this Amazing blog post is hot off the press. You’re a star!

  6. Charlotte says:

    What a lovely piece Solange! Solid advice for the new comers. Definitely important to take the opportunities provided, I’ve had such a wonderful time workshopping at 826, helping out at the BCC, and gained so much experience. I’m gonna miss the department next year :’)

  7. Jessica Schott-Rosenfield says:

    Hi Solange,

    As a freshman, I can attest to the fact that these pieces of advice are extremely helpful when entering the department. Learning to differentiate between personal comments and comments on my work was one of the hardest aspects of being a freshie, but with guidance like this, it became easier. This post is a perfect collection of everything a freshman should hear. Thank you!

  8. Zai says:

    Being a freshman, it’s difficult to remember that I won’t always be in cw. This reminds me to take advantage of my resources and opportunities available to me at SOTA while I still can. I’ve got time, but not an endless amount, and I have to remember that. Thanks Solange!

  9. Nadja Goldberg says:

    Solange,

    It makes me so sad to think about CW next year without you and the seniors.

    I was interested in reading about you feeling your time in high school speed by. I am a sophomore, not even halfway through my SOTA journey, enduring classes that last an eternity, struggling to search for motivation in my academic studies. You made me realize that there will be a point when I, like you, face the end of my time at SOTA while undergoing the college process and anticipating my future. You have inspired within me a newfound appreciation for my time in high school; I will try to make the most of it.

  10. Luna A says:

    Solange,

    I’m so glad you’re sharting this advice on the blog!! I have been looking up to you and following your guidance or the snippets I caught from shadowing since before I was even a SOTA student. I continue to confide in you know, as I always am assured the advice you leave me with is true and coated with success. My happiness in seeing you share your advice and relfect has also hit me with the wave of sadness in knowing you’ll be away in college nect year. Girl, anticipate my phone calls because I’ll still need you!!

  11. Kenzo Fukuda says:

    Hey Solange!
    This post makes me feel so happy and sad at the same time. I am so appreciative of the time you and the seniors spent with us but I dread the day we have to see y’all off. This advice is great and is a testament to the example you seniors have set. I especially agree with the part about focusing on your own writing. I will make sure the incoming freshmen learn this along with the rest of the wisdom you have imparted on us.

  12. Lauren Ainslie says:

    Solange,

    Reading your advice makes the prospect of returning from Spring Break less scary. I especially appreciate your third piece of advice, about not comparing your writing to others, which is something I struggle with. I am excited to overcome that worry and find my own voice, as you have done.

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