As an English major and student journalist, I’m no stranger to writer’s block. I’ve had my fair share of deadline-related stress — from my first article for Arts and Entertainment four years ago to the first draft of my thesis just a few weeks ago. None of it, though, compares to what I’ve felt while trying to write this parting shot.
I don’t think I’m unique here. In fact, I know I’m not — the other night, I had an emergency Zoom meeting with my dear friends and fellow Cav Daily members Gracie Kreth and Abby Clukey. All of us suffering from the same writer’s block, we hopped on the call to reminisce and let the wine flow, hoping the memories would follow.
Though it was great to see everyone, I don’t think it proved fruitful. I, at least, ended the call that night feeling less motivated than ever. As Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor respectively, Gracie and Abby were much higher-ranking members of the paper than I ever was. The fact that they were at a loss for words too made me feel worse, not better. If the fearless leaders of the 130th term didn’t have anything to say, how could I?
There’s a reason for the collective lack of creativity among fourth years, of course — one that I refuse to name, since you’ve probably already read its name a dozen times today. It’s the reason we’re stuck aimlessly doodling during Zoom classes, holed up in our bedrooms. It’s the reason Final Exercises are happening six months late, possibly a year late. It’s the reason that I couldn’t dredge up any nostalgia on my call with Gracie and Abby — or any feeling at all, really.
I’ve always considered a parting shot to be a goodbye, of sorts. But how are we supposed to write one when our goodbye has been taken from us?
It probably sounds conceited, but what finally broke me out of my unproductive funk was reading through my old articles. Doing so made me remember why I fell in love with The Cavalier Daily at all — specifically, the Arts and Entertainment section. Nothing else in my time as an undergrad made me feel so connected to my community.
I was editor of the section for two terms, but I always considered myself first and foremost a writer. I covered events large and small, and realized quickly that I preferred the small — rather, the local. Our University might not be known chiefly for its creative side, but that’s something I sought to change through my journalism.
William Randolph Hearst once said that uncritical journalism wasn’t journalism at all, but instead “advertising.” I think the quote was meant to be unflattering, but I embrace it. As A&E editor and writer, I advertised the creative community as much as possible. I penned article-length shoutouts to the “Black Monologues” — not that they needed my help — the First Year Players, some great student musicians, and the alumni- and student-packed “Black Enough.”
Through interviewing these fellow students and partaking in their art, I felt just how deep the artistic roots of this University run. We get slammed for our homogeneity — in fact, I almost didn’t apply here because I didn’t think I’d fit in — but that homogeneity is only surface-level. The student body is way too large to be totally filled with rich, white Greek life members. They might be the face of the University, but a thriving artistic community still exists. Trust me.
I could fill another article writing about the wonderful friends I made on the paper, a community of another sort, but I’m concerned with legacy here. If anyone remembers me on the Cav Daily next year, it’ll probably be as the incessant advertiser of the arts — and I’m fine with that. (They might also remember me as the Puzzle Master, and I’d be fine with that too.) Journalism, advertising — call it what you want, but I did a lot of it. And I’ll continue to do it in my last article! If you’re a student reading this and you still have some time at the University, please devote some of that time to the arts. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Dan Goff was an Arts and Entertainment Editor for the 128th and 129th terms, Puzzle Master for the 128th, 129th, and 130th terms and writer for the abCD Magazine.