Sleepless Nights and Self-Awareness

It’s 5 am and I am awake. As a college student, I’m questioning why my body decided this would be a good time to open my eyes. It may have something to do with the coffee I drank about 12 hours ago. As much as I like to pretend I have a caffeine tolerance, and though I drink multiple cups per day, anything past 5:00pm typically wires me for a good while. No matter what my body’s reasoning for being awake is, there is no fighting it. I try fighting it, but it only it heightens my awareness. There is no falling back asleep.


Still, I cannot just settle that merely coffee woke me. As I walked across campus last night with my friend, Cassidy, we talked about some personal essays we had recently written for class. We’d both wrestled with the genre in our own ways. I vented my inability to tap into a new aspect of vulnerability as I wrote my essay. For a genre that’s centered around honest and self-discovery this proved to be a bit of a roadblock. At one point I even said to Cass, “I don’t even know if there is anything hidden within me to write about at this point.”


Cass, being the good friend she is, called me out immediately. She pointed out that although it might feel true, it just meant the subject was deeper hidden than what I was letting myself access.


I cannot help but feel part of what woke me up that morning was that topic. Somewhere within me, that untouched idea yawned, and my creative subconscious felt it and shook my conscious-self awake.

I have no idea whether or not I will be successful in finding it. It’s currently 5:37am, which seems a little too early for soul searching. Then again, maybe these raw hours are just what I need to achieve some self discovery. Wish me luck my friends. I will see you all in a few hours.

Creating for a Sharper Perspective

It is true that there are those who, by some stroke of luck, were endowed with artistic talent. Certain people have a sense of vision and creativity that comes naturally; an artistic sensibility that can’t be taught in any tangible or straight forward way. Certain people were in fact “born to be artists.” However, the idea that drawing or any other form of art “can’t be taught” or that people who aren’t good at it are beyond instruction, is not only utterly false, but it also discourages people from breaking the threshold of those first few bad pieces, and keeps them from discovering the benefits of analyzing and translating the world around them into their medium.
The novice artist is constantly confronted with all the ways in which their work falls short of reality and their own expectations. But the practice of an art form is something that I think everyone can benefit from. Once you are able to produce a work that is satisfying to yourself—even just a little—you will begin to see why art is so important to the world and how it can energize your own human experience with an appreciation of the beauty around you.
Often times the best part of my day is the walk back to my dorm after my drawing class. We’ve been doing a landscape mark making unit where we draw with charcoal in the style of Van Gough, capturing the movement and essence of nature. That kind of close and intense observation of trees and grass seems to always shock the mundane and marginal imagery of my routine full of a new sense of life and novelty. 
Instead of just thinking of creative work as trying to depict the best illusion of life, think of it as a way of sharpening your perception. I urge you to take some time with technique. If your medium is visual art, watch some instructional youtube videos, give the shapes of trees and movement of water a second look, and figure out how you can communicate it on paper. With enough practice you’ll begin to notice how artistic rhythms in your work are present in the universe and how they all contribute to the amazing visual experience that goes unnoticed every day you pass through your path to school or work.
Writing also has this same effect on our lives when you reflect on your process. If you’re a poet and you’re posed with describing a flower, for example, you’re challenged to see and record that flower in a way that it hasn’t been before. Fiction writers are challenged with describing situations and human conflicts is new ways too. This trains your mind to attribute a lot more value to your own experience and you are able to see, think, and feel the emotions and aesthetics of your life in terms of its richness and beauty.



Mitch Van Acker
Art Editor

The Joy of Learning

Hi everyone!

I was reminded over break of how fun learning (simply for the sake of learning) can be. I came to this revelation while visiting my older sister’s Kindergarten classroom and reading to the little kids. During the visit, I got to see how enthusiastic all of the kids were to learn. None of the kindergarteners were stressing about grades or due dates; they were all engaged solely because they were captivated by the material. Regardless of the fact that none of them understood rhyming after twenty minutes of attempting to explain that the words “bee” and “bell” do not rhyme, these kids were actually hanging on my every word about the subject. I envied their excitement towards learning, and I made it my mission to model it in my own life.

 As a result, I have taken time out of every week since being back to pick up a random book in the library that looks interesting and start reading. I also decided to approach one of my professors about participating in another one of his classes without receiving a grade. Unintentionally, these two actions have resulted in the inspiration behind a lot of my recent poetry. Amidst the pressure to maintain a decent GPA and do well in classes, we often seem to get distracted from the main purpose of taking classes in the first place: knowledge. When we choose to focus on knowledge and the fun in learning, we gain more from it and learn to enjoy the process.

I would like to issue a challenge to anyone who reads this: learn something new this week; on your own and only because you desire to learn about that thing. This “thing” you learn could be anything from a skill (like cooking a specific dessert), to useless facts about an eighteenth century poet who few people have ever heard of. Most likely, these interesting endeavors will result in some unique forms of inspiration for art that you can produce, and maybe even a piece that could appear in Opus next fall!

Have a great week!



Ryan (Poetry Editor)

3 Bedside Essentials for Writers

If you’re anything like me, your sleeping habits in college are more than unusual. In the past, I’ve found myself cooking an intricate pasta dish, reorganizing my books by color, or embroidering a pocket of my jean jacket at 3am far too often. I was sure my awkward time awake could be better spent doing something productive for my writer self, so I made a small list of items to keep at my bedside that you may also find useful.

  1. A notebook and pen. It’s not revolutionary, but in case you aren’t doing it yet, use sleeplessness as an opportunity to write something profound. You can always edit when your in a clearer mindset.
  2. Your favorite book. No, don’t leave the new book you’re currently reading at arms length. Its far too easy to get sucked into absorbing chapter after chapter. Before too long it’s 6am and the suns slowly rising while you rush to find out if so-and-so is actually dead. When you have your favorite book beside you, you’re less influenced to binge read. Instead, it’s nice to hop around to brief favorite moments before dozing back asleep. I’ve found that when I do this, I wake up more inspired to write.
  3. A tape recorder. This can be on your phone, but I’d highly limit your phone use to avoid a social media downward spiral. With a tape recorder, you can record your nighttime thoughts without the filter of your handwriting. You can capture tone, hesitation, and context. Sure, it’s weird to basically talk to yourself in the middle of the night, especially if you have a roommate, but I’ve recorded some bizarro things on my tape recorder that I would never feel comfortable writing in a journal.

So basically, limit yourself to what you’re allowed to do when you’re unable to sleep. You can channel your insomniac frustrations into unique pieces of writing. If you’re a person of a different medium, curate your bedside to cater to that. Good luck and sleep tight!

Madison Veverka
Co-editor

Submit!

Hello, Artists and Writers!

We hope you all are just as excited as we are for another semester of Opus to kick off!

The first thing to be aware of is that our submission deadline for this semester is this Friday, January 27 at midnight. As a refresher, we a accept submissions of poetry, prose, and art of any medium. There’s a limit of 5 print submissions and 5 art submissions, so you can submit up to 10 pieces total. For print submissions, we ask that you attach each piece as a separate word document entitled the title of your piece, with no name on it. For art pieces, attach pictures of your work entitled the title of your piece as JPEGs.

If you have something from a class last semester that you feel proud of, this is the perfect opportunity to share it with the world! At risk of exhausting the age old, “don’t be afraid to submit” cliche, we especially want to encourage your oddities this semester. After completing a publication of Opus last semester full of strange, boundary defying, and spirited pieces, we are more excited than ever to see what creativity means to each one of you.

Finally, remember that Opus is still active after the submission deadline passes! We will be holding meetings every Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9pm in Lubbers 224. As always, come when you can, and leave when you have to.

We are looking forward to reviewing your pieces!

Feel free to email us with any questions.

Grace Hulderman, Co-Editor

Collecting Experiences

As I reflect on the past few weeks, I’m starting to realize I let myself get pretty beat. My schedule has been flooded with group projects, last minute essays, prep for exams. The creative energy has been put by the wayside, and in the past few days I’ve realized how out of touch I’ve fallen with the work I’m most passionate about.
As soon as this rose to my consciousness, I started putting some pressure on myself to write more. I took my assignment-based, school-mindset and tried to apply it to my writing. As soon as I started putting expectations on myself to produce something good, something impressive my mind started cramping.
Mallory, one of my lovely art-adoring friends, realized she’d been doing the same thing and it wasn’t producing any results, so this weekend we decided to hit the road and cozied up in a new coffee shop in the closest big city we could find. 
I’m happy to report that in this current moment I’m sitting with a savory pastry in hand and one of my best friends beside me. Maybe the caffeine will kick in at some point and give me some writer’s inspiration, but maybe it won’t. Either way that’s okay because sometimes what really matters is letting the experiences soak into your mind not in hopes of getting a good piece out of it, but simply for the sake of living life. 

Seasons

Hi all,
While walking through the carpet of fallen leaves on campus this week, I could not help but think about the concept of seasons within a college student’s life. There is a time for everything. There is a time for procrastination and a time for planning ahead. There is a time for knowing and a time for guessing. There is a time for joy and a time for sadness. There is a time for warmth and a time for cold. Yet at the same time, there does not seem to actually be enough time for anything at all.
The campus is beginning to change: freshmen have settled in, studies have picked up, and winter weather is right around the corner. However, for the time being, we all seem to have a specific schedule figured out for week after wild week. This constant push and pull between routine and variation cultivates throughout college. If the monotony of routine fails to drive you crazy, the inconvenience of change ought to do the trick.
As artists, I believe that the transitions between seasons provide plenty of creative opportunities for reflection and observation. In other words, changing seasons of nature or seasons within your own life allow you to both reflect on the season that has passed and welcome the beauty of the season that is arriving. Take time out of your day to acknowledge your surroundings, and use this as inspiration.
This weekend is Homecoming, so every student on Hope’s campus is going to hear an alumni remark something to the effect of how quickly their time at Hope passed by. Although you may be struggling either to break routine or adjust to change, make sure to listen closely to the remarks of these alumni. Hope is a special place to be, and youth is an exciting gift to possess.
Enjoy the beauty of campus these next few weeks,
– Ryan, Poetry Editor

The root of my inactivity

When I came to Hope, I had created a vision for what I wanted my college experience to be. It was inspired by a combination of stories from my family members, daydreaming with my friends, and regrettably, a lot of overly romanticized teen movies.
My dad, specifically, made a point to share a lot of his memories with me. He saw us as similar types: introverted, drawn to the bizarre, avid listeners of NPR and musical soundtracks. It was unavoidable that I’d want to get to college and recreate his band of Dostoyevsky reading misfits he surrounded himself with. I wanted to purchase a beaten up typewriter to share with my roommates, live in a molding house we would call “The Palace,” and play croquet with them mid campus in silk robes.
None of these things happened. Freshman year, I roomed with a pre-vet student and we went out very little. I retreated within myself, spending my free time watching too much anime and writing bad songs. I outwardly dismissed the students that formed loud, boisterous friend groups, but internally envied their ease around each other. I watched a lot of John Hughes films, stayed in my dorm room often, and questioned why I was at Hope.
It took an unexpected conversation my dad over spring break to snap me out of my haze. He was telling me about his college days again, about him and his weekend routine of drinking at the dingiest bar in town because it was the hippest. But my interest halted at the work “routine.” I was familiar with it because I had created my own, one that bored me before I even I got home from class. My dad continued and confirmed my thoughts, saying that he quickly grew tired of going to that bar so often, but carried on because it gave off the outward impression of being “cool.” He told me he envied the time I had alone.
I realized that comparing myself to my dad and others was only going to keep me from doing any of the things I wanted. I spent all my time imagining what adventures others were having instead of having my own. In honesty, I immensely love having time alone, but when others are involved, spontaneity can be sparked.
So stop comparing yourself to others! Most likely, there’s been plenty of people looking back at you, thinking to themselves, Hot dang, they’re cool… If only I could be more like them…
Madison Veverka

Co-editor

What baking muffins at 5am taught me about being a writer…

Last night a series of comical, unfortunate, satirical events led to me realizing I hadn’t baked two dozen muffins for a volunteer event occurring at 6:30 the next morning. Already in bed for the night, instead of staying up late I opted to set my alarm for 5am.


The list of tasks for the next day unfolded in my mind as I drifted to sleep. I had two responsive essays to write, poetry to edit and analyze, a brit lit reading to do. Oh, and Opus submissions were due (and who submits to Opus more than 12 hours in advance from the deadline…not the prose-editor of Opus, apparently).


How was all of this going to get done?


Well I woke up at 5 am today and realized this: my mind was clear and eager to write. I quickly whipped up some muffins and threw them in the oven. As they baked, I cracked open my computer and began typing away. I’d expected to be foggy and cluttered in thought, but I couldn’t remember the last time words seemed to be spilling that easily onto a page. The distracting, stressful thoughts that built over the course of yesterday had erased themselves with the night’s rest (however brief that rest was). My mind was fresh at that time in the morning. Now I’ve known I was a morning person for a long time, but amongst the crave of college I’d forgotten to save my mornings for creative space.


Don’t worry, I know most college students aren’t morning people; I’m not here to convince you the best writing technique is to wake up before sunrise everyday. But here’s what I did learn from my morning: we all have our creative hours, and fencing those times off for writing is key to the writing process. I’ll admit I prefer it when it doesn’t come at a time that inhibits my sleep, but folks, if worst comes to worst, my one piece of advice is this:


There’s no lack of sleep or writer’s block a cup of Lemonjellos can’t fix.


So if you’re wondering where to find me on this Friday, you’ll find me nestled in the corner of my favorite coffee shop, with a tall cup of black coffee, scribbling poems into my notebook. I’m taking back my mornings for my own creative space and I encourage you all to join me in searching out your own time of day when the creative flow gets a rollin’. Be shameless about it! Take that time for your own. Cozy up in your favorite nook, break out the pen and paper, and write yourself silly.

Reading as a Writer

In my intro to creative writing course we have been discussing the topic of “reading like a writer.” “Reading like a writer” refers to being consciously aware of the devices and techniques that are used in the pieces you read so that you may attempt to emulate them in your own writing. We often do this subconsciously, drawing inspiration from the writers or artists that we enjoy most. However, the concept of “reading like a writer” focuses on recognizing effective styles more intentionally.
The problem with this task is that the start of the semester is always so hectic it is hard to find time to explore artistic pieces. When you finally do find time, you are so sick and tired of reading material for classes that you would rather turn on Netflix and mindlessly watch The Office.
Because of this, I made it a personal challenge this week to apply the concept of “reading like a writer to my Human Physiology and Psychology textbooks. In doing so, I became more aware of writing techniques that the textbooks used and was inspired to create some interesting, goofy, gosh darn terrible poetry about glial cells (on account of it being 4AM the night before an exam). While the techniques I saw in these textbooks may not have been as creative or poetic as the ones I observed in my creative writing textbook, there were certain devices used by the author that helped me understand the material easier; such as allusions to larger scale occurrences to help explain microscopic events. Unexpectedly, I even found creative inspiration here.
My point is that art and inspiration are everywhere around us. Even stashed between graphs of action potentials and tables of organelle functions there is poetry, beauty, and lessons to be learned about effective writing. All you need to do is read like a writer.
You are artists! You are writers! You are poets, coming from the Greek word “poetes” meaning “maker” or “creator.” So CREATE! (And then submit to Opus at opus@hope.edu).
Ryan Woodside

Poetry Editor