One goal I had for this semester is to attend more cultural events on campus.
Because how many times can you say you’ve listening to a Pulitzer Prize-winning author speak? Maybe a couple of times, maybe never.
Tonight I had the chance to hear Junot Díaz speak at my school. Díaz is a prize-winning author, and he is also a professor at MIT and the fiction editor at Boston Review.
I read his Pulizer Prize-winning novel, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao last semester for my Spanish class. While many students in the audience tonight came to take notes for a class or a paper, I came simply to listen what he had to say about writing, life, diversity, the latino culture in America, assimilation, art, family and love.
These talks always inspire me. And I was smart and brought a journal to take notes.
The first thing Díaz notes is about college culture.
“You’re all either really busy or trying to look cute,” he said, speaking to us college students. Totally true. And I can say that most of the time, we are trying to do both. He made many humorous remarks throughout his time speaking, which was very refreshing.
Most of the time he answered questions from the audience. People asked some great questions. Or rather, he had some epic responses.
The first was about the writing process.
Writing is his art. And artists make a string of mistakes. That is the writing process: making many mistakes. In college, however, we are punished for our mistakes. It’s in the nature of taking college classes: we are graded and we are always working for the best results. We don’t want to make mistakes.
But he went on to say, as an artist, you should work on weaknesses. We can only grow if we work in the areas that we’re weak in.
Doing this can make us anxious, uncomfortable and tired. But it’s the way we can truly live and truly see how we can overcome struggles. Because no matter how much we want to ignore struggles (especially in college)–they are there. And overcoming them is the success. Avoiding struggle gets you no where.
Díaz also commented on some very deep topics rooted in our culture today. It would be too much if I talked about all of them in one post. Maybe another post!
But I want to end with this pretty solid quote from him.
This quote really stood out to me. And I think this is why writing and storytelling is so important. Through telling stories we can briefly live in someone else’s world. Someone’s life.
Junot Díaz inspired me as a writer and made me realize that it truly is an art. (It can also be a science, sometimes too, but I’m learning that it’s both an art and science at different times.) Writing, visual art, graphic design, creativity all goes against our natural culture to try to be good at something. We are on this journey of making mistakes and learning that there are problems in the world due to people’s failures. Due to mistakes. Creativity is what tries to combat that by working on those weaknesses and by expressing the pain, joy and other emotions we feel in response to struggle. Creativity is here to make a difference. We possess creativity in order to express our problems. We possess creativity in order to made our struggles known. And beyond that, we possess creativity in order to solve these problems. And not only the problems within our life journey, but those larger than us. Larger than what we can see.
Because creativity is a window into the unknown. Creativity possesses these crazy, confusing pieces that when you put them together you get a clearer perspective on the problems of the world. And it ultimately shows you how to use your abilities, your feelings and your story in order to work towards solutions.
And that my dear readers is what happens when I put off blogging for too long: I write lots of paragraphs about writing.
Have any of you heard of Junot Díaz? Has anyone studied Spanish or Latin American literature?
I hope you all are having some great weeks!