Monday, January 23, 2017

On the first or second day of my AP Literature class, my teacher split the room in half and presented a series of two-choice dilemmas. They weren’t about push-button topics, really; the activity was more to get our summer-frozen brain juices flowing than anything. The first couple of dilemmas were pretty simple (see: mountains vs beaches), but the further we got into the activity, the more intriguing it became. Eventually, my teacher presented the dilemma that would stick in my mind, even after all these months.

“Which is more valuable?” she asked. “Knowledge, or creativity?”

I pondered the question for quite a bit more time than I had previous dilemmas. If you’ve read a couple of my other posts, you’ll probably have stumbled upon one of my “creative theory” posts, where I talk about creativity and how it affects different aspects of life. I’m passionate about creativity, and the concept of creativity itself, not just the act of creating. It’s something I love to think about (which is REALLY weird, but I’m not kidding when I say that I do it in my spare time). So initially, I was tempted to choose creativity.

But then I thought about the question more. Which is more valuable?

I chose knowledge.

Here’s why:

I believe knowledge and creativity are linked together, in almost the sense that you can’t have one without the other. I say almost because I think that once you untangle the knots and the loose ends and the straighten the whole idea out, knowledge will come out on top. I believe that knowledge precedes creativity, and, therefore, creativity has at least part of its basis in knowledge. Without knowledge, you can’t have creativity; thus, knowledge is more valuable than creativity.

For example, if Jane Austen 1) hadn’t known how to write, and 2) hadn’t known the social conventions of mid-nineteenth-century England, she wouldn’t have been able to write Pride and Prejudice--or any of her other novels, for that matter. She certainly had to possess an inherently creative element in order to craft those stories, but if she hadn’t had knowledge/expertise in her given field, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to even think about writing her stories. What’s the point of being creative if one has no material with which to create?

And knowledge is more logically valuable, not only in light of creativity, but in life. If there were only two people on the earth, and one of them had to die in order for the earth to sustain itself, would you choose the mathematician-astrophysicist-doctor-philosopher who knew CPR, or the world-renowned artist whose work was featured in galleries in the (now-empty) Louvre? If you had to choose between burning down a library or an art gallery, which would you choose to save?

The doctor, and the library. Obviously. Because knowledge saves lives, knowledge enables people to both survive and thrive, and knowledge, in a practical sense, is more valuable. If I’m completely honest, if I was halfway decent at math and science, I’d probably aim to become a doctor or scientist of some sort. It just makes more sense: save lives, help people, etc. My ties to humanity run much, much deeper than my ties to creativity do.

But thank God we have the luxury of having more than two people on the planet. Thank God we have people who are innovators, scientifically and artistically and technologically. Thank God our brains work in different ways; thank God for diversity; thank God that the world has need of people like me. Because, no matter how valuable knowledge might seem on paper, a world devoid of creativity is a world lacking much. A world devoid of creativity is a world lacking art, and music, and fictional storytelling, and fashion, and, to sum it all up, culture--culture everywhere, from Korea to Finland to Nigeria to New Zealand.

And, in a sense, the fact that knowledge is essential to human life also makes creativity essential. Creativity both complements and contrasts knowledge; it feeds off it and adds to it, takes input and makes output, uses it and challenges it. With creativity, people can make the mountains knowledge says are impossible to make--but without the knowledge of mountains themselves, people cannot create them. It’s a crazy paradox of exchanges, and it’s one that fascinates me to absolutely no end.

[Can we just pause here and say that I’m a ginormous nerd? And can we also pause here and say that THIS IS KIND OF FREAKING COOL? It’s a freaking PARADOX, for heaven’s sake!!! IT’S A PARADOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE, BUT IT DOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’M ACTUALLY REALLY EXCITED RIGHT NOW. SKIP OVER THIS BIT IF YOU’D LIKE. BUT LIKE WHAT IS LIFE!!!!!!!????????!!!!!!!!!??????]

Back in Lit, I hadn’t thought of everything that I’ve just written here, but I knew my answer, and I knew why I believed it was so. We were given the opportunity to volunteer the rationale behind our decisions; so, after a couple of people spoke up for both sides, I stated my reasoning: “You have to know what the box is in order to break it.”

And this is true. If you’re trapped inside of a box, you have to know 1) that you’re inside the box, 2) the limitations and weaknesses of the box, 3) how that box inhibits/prevents you from doing what you want to do, and 4) that you want to break out of it at all. It’s cliche, but knowledge really is power: it’s the power that allows people to not only know the facts, but use them in order to innovate, create, and transform.

Do you agree? Do you believe that knowledge is more valuable than creativity? GIVE ME ALL THE OPINIONS BELOW! I’m ready for an intense discussion!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

If you have interacted with me personally via social media for the past month or so, you’ll know that stress has slowly but surely infiltrating my system. Eighty percent of this stress is due to college applications, and twenty is due to the fact that finals are coming up next week.

The thing is, I’m DONE with college applications. I turned my last one in on December thirtieth (I think?). It was the Common App, to Harvard and Stanford. And then the freakout began.

Most of it is me just stressing out. I didn’t get a “college counselor,” mostly due to the fact that it costs a LOT of money, so it was just my dad and I filling out college apps, and I thought we were doing great until we submitted it and I started flipping out because, well, what if we didn’t do it well enough?

This stress was furthered by the news that I did not receive any of the Presidential Leadership Scholarships from Wheaton College. I got the letter in the mail yesterday, read it through, slowly, and let the news sink in. I still have some money that I’m getting, to go towards the tuition, but it’s still very much a large sum of money to pay for, and plus it’s in a different state, and…

*calms down*

(Yesterday, I wrote a thousand-word essay on why I was so stressed. I don’t want to do a repeat of that.)

Anyway. Most of the major college decisions come out in mid- to late March, which is still two months away, and I’m internally freaking because THOSE TWO MONTHS ARE GOING TO DRAG ON and I just really want to know now. (Patience has never been my strong suit.) And plus, now that I’ve started watching COLLEGE VIDEOS (did you know they have those??) on YouTube, of people who got into select colleges, I’m wondering if my college apps were as polished as theirs were?? Should I have approached my apps differently?? ?? Should I have begged my parents to pay almost a thousand dollars to get someone to go through my applications with me???? ??

But it’s too late now, I’ve recently been realizing. And as much as I’d love to go to a good school, ALL of the colleges I applied to are very good, very respectable schools, and I know that I will have a great experience wherever I go as long as I make the best of it.

And this waiting period? It’s a good time to reflect, think back on my high school career, and keep things in perspective. The school year is nearly halfway over. Second semester--ESPECIALLY after May, and all my AP tests are done--is going to be a breeze. I won’t have sixth period anymore, so I’ll have extra time to do things.

And I’m determined to not let these next few months get the best of me or define me. Do I want to go to UCLA? Absolutely. Is it the end of the world if I don’t get into UCLA? Not at all. Will March be a month of tears? Yes, it will. Will they be happy or sad tears? Probably both, but the underlying truth is that no matter where I get into, A) I’ll end up where God wants me to be, B) the college I get into does not even come close to fully defining me as a person, C) I’ll still be the same person, even after I get accepted or rejected, and D) this year will be one of the most life-changing and probably one of the best years of my life.

Because I’ll have more free time, I’ll have more time to read my Bible, exercise, write, blog, and work on personal projects. I’ve always had a bunch of really, really huge ideas bouncing around in my head, and now is the time to develop them and figure out ways to make them happen. So that’s what I’ll be doing, instead of sitting around, watching college videos, trying to convince myself that I actually have a shot at the schools I want to get into, because WHO EVEN REALLY KNOWS?

Only Jesus does, and unless He’s gonna send an angel down to tell me which schools I got into, I won’t know until the time is right. So I’ll wait.

(But like honestly. How INSANE is it to think that I’m going to college? REALLY. FREAKING. INSANE.)


AM I LEGIT YET / the struggle for creative legitimacy

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Quote from La La Land:
Mia: Maybe I'm not good enough.
Sebastian: Yes, you are.
Mia: Maybe I'm not. It's like a pipe dream.
Sebastian: This is the dream. It's conflict and it's compromise and it's very, very exciting.

“Am I legit?” is a question I ask myself every time I open a new Google Doc to write something--blog post, book, essay, etc. Am I creatively legitimate? When people read my writing, do they think, Oh, she knows what she’s doing? Or do they just feel a slight sense of confusion, maybe a hint of patronization, and a whole lot of “well, this is really cute”?
I don’t know.

The way I see it, there are two kinds of creative legitimization. The first kind is legitimizing yourself. Do you see your writing/filmmaking/music skills as legitimate, ones with potential that you can develop with a lot of hard work? Do you believe in your dream and your skills, and what God’s calling is for you? It’s the kind of legitimization you give yourself, and the kind that you should at least have a little bit of. I wouldn’t write and publish it on the Internet if I hated it or thought I was terrible and awful at it.

The second kind is other people’s legitimization of your skills, and this is hard to come by and understand/gauge. For example, I can believe in my baseball skills all I want, but nobody else would believe in them, because I’m actually terrible at baseball. Because I’m horrific at it, I would be the last choice in Little League, I wouldn’t make my high school team, and I would most certainly not play in the MLB. And, finally, I would be faced with the reality that I’m terrible at baseball and I’m never going to get anywhere by playing it.

It’s kind of like the same thing with everyone’s creative pursuits. Filmmaking, writing, making music, drawing--you have to believe in yourself, but in order to get anywhere, you also have to catch other people’s attention to gain opportunities. Other people have to legitimize you for who you are, and in order for them to do that, you have to prove yourself worthy by developing your skills and producing things that are actually good.

And of course, it’s never a good thing to be obsessed with what other people think of you. It’s also never a good thing to be obsessed with yourself, and to disregard everyone else’s opinions and critiques. Because although the arts are creative, and there’s a lot of room for improv and different ideas, there are skills to be acquired and rules to be followed. That’s a fact.

So, in a sense, it’s a balance. You have to know which voices to listen to and which ones to block. Sometimes that requires you to shut off your own voice (which is prone to be both self-degrading and self-obsessed, sometimes at the same time) and other people’s voices (which can give helpful criticism, unhelpful criticism, constructive praise, or sugary-sweet praise). It’s all about knowing when to shut off which, and being self-aware enough to do so.

Do you feel legitimized, both by yourself and by those around you? Do you mainly base your own legitimacy on how other people view you, do you base it off how you view yourself, or is it a mixture of both?


Sunday, January 8, 2017

My dad recently forwarded me an article about why this blogger/writer didn’t have social media. To put it simply, he didn’t have it because he was afraid it would interfere with his productivity and his priorities, and he didn’t want any added distractions in his life.
The article wasn’t about creativity necessarily, but it led me to ponder a question that’s been dancing in the back of my head for a while: Does Instagram aid or block creativity?

Instagram, besides Pinterest, is one of the social medias that is heralded as a sort of creative outlet. (I’m actually part of the sect that believes Pinterest is a site that doesn’t truly stoke creativity, but thankfully, I’m not talking about that right now, so please don’t stone me.) People have used Instagram to launch their artistic and entrepreneurial careers; many bloggers practically idolize it. It’s a fast, easy way for people to explore and self-publish their own photography and maybe include snippets of their lives for the whole Internet to partake of.
I enjoy Instagram. I like looking at the lovely pictures, and I appreciate the opportunity it gives me to be artsy. But while I do spend a great deal of time doing what I’d consider to be creative work (i.e., taking and editing photos, as well as composing captions), I can’t deny that there’s the *slightest* chance I spend more time stalking other people and wasting time on it than I’m actually creative on it.

Those gosh darn memes.

Furthermore, looking through dozens and dozens of Instagram accounts has made me realize that it might not be as creative a haven as I thought. While there are some truly talented photographers (*cough cough* @hinfluencercollective), many accounts all look the same, as if they’re trying to replicate one another. Sometimes I spend more time trying to match my feed than being authentically myself.

[I pause the post to take a deep breath and laugh at myself, because this is truly one of the most millennial-like posts I’ve ever written and published. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.]

I believe that social media, as a rule, kills creativity. Have you ever noticed your brain going fuzzier and fuzzier the longer you spend staring at a screen? Have you ever noticed you spend more time thinking about the things you don’t have and the feed you don’t have and the life you don’t have the more you spend time looking at other people’s feeds?
I’ve noticed it, and I’m trying to stop. I’ve been trying to look up, get out, and spend more time proactively creating than simply absorbing other people’s creations. It’s been hard, but I’m trying. As of right now, I believe that Instagram kills creativity--not in it of itself, but through the ways people use it, and particularly the way I use it. It’s entertainment. It’s empty blank space, information we don’t really need.
And so I’m trying to think of it more as a space for creative experimentation and not necessarily a place where I’m inspired. Because, truth be told, though the feeds are pretty, they don’t inspire me that much.

What do you think? Does Instagram inspire you, or does it block your own creativity? How do you use it? Do you set rules for yourself?


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A PLAYLIST by rachel alison

I LOVE MUSIC!! and i love putting together little playlists of songs that i enjoy listening to. my favorite genre is kind of indie pop, kind of r&b, a little bit of electronic, and hip hop. so kind of almost everything.
anyway, i put together a little playlist of songs that i’ve enjoyed listening to, and that you might enjoy listening to as well! if you’ve got nothing to do, or are in search of some inspiration, or just need different music, this playlist is the one for you.

PRECIOUS by kevin garrett

→ FUN FACT! kevin garrett toured with alessia cara (whom i love and whose music i listen to regularly). he also wrote a song for beyonce, which probably means he’s got a decent sum of money and can roll out the dough for his own stuff. i don’t know. but “precious” is a great song for dreaming, thinking, or sleeping. it’s on the slower end--i usually don’t like slow songs--but the repetition keeps me bouncing and it’s good music.

CARRY ON by sebastian kole

→ ANOTHER FUN FACT! sebastian kole was featured on alessia cara’s song “stone”! it seems like i’m obsessed with alessia cara, but i’m not, i swear! and sebastian kole has a great voice--kind of deep and rich and this one’s a bouncy tune, one for dancing and jamming in the car. i showed it to my friends. i don’t think they were obsessed with it, but i liked it enough to show it to them.

OUR LOVE by samm henshaw

→ FUN FACT! i don’t have any fun facts about samm henshaw. this song is really good. it’s vibrant and happy, but not the sugar-pop kind of happy--it has more depth and kind of reminds me of aretha franklin. it’s also one for dancing and jamming in the car, but very well suited for dancing and jamming in the car w/ one’s significant other. or, if you’re like me, dancing and jamming in the car by myself and waiting for that significant other to come along. what can i say--i have loads of fun by myself!!!

WHITE TIGER by izzy bizu

→ this song sounds kind of familiar-ish--i’ve probably heard it in commercials or trailers or stuff--but it’s more of a poppy tune w/ some delicate vocals & some r&b vibes?? i’ve only just begun figuring out what r&b is, exactly, but i’m pretty sure this one would be categorized under it. pretty sure. the song sounds good!

KILLING ME by ofelia k

→ this one’s kind of quiet and delicate and it’s not as morbid as the song name makes it sound. i have no idea who the singer is but i like the song’s vibe. it’d be a good one to fall asleep to, and stuff. i don’t know. i’m really just running out of descriptors for songs other than “it sounds good and i like it so you might too.” there. was that not just the least subtle way of saying things or not?

HISTORY by olivia holt

→ FUN FACT! olivia holt was a disney star who is currently trying to become a pop star!! i have to admit, i don’t like the rest of her EP, but “history” grew on me. it’s actually quite catchy. and it sounds nice and buttery smooth! it’s kind of my secret jam, my slight guilty pleasure.

hope you liked these songs.
drop a line and let me know what other songs i should check out--i’m always on the hunt for new music!


Monday, January 2, 2017

I love planning.

Penciling dates, times, and goals gives me a heady rush like no other. I love the feeling of seeing all my planning laid out before me, the feeling of being organized, the feeling of having my life together.
However, that feeling lasts about two point three seconds before I somehow manage to mess it up. As much as I love planning, I’m terrible at sticking to plans. The past couple of years, I’ve planned out my life to a T, and by the end of the year, my well-laid plans and good intentions have always imploded and drifted away in fragments.

Because, see, as a person, I’m always changing. In 2015, I wanted to have an agent by the end of the year; about three months in, I realized that my writing majorly sucked and that there was no way on earth an agent would pick me up for my writing. So I went on a fiction-writing break, focused on my blog, and poof! all my dreams and plans were for naught.

In 2016, I started Silver Mess in hopes that it would be a blog about creativity. Further along, I realized that I wanted to have a less-structured approach to blogging. Again, my dreams and plans were for naught.

So, this year, instead of setting goals for myself and making meticulous plans for achieving them, I’m setting targets for myself. What’s the difference between goals and targets? you ask.

A goal is something you want to achieve specifically. Finish a book, get an agent, hit 1000 followers, etc., etc. It’s specific. Usually there’s a plan you can make for yourself to achieve it. Up until now, I’ve been setting goals for myself--goals that I usually don’t fulfill.

A target, however, is something that you just generally want to aim for. The mindset required to aim for targets is a completely different mindset than the one used to achieve goals. Life constantly shifts and changes; different things happen on different days, and sometimes you just can’t get stuff done. If you have a goal, you’ll be disappointed if you can’t get things done, because not following your plan can be detrimental. But having a target is different in that it’s okay to make room for more pressing matters. Having a target is knowing that as long as you work whenever you can, you’ll achieve what you want to achieve. Having a goal is following a set plan in order to get something done. Both use deadlines and time frames, but targets are more flexible and overarching (I often set goals for the purpose of fulfilling my target), and for my own personal year-long planning, targets are better.

Deep down inside, I usually know if I’m going to get things done or not. I always know that I’ll get the essentials finished, that I’ll finish things that I need to finish eventually and in a timely manner. But I can’t follow a plan. I get distracted, I have to do chores, etc.--setting times for myself just doesn’t work. I’m a fairly busy person, and things come up. My best bet at avoiding frustration is to not allow the opportunity for frustration to arise at all.

So instead of making enormous plans and not sticking to them in the end--because I know I’m not going to stick to them--I’m going to set targets for myself and keep them in my mind at all times, to remind myself what I’m working for. Obviously, I’m going to have to make lists and plans and things in order to hit my targets, but not having goals lifts a ton of the pressure off my back.
Here are my fairly general targets for this year:

  • Drink more water, eat more fruit and vegetables, sleep more, and learn to love to exercise. I used to set goals for myself: not eat any sugar at all, get abs, lose ten pounds. But then, in order to achieve the goals, I crash dieted, then binge ate, which ultimately resulted in me gaining more weight, failing at accomplishing my goals, and generally not having healthy eating habits. This year, I’m resolving to snack less, and to be more mindful of what I eat. It’s a target I want to hit, and I’m willing to work at it little by little.
  • Read more, and read better. In order to write well, I need to read good books. I’ve been slowly but surely trying to expose myself to more classic literature: in 2016, I read several classics, my favorites of which were The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, and Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Every time I go to the library, I’m trying to get into the habit of going to the classics section and picking out one or two to take home.
  • Polish and finish my middle grade book by the end of the year. I’m hoping to in-depth edit the book, take it through the whole nine yards and make it as polished as I can possibly make it. I want to pay for a professional critique of it and just to make it as good as I can. I don’t expect to publish it; I just want to be a better writer.
  • Write more purposefully, more consistently, and more creatively. I’m aiming to post at least once a week on this blog. I was rolling out twelve posts a month around this time last year, but I don’t think I can do that anymore. I’ll post what I want when I want, but the topics will be anything from creativity to Christianity to more senior updates to honestly whatever. Who knows what this blog is going to evolve into. I’ve stopped trying to force it into a box.
  • Become more laid-back and less judgmental. Someone told me that I was hyper, and another person told me I was kind of immature, which was eye-opening for me. So this year, I’m going to read my Bible more and try to focus on loving others over myself. 2016 was a big setback for my spiritual life, and I need to get back on track (not that I ever really was).

Those are my targets for this year. Whether I hit dead center or barely on the target itself doesn’t matter to me; these are the things I want to work on. Life isn’t a checklist, and I’m a work in progress. I’m just thankful God allowed me to live another day, week, month, year, and I want to use the time I have for His glory.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do you like targets, or goals? Or do you use a mixture of both?

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