Notes From Crew Quarters: Changes
This week, Ethan Brightbill asks our editors how the act of being a writer has changed them as people.
Jason Teal, Associate Fiction Editor
I always used to be a reader–Stephen King, Dean Koontz, others–but writing sentences has honed my reading skills to a deadly blade, useful in close-quarters combat. I am hyper aware of art and politics, where I wasn't so much growing up in Ohio, smelling Lake Erie every day. It's opened opportunities for me to network, where I found talking to bankers and fraternity bros insufferable. I have things in common with people (!) and an outlet for expression, reasons to travel, lifelong friendships, professional goals. Overall, I am a far better human, more outgoing than never writing would have made me.
Mike Berry, Associate Nonfiction Editor
I've learned that writing is my biggest exercise in catharsis. I know that's not an exciting or revelatory answer, but writing offers me a space to be comfortable with my neuroses and obsessions, to let them consume something other than my own head. Getting things like skinning versus plucking geese, why eulogies exist or what does the weird connectedness of our highway system mean from rattling around my head onto a page, that exercise alone makes being inside my own head much more peaceful, which probably makes more pleasant to be around. For me, the balance that comes with that peaceful mind is key to being a social human of the world. I can only imagine what a monster I'd be without it.
Jacqueline Boucher, Managing Editor
This is kind of a tough one because I've always been a writer (see: my rousing kindergarten mystery "Have You Seen My Set of Pets?"), so I've never really had a chance to get to know the person I might be if I wasn't. Coming to poetry, though, took much longer. It helped me find my feet, and the ways they best connected with the ground beneath me. Plus, it gave me an excuse to write artsy fan fiction in verse, and you better believe I'm not gonna complain about that.
Ben Kinney Associate Editor Emeritus
I remember once writing something full of cheap platitudes, which in my haste I had mistaken for gems of brilliance, and getting called out for my laziness in workshop. This incident not only changed the way I write and attempt to grapple with questions, but it made me a lot less sure, in the best possible way, of all the principles I had previously considered sacred, many of which were reducible to Minions memes. At the risk of sounding pompous, I think it is in writers of all genres' job descriptions to keep searching for truth, in all its elusiveness, after other people have understandably gotten tired and gone home. I think this mindset has carried over to my non-writing life as well, giving me a certain cynicism that I actually enjoy.
Tianli Kilpatrick, Associate Nonfiction Editor
Writing has helped me find balance. Not just in setting aside time to write and so creating a more balanced schedule, but finding balance mentally. Creative nonfiction has allowed me to write about things I can't talk about. It's much easier for me to trust a blank sheet of paper than a person.