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Creative writers weigh in on state of artistic field

Matt Waxman thought he’d be a doctor.

When he first enrolled in college, he planned on studying pre-med or pursuing another STEM subject. The sciences were profitable and likely meant job security. But Waxman had always been a writer. He’d known it to be a passion of his since he was a child, when he fell in love with reading and wrote books to share with his elementary school classmates. 

After those initial college doubts and anxieties about pursuing a job in a creative field, he revisited writing and decided it was indeed a passion worth pursuing.

“I might make money being a doctor,” Waxman, a senior studying creative writing, said. “But I just wouldn’t be happy.”

It seems that creative writing, like so many professions, has quickly and drastically been changing. In the age of technology, self-publishing through sites like Amazon or freely releasing work through sites like Wattpad is becoming more and more common. Some writers are finding success through the new media trends, while others find comfort in traditional publishing methods. In any case, each writer’s journey is their own, and their outlook on the industry varies just as their creative style does.

Waxman is an editor for the Ohio University student literary journal Sphere Magazine. In his editing duties, he prefers experimentation in syntax and character types. He looks for diversity when reading works submitted to the journal.

“There are a lot of experimental things that are being published now that couldn’t be published before,” he said. “I think that instead of boring people with the old sentence structure that we have in traditional writing, I think it’s kind of important to vary it as long as you can get what you’re saying across. There’s an artistic value to kind of changing it up.”

Morgan Roediger, a graduate student studying creative writing, fostered her lifelong passion for English by studying creative writing in her undergraduate education as well. She primarily writes fiction, and although she hasn’t been published yet, she’s been working diligently to cultivate her writing into something she would be proud to publish.

“I guess I’m not pushing myself to publish right now because I’d rather get my work to a spot where I like it and where I’m comfortable with it before I send it out,” Roediger said. “I feel like I’m getting to that place now, because I know looking from work last year compared to this year that I have come a long way as a writer.”

Despite the recent boom in self-publishing, Roediger hopes to publish in a more traditional medium. Although self-publishing seems to be a viable option for many, she hopes to pursue publication through a more traditional medium by finding a literary journal that matches her own style and audience. From then on, she hopes to continue working on her personal prose and potentially teaching English coursework to others at the college level.

“To get your work out there, you just have to write,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing — you have to take the time to write and really know your audience.”

Patrick O’Keeffe, an associate professor of English, has published two works of fiction. He, too, came to love reading and writing at a young age, and that eventually led him to pursue a master’s of fine arts in English from the University of Michigan. 

“I had wonderful teachers, and I think I learned a great deal from them,” he said. “And I also had very supportive teachers, and it meant an awful lot to me.”

O’Keeffe wrote his first novel after graduating with his master’s degree, while also adjunct teaching. A story of his that was published in a literary journal caught the eye of an agent, who then helped him to publish his first book, The Hill Road. Now, when students pursuing creative writing ask him for professional advice, he tells them his publishing journey and encourages them to also consider applying to MFA programs.

In addition to a formal education, O’Keeffe said there’s also great value in finding trusted readers — a cohort of other writers to provide one with honest feedback can be incredibly beneficial.

“Community is important,” O’Keeffe said. “I think writers are really private. We’re private people. But I also think that community is important.”

But each writer’s path differs, and O’Keeffe does his best to provide helpful advice and feedback while also respecting each individual’s style and story. Whether they hope to pursue a higher degree and work in academia or consider self-publishing, the creative industry often works on a case-by-case basis. 

“It seems to me that there’s space for a lot of different voices out there,” O’Keeffe said. “Or you hope there is. And there’s space for a lot of different stories.”


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