Among the aspects of Geneseo most cherished by budding artists are its intensive creative writing program and encouragement of musical expression. English creative writing major freshman Katherine Johnson is exploring both Geneseo staples as she adapts to the challenges of early college life.
Johnson has been writing her own songs since childhood, which most likely sparked her love of poetry later in life. Though Johnson admits that her earliest pieces weren’t the best, starting young helped her build a foundation in music.
“I was eight or nine when I found Taylor Swift, and I remember watching an interview of hers where she talked about how writing songs for her meant that she could say anything she wanted to anybody she wanted with no repercussions,” Johnson said. “I was having all these friend issues at school and I thought, ‘hey, I could say all the things I want to say to these people in a song.’ As soon as I started doing it, it was natural for me.”
After the ignition of Johnson’s passion for music, she decided she wanted to be able to perform independently.
“I was 100% determined to play guitar because I wanted to be able to stand somewhere and sing my songs and not have to rely on other people,” Johnson said. “It started off as songwriting, and then I ordered a guitar off Amazon for like 80 bucks and taught myself how to play. I learned the names of the strings and the notes and I would go home and Google ‘Love Story’ by Taylor Swift, sit in my room and try to learn the chords.”
Lyrics and poetry go hand-in-hand. Johnson’s writing process for both forms of artistic expression, which are distinct in her mind, is to allow inspiration to guide her hand and tell her what a certain piece wants to be: song or poem.
“Whenever I get an idea for something, its either very clearly a song or a poem. I’m not really sure why,” Johnson said. “I feel like my songs always rhyme and my poems don’t. I do this thing where people will say something to me and I’ll say, ‘hold on, I’ve got to write that down.’ Sometimes something happens to me and I’ll think, ‘that’s a song.’ Sometimes I’ll think, ‘that’s not a song, that’s just a thing I want to rant about.’”
The Geneseo creative writing track called out to Johnson when she first arrived. Though Johnson entered Geneseo as an English education major, she realized that she was more invested in creating material than teaching it.
“When I took [Intro to Creative Writing], I loved it so much,” Johnson said. “I wanted to be more involved in writing than anything else. I found my place with creative writing. I applied to the [creative writing] track and then I got the acceptance email during one of the worst weeks that I’d had; that’s when I decided to drop education to be a creative writing major.”
As far as performing and creating her music goes, Johnson has no intention of stopping. Johnson performed at an open mic on March 28 at Cricket’s Coffee Company on Main Street.
“I was 16 the first time I played my own music in front of people, it was at an open mic,” Johnson said. “I was in love with it and I kept doing it … the only thing that’s stopping me from producing my own music is that I don’t know how. This summer I’m going to try to release something, like an EP or at least a song. People are always like, ‘where’s your music?’ but it’s just in my head right now.”
The world better look out for Kat Johnson after her freshman year. Thanks to her strong will and talent, Johnson won’t let the challenges of school work stand in the way of her musical and artistic ambitions.