Peak Piece by Emily Kozhina

Every once in a while, in the midst of writing all sorts of prompts and small pieces, you strike gold. It’s a rare thing, when you write a piece you can’t seem to outwrite for a long while. When it does happen, you at first don’t realize it, either. Typical, I find myself turning in these pieces, or reading them for a class, and that’s when I realize how much potential the piece has. So, being told how much people like the piece, you begin to submit it for journals and reading it at performances, with everyone sending their compliments your way– You know it’s a good piece, no matter how humble you like to consider yourself. And it feels good, to have a poem or story or play that everyone, including you, can read and think “That is a good piece and more people need to see it.”

Your doubts about your writing fade into the distance for a small while, as you use the piece with every chance you get. But very quickly, that triumphant glow fades as you try to write another piece. You start to think “How do I write something just as good as…?” and you try to, but it doesn’t seem to work. It feels like you only get worse from there, like you’ve peaked, like you’ve stopped growing as a writer, which is the most frightening thought of them all.

Whenever this happens to me, writing my way up when I feel I’ve already reached the top of my metaphorical mountain of progress, never works. It’s hard to keep writing afterwards. You know you will be unhappy with those next few completed pieces, but you know you have to keep writing. The worst part isn’t even sitting down to write something new afterwards, nor is it reading it aloud and not hearing the same excited swarm of comments afterwards. What’s most difficult, I’ve found, is accepting that you won’t always write things you are happy with, and this is proof.

But I like to think these downfalls of trying to write after a piece you’re proud of are what truly show your skill as a writer. Even after you’ve seemingly peaked again, you find you aren’t finished, and there is a taller mountain for you to climb. The climb up is grueling with drafts and drafts and disappointment and almost giving up and more drafts, and you’ll come to see that you never really stop climbing, and writing never really gets easy. I’ve found you just learn to work with the mountains with each piece you write.

Emily Kozhina, class of 2020

On Motivation by Amina Aineb

Sometime during our fiction unit last year, I was talking to Emma E. about how I was unhappy with the stories I’d written so far. She responded that she too hadn’t really produced much from the given prompts, but that the stories she’d written on her free time were alright.

Ok, I don’t remember the exact nature of our conversation, but it was something close to that. What I do remember is being shocked that Emma E. had written stories outside of Creative Writing. And my surprise didn’t surface because I think Emma is lazy (she’s actually one of the most dedicated writers I know), but because I had never thought of writing for myself.

This is bizarre because before I arrived at SOTA, this was all I’d ever do. When ninth grade came around, “writing” became synonymous with “homework”. This isn’t to say that I dislike writing. Of course I do! I just mean that if I was writing something, I would eventually be handing it to Heather for a grade.

This summer I was a part of the California State School of the Arts’ Creative Writing program. It was a life changing experience for many reasons, but one of them was that I immediately felt like I gained liberation in my writing. For the first time in a long time, writing wasn’t connected to school. Nothing was graded, I was there on my own accord, and what I wrote and when I wrote was solely up to me. I quickly got in the habit of writing every day, and thankfully, I’ve kept that habit since returning to the Bay Area, and to school. Of course, I’m still completing and putting my all into my CW assignments, but in addition, I’m writing other stuff for pleasure, and I’ve never felt more motivated in my writing in all my life.

I made the decision this summer that I want to be a writer when I grow up. While I love being in our department every day, I realize that life after high school is looming in front of me. Being a writer usually means being your own boss, and I just hope that my motivation continues to grow and thrive, along with my writing itself.

Amina Aineb, Class of 2017

The photo is of graffiti at the bus stop near my house.