Heath Wooten is a sophomore at the University of Mississippi, where he studies linguistics, anthropology, and English with an emphasis in creative writing. Writing is one of Heath’s biggest passions, and he shares his poetry on his Instagram account. Read below for more about his journey with writing.
1) When did you first start to write? Do you remember what pushed you to start?
I first started writing some time in grade 3. I had started seriously reading about the same time, and I found the stories interesting and decided I wanted create something of my own. I continued the hobby off and on over the years. Most significantly, I wrote thousands of pages of stories in late middle school, but it was still at that point just a hobby–something to do in my spare time. I got serious about writing in April 2016. I had been reading Wuthering Heights and decided that writing was something I had to be a part of.
2) What type of writing do you do?
Up to the past three months or so, most of my creative output was formless, abstract, vague poetry. It was very much stream-of-consciousness, then cleaned up a bit later. As I’ve warmed up to form and imagery, my poetry has become more focused on emotional moments rather than a detailed or lengthy narrative. I’ve been working sporadically on a fiction story (novel might be too ambitious) as well, and though it’s not in a form I’d want people to see, I’d describe it as a series of detailed vignettes of modern human life. I’m really fascinated in my fiction and poetry with elaborating on hyper-specific emotions and unique situations. I recently wrote a poem about the feeling when your hands are too greasy after applying lotion—anything is fodder for the imagination.
3) Do you have a writing routine, or do you just go as it comes to you?
I keep a journal, and I try to write in it every day. I’m extremely organized with my journal, and it’s divided up into poems, personal entries, little narrative fragments, and several storylines. Most of the poems that are written down in my journal, however, are not seen by anyone but me. They’re my launch pad for something more. It’s really hard for me to decide I’m going to write, to sit down, and to write something I’m proud of. The poems that I’m proud of that end up being posted on my Instagram are stored in the “notes” section of my phone. Those poems are written during frenzied moments of inspiration (often in the middle of the night), but I use the journaled poems to supplement the imagery or to provide unique vocabulary.
4) Is there a piece of advice about writing that’s’ kept you going?
One of my obsessions is 90’s music, and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you who it was, but in an interview, a musician said when asked a similar question, “Don’t be self-conscious of anything you write.” I took that to heart and began posting my poetry to my Instagram account soon after. Even though I cringe while reading some of my older poems now, I was very proud of them at the time. Though not falling into the realm of advice exactly, my friends were definitely the main thing that kept/keep my going. They’re very encouraging of my writing, and never refuse if I ask to run a new poem by them. Just last week, I had a big poetry deadline for my creative writing class. Without complaint, seven of my friends helped me narrow down which poems were to be submitted, and it went splendidly in workshop. I’m intensely grateful to everyone who has supported me.
5) One last question, just for fun: If you could have dinner with one dead historical figure, who would it be?
This question was maybe just for fun, but it was also the hardest to answer! I’d definitely want to have dinner with Mary Magdalene. I grew up Catholic, and I have always had an interest in the women in the Bible. They don’t really get to tell their own story, in my opinion, which is probably symptomatic of the culture, but I think there’s a glaring lack of female perspective in the Bible. Who better to tell the story than Mary Magdalene, possibly the closest woman to Jesus? There is of course the apocryphal Gospel of Mary, but do we know it was her, and can it really give me what I want? I’d love to hear her life experiences, because I feel like she could definitely add a lot to the story of Jesus.