“I’d like to think that most people start with fan fiction,” Ranha Beak said.
Beak, a junior creative writing and English double major, has been making art since childhood. She got her start the way she said most people do, with clammy child-hands on a box of crayons. In elementary school in Gunpo, South Korea, Beak was often caught making up stories in journal logs.
“I got in trouble for writing a fancy lie about imaginary dolls when I was six years old, but now I’d call that a descriptive work of fiction,” Beak said.
In the fifth grade, about three years after immigrating to Macon, Georgia, Beak learned to use writing to heal her homesickness in the form of fan fiction.
“I wrote them in English, and crossing English with Korean lyrics helped me feel like I had an identity,” Beak said. “Also, my friends don’t even know this.”
Now, Beak has branched into many different types of writing. She started writing short fiction when she got to Mercer, and now she writes long fiction and poetry. This semester, Beak is even learning to write screenplays.
For Beak, the biggest struggle with writing is self-assurance. Even if confidence comes easily, the process of making something can be a test of bravery. Beak called the creative process “terrifying and embarrassingly humbling.”
“It’s not so much the blank page that scares me, but the promise of finishing the story,” she said. “The amount of self-assurance, positive support and tough-love criticism needed to put just one sentence after another can be really frustrating.”
Although the process is daunting, Beak said finishing a piece she’s proud of is the most rewarding breakthrough she knows. Even when the writing is bad, it can serve as inspiration to write something better.
“I can name all the famous writers and esteemed poets I’ve studied so far, but to be honest, bad writers make me want to write desperately,” Beak said.
Beak’s current reading list includes “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin. She read it for the first time in high school, but said the story stays with her now that she’s in college.
“I think it’s because I’m deliciously afraid of recognizing myself changing at the moment,” Beak said.
According to Beak, being a creative at Mercer can feel isolating at times. She jokes that she lives in the “Hardman-Ryals-Willingham” triangle of campus.
“The engineering building? I don’t know where that is,” Beak said.
In her classes, Beak said she notices that the professor-to-student ratio can be detrimental. Sometimes professors have to tackle more than one genre or discipline, which she said hurts students’ chances for specificity.
“Students can have wildly different aspirations toward their craft, but we must make do and provide a merged compromise of sorts when it comes to critical feedback,” Beak said. “I can’t think of a creative-major equivalent to PA tutor sessions like the STEM majors have.”
In Beak’s eyes, the Macon creative community is thriving, but the community at Mercer could see improvements. Beak said creative students at Mercer often have to learn to work with what they have.
“I wish Mercer would celebrate creative expressions campus-wide and give students the recognition they should aspire to achieve as Mercer graduates further beyond the Tattnall side of campus,” Beak said.