Last Wednesday, Rollins welcomed the incomparable presence of Junot Diaz. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey Diaz has been the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and many others. His novels include Drown, This is How You Lose Her and Rollins’ freshman summer reading book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Diaz is currently the Fiction Editor at the Boston Review and a Writing Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
During his brief time with us, Diaz held a discussion with the English Department faculty and students about creative writing that was thrilling, to say the least. This TED Talk-esque environment approached the broader concept of creative writing as both institutional and worldly and touched on aspects that Junot believed influenced the artistic world.
One idea that Junot raised that resonated with the audience was the idea of creativity and institutionalization. Diaz specifically talked about how colleges and universities have turned creativity and majors like English and Creative Writing into a profit that needs to satisfy some moral/social code. He then began to talk about how society needs to learn to break away from that—that we as artists and creators must establish our own personal range of creativity. In other words, if we draw a small box around ourselves, our passions, ideas, and careers, then that is only as far as we will go—which means that we either need to draw another box or pick another shape.
He continued to remind us that our first job, major etc. is only one it is the one of many. He says this is a hard concept to grasp and something that he is constantly trying to teach his students at MIT. I found this idea to be true and very relatable to my current situation. At the end of this semester I will be graduating, and it is only now that I have begun to understand that life is not as linear as I’d been taught; the affirmation from authors such as Junot Diaz seems more than enough proof that it is not. Furthermore, I feel that his message on Wednesday was not meant solely for writers, but for everyone.
As students at a liberal arts college, we all have unique talents and ideas for our future and it is important that we consider all of our options and be as creative and innovative as possible while we can. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.