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Bethel Creatives, no. 1: Emily Lynn Ford

Interview conducted by Mahalia Gaff in the The Crossings’s series on creativity and diversity within Bethel University’s student body. The heart behind this series is to explore creativity in a broader sense and to be encouraged and inspired by the creatives on our campus and the things that they are doing.


Emily (Lynn) Ford is a Sophomore English & Writing Major at Bethel University. She can be found published in other pages on The Crossings, long-boarding around campus, or studying in the Acorn. As she comes back for her senior year in the fall, keep an eye out for her creative mark on Bethel’s campus.


What is creativity? How would you define creativity?

Creativity is subconscious sometimes. Dreams are probably the most creative thing that can happen without you trying. Those are usually very subconscious; anything can happen in your dreams. So, creativity is where anything can happen and you can do anything that you want, basically. You can use several different outlets to talk about what you think about or what you want or what sounds interesting to you.

What is your specific outlet for creativity?

Mine is writing, and I like to write short stories or novels, though I haven’t finished a novel yet. But when I do, I want it to be something that I didn’t think it was gonna be because I feel like you sometimes need to let the book do its job, like you shouldn’t be in complete control. For example, today I was writing, and I was pressured by time and so I was writing a lot that just came to my mind and that was the most interesting writing experience I’ve ever had. A lot of my writing experiences I have all planned out, either in my head or on paper, and its structured and stems from an idea. This is great, except for when I would tend to try to control it and ultimately get stuck with nowhere to go. I was limiting myself and I wasn’t letting the book go somewhere if I thought it was stupid, and so today, because of the time limit, I knew I had to get a certain number of pages done, and I just flushed it all out even if it sounded absolutely ridiculous.

How do you balance creating a structure or having an outline but also allowing the writing to do its job?

It depends on what you’re writing. Essays should be structured, but for short stories, you could have a structure in mind and how you want it to end, and go for that, but if you feel like it’s wrong, and writers have that gut feeling and know when it’s not right, save it, and start a new draft and go the way the book is telling you to go.

What is this “gut feeling” that writers have?

Writing is something that I’m learning lately is a way to be courageous or even brave. In any form of art, you’re really putting yourself out there in a way, it’s not always what people expect, and people don’t like change. So, when you’re changing an idea or belief it can be scary. That gut feeling is when you know it’s not quite the way that you want your idea to come across. I’ve talked to other writers and they have it too, where they know it isn’t right and it isn’t what they want. William Faulkner published a book and he knew he still hadn’t told the story correctly and so I think I’ve felt that too and other writers have as well. That feeling when the story isn’t conveyed the right way, and you know you need to fix something.

When did you first start writing?

Around age six or seven.

What first drew you to it?

I read lots of children’s books and picture books at that age, and one story, though I don’t remember what it was called, ended in a way I didn’t like, so I decided to re-write the ending myself.

How would you say the love you had for writing then has changed over the last ten years?

I feel like my love for writing hasn’t changed. I still like to create something that hasn’t been possible and to imagine things that are probably not possible but very well could be. I’ve also always liked reading and I’ve always felt myself like reading more than writing and I’m okay with that since I think it’s good to take things in before you create your own piece because this helps your piece to be more well-rounded.

So, you would say you love writing?

Yes, but I would also say there is a love-hate relationship with writing. For when I love writing, I am letting go, but when I hate it, like without deadlines, what I hate is the process or what I am writing, and I can often become disappointed in what I am creating. Sometimes I like the process, but most of the time I hate it, but in the end, I like having written.

What is that experience like, when you “have written” something?

The beginning of the process is the idea or the spark. The middle is when I’m writing. The end is that feeling that there is nothing more to tell. Maybe more could come later on, but at this point, the piece feels pretty finished, even if it’s rough, it feels as though the story has been told. This is my favorite part.

What are your creative writing habits like?

I don’t have a lot of habits right now and I’m okay with that. As a student, I have a lot to focus on. My priority right now is on classes and making friends. It’s important for me right now to be developing people skills which will also help me with character development in my writing. At this point in my life, I’m just taking everything in, so that later in life I will have even more well-rounded stuff. So, although I don’t have much of a habit with writing, I do have more spontaneous writing, or even just writing projects for class.

Do you have any creative processes for gathering information to be used in your writing?

I always keep a journal. I feel like that’s a necessity as a writer. This way you can write down whatever you’re feeling, and you can be brave and relaxed with it, because it is all just meant for you.

What type of writing is your favorite?

Any creative fiction or fantasy. Creative non-fiction is also fun, and poetry can be sometimes, but I definitely focus on fantasy within fiction.

What does your process look like for writing a fictional piece, whether it be a short story or a longer piece?

There’s two types of ways that I begin: I either have no idea at all and I’ll start talking with friends and family that I trust about what I could write about and from there I just go with it and start writing or if I have an idea, I write it down and then brainstorm on paper. This allows me to not be confined to the lines of a word document, but to be able to draw pictures and to draw connections, which can be really helpful. From there, the next part is to begin freewriting: putting all your thoughts down on the paper and getting the story out. Because sometimes in the beginning of the story you have ideas for other parts so just write all of those down before you continue on.

Do you see the ending of your story when you begin?

For a lot of the stuff I’ve started I don’t have any end goal in mind, which can be scary if you have a deadline, but I always end up coming up with something. The story always seems to find itself.

What goals do you have for yourself as a writer?

I hope to write stories and ultimately to be published. But when I write, my goal is also that it will be something that I enjoy and that I enjoy the process of, as much as I sometimes hate writing, it’s so good to be in that process. I hope that I will be able to share those experiences with the rest of the world.

If you are ever stumped or experiencing writer’s block, what do you do in order to move forward in your writing?

Usually, for me, writer’s block is fear. As if being stuck in the fear of the unknowns: you don’t know where the ending will go or if it will turn up at all, what the character will do next, or what next scene should happen. It can be a stage of boredom also, where everything is bland. A good thing to do is to watch TV shows or listen to music. Something that makes you feel really aesthetic or doing other hobbies that you really enjoy. Spend time with something that gets you out of your headspace so you’re not feeling anxious about it. For me, I like to play piano, longboard, and spend time with friends, all of which help me to get out of my head and to feel normal again. On the writing end, use paper and pen and journal any thoughts without fear and brainstorm as much as your mind allows you to.

How do you deal with discouragement and/or criticism?

I enjoy criticism, and it can be frustrating that I usually get a lot of encouragement because I don’t want people to be nice about my work. Sometimes I just want to be told straight up what the problem is and how I can fix it. Now, I do appreciate encouragement, and I do need people to tell me those things. But I guess what I want is that one friend I can go to that I know will be honest about my writing and tell me straight up if it isn’t good. I find criticism very helpful.

What is your favorite piece you’ve ever written?

It actually isn’t finished yet. But I think it is pretty awesome because this is the first piece that I let take full control. It had a deadline and I turned it in without an ending, and I have no ending in mind. It’s my favorite because I came up with the really cool idea that I’ve never heard of before and I just felt like it was really original and I’m really proud of that. Also, it’s very freeing to have something that I have no control over—it’s fun. And, it’s for a class, so for now, I’m not worried about anyone reading it. But basically, I really like the idea.

How did you come up with the idea for your favorite piece?

It was here, at Bethel, in Acorn, doing homework and listening to music. I was listening to “Calm Symphony” by Boo Seeka and I just had this thought of what if you could go there, to where the song is playing? But what really pushed me to pursue that idea, was reading an interview of Stephen King where he talks about never letting a bad idea go by. King writes so many crazy stories, and so I didn’t want to let a possibly crazy story get away, so I wrote it down, even if it sounded crazy. So, my piece is essentially about this girl who can travel by listening to music.

What is your favorite literary device to implement in your writing?

My work tends to have a very strong theme. I want my stories as a whole to feel a certain way and of course character development, structure, things like that all play a part in that, but a signature of my writing would be what you can learn from it and how you can apply it to your life.

What does the revision process look like for you?

Once I feel like the story has been told, I just go over and fix the structure and think about things like if I wanted that character to say that or things like that. One thing that is helpful is to print your draft out so that you can see everything. Also, getting opinions from people you trust and having another set of eyes can help this process. Finally, taking a step back from your piece after the rough draft has been written, giving it as much space as it needs, whether that be three days, a week, or six months.

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