Independent Study: An Artistic Reflection

Written by Jade Riley

For my Independent Study Project, I chose to do an elaborated artistic reflection on a story I started writing three years ago, A Dilemma Born of Blood and Fire. My reason for doing so was primarily to give myself a reason to make sure I stayed up on some kind of an artistic pursuit, as being a theatre arts and creative writing double major, I have never been without a project to work on. I definitely wasn’t going to change that as I went through the program. As my time in the program has progressed, I am delighted to see what my pursuit of this reflection, and that is a novel concept that is defined more powerfully.

I say this because I have come to realize that these past few weeks have been spent asking myself a series of questions. The first of which was “How do I feel about these experiences?” Looking over my response to this question in an artistic journal that I have started, I was surprised by the answer I ended up writing for myself.

It reads:

“I feel they’ve been ice-breaking, excellent prep work to begin taking my novel to the next level, but I also still feel I have a long way to go in terms of gaining depth with it. I also feel that it has been a little bit of branching out, exploring how I want to formulate my writing projects moving forward. I do know that I want to work with real settings. I think this is because the types of fantasies that have gripped me the most as a reader or viewer. There is something powerful in choosing cities that exist and re-imagining them in a supernatural context. For me, that is my preferred way of examining the hope and hardships of our reality.

As for why Chicago is the city of this story, I don’t really know why I chose Chicago specifically anymore. I think I might’ve wanted a midwest city, and Minneapolis was taken for another story I had started. So I chose Chicago. It seemed logical to my way of just picking things.

It became a better idea as I began looking for a place to do off-campus study. I know the reason I chose Chicago over a New York term is that I needed to stay in the Midwest. I feel that I am not yet ready to leave it because I feel compelled to go no further than 8-9 hours from home in case of another family tragedy.

Now that I have been in Chicago for so many months, I feel it’s a more vital (and viable) setting because of the opportunities here. I mean, that’s why I came here, for better opportunities for myself.

I also think that because of that, it makes for a powerful setting to have my character, Sebastian, in. I mean, I think he has so much potential. He’s intelligent, but more importantly compassionate and straightforward in getting things done.

Again, how my experiences here apply to him is that he is aware of the divide between people in Chicago, and I think he is looking for a way to break that. I think this is because he had a professor like Ms. Dorothy, and also because his father is like Jason in that he explores art and dedicate his career to getting people to interact with that art.”

Going over this, especially my reflection as for why I set the story in Chicago, has made me realize just how great and diverse of an experience I have had. I have thought more deeply about the issues our nation still faces with racism today, as well as gotten a hands on experience of what it’s like to navigate Chicago due to the various readings and events I went to for classes. What this did is give me an academic framework of information and experience that I am applying with Sebastian’s background, which ended up being another huge component of my project.

Previously, I had set up some traits of his to be different, but after some feedback, I began to instead change my focus onto how I can instead use my experiences to flesh out who Sebastian is. I did this primarily through continuously asking and repeating questions about Sebastian, and explaining the answers to myself over and over to myself until they crystallized  into this character that I am so passionate to be writing about. Of course, for this to count for the project,  I am taking this brainstorming one step further by then writing down these answers in the form of notes, journal writing, and prose scenes, thus accomplishing my goal of completing an elaborate, artistic reflection for A Dilemma Born of Blood and Fire.

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