Keeping Up With School and Creative Writing by Emma Cooney

School work is stressful and hard enough to manage for some people, including me. So adding extra creative writing work with analytical responses and reflections, can be overwhelming. I tend to sit at my desk staring at my computer for up to an hour debating whether school is worth it or not. Even though I do have these thoughts, I know that in order to live a happy, successful life, I have to at least graduate high school. I also realized that in order to maintain my sanity while also keeping up with my school and creative writing work, I would have to reach out and change.

There is a stigma against asking for help if you’re struggling to complete work, even if you understand the material. Like most people, I have always had issues with procrastination. It became a habit, a system that is incredibly easy to fall into. To break out of it, it takes a lot of effort and sometimes I just don’t have that energy. So, if I wanted to succeed in creative writing and school, I had to push myself hard to not fall back into my slump.

As a highschooler, it is also normal to have mental health issues, which can contribute a lot to how well I do in school. So, being a procrastinator and dealing with mental health meant that I would have my work cut out for me. I started setting up a schedule for work, which may seem simple to other people, but for me it was a big step up from not even knowing what was due the next day. Little steps like talking to Heather Woodward, talking to my dad, creating a schedule that left relaxation time for myself, and really realizing that I need to get a grip on my life helped me turn a corner.

Although creative writing and school work can be a lot, it isn’t impossible if you have a drive and care for the classes. A lot of adults talk about how they “need to get their life together,” and I think even high schoolers shouldn’t be afraid to make changes and reach out, especially if they have an art discipline. It isn’t a bad thing to have issues with completing work, and the only way to overcome it is to realize that. In my case, Heather Woodward and my dad were the ones to help me and now I feel more successful.

Emma Cooney, Class of 2021

Playwriting by Emma Cooney

I had never written a full length play before starting the playwriting unit. At first it was short plays that had a theme, chosen by our Artist in Residence, Nicole Jost. Then we had to write our final play that would be looked at and possibly chosen to be put in the playwriting show. I had to write a play for which I had to consider an audience. As well as what would be realistic for an actual production. I’d never done that before.

The process of writing a play was both stimulating and agonizing. It was hard trying to start because I didn’t have an idea that I was incredibly passionate about or excited to do. So, Heather Woodward (the department head) sat me down and helped me sort through my brain and pick it for ideas. We started with memories I thought of as interesting or fun to tell. From there I found tons of ideas and things that could be cool to write a play on. So, I started with just simple dialogue between my characters and from there decided how I was going to write it out. It started to become easier and easier, and before I knew it, I had my ten page first draft.

After the plays that were chosen to be in the show were chosen, the casting time came. We had to figure out who would play who. The process didn’t take long and was over in a day or so. I was chosen to play the character Patrick in Max Chu’s play. I hadn’t had to experience or remembering lines, and then having to act them out. Remembering my poem for the creative writing performance was a much different thing than having to also remember things like cue lines. I didn’t want to bother any upperclassmen with my questions on how to remember lines and cue lines, so I simply went with my instincts. I started by repeating a line until I remembered it, then I would move on to remembering the second line. But I would repeat the line before the one I was learning, so there was an order to them. With that, I quickly remembered all my lines, but then came how I was going to know when to say my lines. So I gathered willing friends and family, and had them read the lines before mine. Before the process, I hadn’t realized that I was actually quite good at remembering lines.

The playwriting unit taught me an array of different tools, such as how to construct a well written play, how to act, how to remember lines, and how to act.

Emma Cooney, class of 2021

High School Expectations by Emma Cooney

Middle school was one of the most agonizing and dragged out experiences I’ve ever had. High school would hopefully be my savior.

In middle school, I had no motivation to work hard. There wasn’t anything for me to look forward to because it was a constant routine full of boredom. That’s why seventh grader Emma looked at SOTA as if it were Christ himself. Just the idea of going to an art school where I get to write alongside people like me gave me more joy than all my three years in middle school combined ever did. It was immensely frustrating to only be able to have creative writing as a hobby rather than something I could put my energy into on a daily basis. Being taken seriously at SOTA as a writer while having three hours everyday to write makes me feel content beyond words.

Everyone at SOTA is here for a reason. They’re working toward a dream, to expand their talent and knowledge of their art, or any other reason they may have. It’s a school full of talented individuals who have a passion for an art form that they want to develop. I’ve met people who didn’t figure out they even liked art until last year, while other like myself have always done and loved their art form. For example, when I was seven years old I stole my dad’s computer and typed out my stories and ideas into the google search bar. I had no idea there was a platform called “Microsoft Word” that would have been much easier to use. Art can transform and take over anyone’s lives, no matter their age. SOTA exists to build off of that.

Strangely, I feel I’ve already adjusted to high school. I thought it would take much more time for reality to set in, but it feels like I’ve been at SOTA for a year. The already close friends I’ve made in Creative Writing might have contributed to that. Especially during the two weeks of the Summer Workshopping, which helped me understand more about creative writing while also getting close to fellow freshman. The other creative writer’s work amazes me to the point of wanting to dig inside their brain to find how they creating such beautiful writing. Some of their work is better than most published authors I’ve read. Even the voice and presentation while reading work out loud is astounding. Being exposed to writing everyday had already improved and changed my writing so I can’t imagine what it will be like by senior year. I look forward to the new experiences I will have everyday and what I will learn and see.

Emma Cooney, class of 2021