Writer Interview 1: Alison Creed
Written by Justin Eulalio
During the spring of 2016, it hit me that I didn’t (and still don’t…. (¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) know what the fuck I’m doing with my life. I was at art school, studying to be a writer. But like, what is a writer nowadays? Do I have to graduate with a degree in order to be recognized as one? I fell into the rabbit hole of, “Is this degree worth it?” It’s a shit place to be, but when you’re spending $20,000 a semester, it’s an important place to visit.
Being the person I am, I was fixated on all of these questions and issues until I felt like my entire world was in disarray and everything around me was crushing me with giant boulders. I don’t like boulders. I ended up skipping the last two weeks of classes because I forced an identity crisis upon myself, leaving me frightened and unable to face the world because I wasn't sure I knew who I was, what I was, or what I wanted. In hindsight, it was very over-dramatic, but it stemmed this project of mine!
This project is me hoping to find myself through listening to other writers. Looking internally has been a literal hell for me and now, I am tired. So, hopefully other people will give me the answers I want so I don’t have to think about it anymore.
I can’t recall specific moments or instances where Alison inspired me to pursue my interest in writing. But if anyone were to ask me “who is the one person that influenced you to put your words down on paper?” I would credit Alison Creed as that one person. So, I thought she would be the best first person to interview.
Even though I have not been in touch with her since this interview, I still view her as a mentor. And I hope to once again be able to share my works with her.
When I arrived at the coffee shop we coordinated to meet at, I was 10 minutes late. Alison Creed, a past professor of mine at Columbia College Chicago, had already made her nest—reinforced with her bags and books, at a table in the corner of the cafe. I delivered my apologies and she, in-turn, offered to buy me coffee. I refused. Our conversation started with “How have you been?” and the catching up continued as I set up for the interview.
When I finished setting up, I informed her that I was determined to meet with her because I was hoping to discover the course she took in order to become a writer, as well as when she started recognizing herself as a writer. I was hoping that some of her responses would help me discover my own path and possibly my own self-worth in the field. But as soon as I relayed my intentions to her, she was quick to tell me that she doesn’t actually regard herself as a writer. She writes—in fact she's been writing since she was a child—but she doesn’t coin herself as a working writer. Instead, she sees herself on the educator spectrum of things, because of the Literature degree she acquired at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Because Alison influenced me through her teachings, gave me notes on writing pieces outside of class, and talked to me about some of the works she has written, I guess I just assumed she was an individual who regarded herself as a “writer.” The fact that she doesn’t, really fucked with me. If she doesn’t see herself as a writer, then what does she see me as?
Ms. Creed hasn’t been actively writing for income, but she was recently tasked with writing a book review for a magazine, run by her friend Toni Nealie. “It can only be 350 words. Talk about concision; that’s nothing!” She expressed this thought to me in the context of making every word written matter. “There’s not enough revision happening anymore. People write blogs and post anything that comes to their heads. That’s why I don't like to give word requirements on my assignments when I don’t have to. It ends up just being a scramble to reach the minimum, and the content suffers.”
During my pity party crisis episode, I stepped into a state of social isolation. Analyzing my life and the world my life was/is apart of, I started to become more aware of self-revision—or what I believed, the lack of self-revision in the world. I started observing it in classrooms, the small social interactions inside my friends’ dorm lobby, and especially on social media. I still feel that the majority of people don't give a thought to what they say before they say it. They only write and speak for the sake of people acknowledging them. It was this revelation that made me start to question what my ethos as an aspiring writer is. Am I writing just for the sake of calling myself a writer? Do I just want my name to have a certain association with it? Is it an ego thing? I don't believe so.
“People definitely write for different reasons,” Alison addressed to me as I verbally expressed my crisis to her. “When people really explore their experiences meaningfully, there is a universality in it. And I feel like that may be why some people love to write.”
The statement only felt like a bandaid on a severed wound. Although I appreciated what she was conveying to me, it didn’t help me get any closer to finding out what my purpose is as a writer. I mean, everyone writes, but not everyone writes as a profession. When one steps into the role of a writer, one must have a message. One has to actively be trying to say something that actually carries weight (at least in my interpretation).
However, Alison completely disagreed with me. She reminded me that although I am living as a big boy, I am a measly 18 (now 19) years old. “Can you accept that you are a young man and maybe through experience and through developing your craft, you’re going to get more confidence?”
Hmm, touché Alison. Maybe there isn’t an easy way out. The strenuous process of rejection and refinement is inevitable. I can accept that. But maybe there are certain things I can do in order to speed up my development. After all, some say that once one learns how to learn another language, one can start learning any language. I don’t regard myself as an expert musician, but I at least know that I am a musician. Through music I can comfortably project my ideas and thoughts. Maybe by retracing my footsteps I can find my niche as a writer.
Contact Justin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.