Josiah James Hackett
General Music and Liberal Arts Double Major
Interview conducted by Gabrielle Swartzentruber in The Crossings’ series on creativity and diversity within Bethel University’s student body. The heart behind this series is to explore creativity in a broader sense and to be encouraged and inspired by the creatives on our campus and the things that they are doing.
Josiah can often be found in the Everest-Rohrer building on campus, hard at work on theater and music. As a senior this year, he will graduate in the spring to take his creative talents to the world abroad.
What is your specific outlet for creativity?
Creativity means, for me, acting, writing, and leading sometimes – like leading a creative team.
What kind of things do you like to write, and are they the same things that you like to act?
So I basically write my life into my stories, and varying degrees of “completely my story” or “not at all.” There’s at least a little bit of me in each story I create, and so that really shows up in my plays and my poems. Poems are just like, “oh, here’s a tidbit of my life” and I say, “let me just expand upon that.”
So you write poems and plays over short stories and creative nonfiction?
Yeah, that’s my niche. Sci-fi is interesting, but it’s just not my thing. I mean, I do DND (Dungeons and Dragons) and I am a DM (Dungeon Master), and so I create a bunch of different stories. And so that has been the hardest thing for me, but it’s been pushing me a lot to write stories that are just completely not me at all. None of the stories are me at all. It’s just, you know, what can I think of creatively to pop into this world that I created.
Is the mindset when you act different from the mindset when you write?
I’m a lot more nervous when I act. So the mindset for me when I act is more of an emotional experience, while writing creatively is more of a logical experience. So that makes me think, and then acting is more of an emotional response to creation.
Where do you get your inspiration when you write?/What sources do you go to for inspiration?
I usually try not to have any of that. I only recently started having something as a source of creating. I started writing a poem about a picture, but that’s pretty much it. I’ve never had any kind of creativity like that. So basically I just sit down, blank slate, for writing music or writing plays or poems or whatever, and I just think of the first thing that pops in my head, and just go. It’s kind of a stream-of-consciousness thing. I really liked the one I wrote recently; I wrote a stream-of-consciousness on purpose, rather than what I usually do, and it went crazy. It was really fun. I just liked throwing up on paper and logically trying to figure out how it works.
Does that help you with editing – if you have too much stuff on paper, then edit the stuff you don’t want out, or to expand on an idea?
Remember how I said I liked it? I actually hate it a lot. I really hate editing. But I like that it really pushes me to think of my stuff critically, that the more “throw up” I have, the more I have to think of it critically to make it a thing, something people can actually enjoy and digest.
So “throwing up” more is not a positive thing for you all the time?
No! No, no, I think throwing up is fantastic! No, because I think the more that I “throw up,” the more it pushes me to be better, the more it pushes me to think critically. Thinking and learning is what I get out of creating the most.
You mentioned earlier that you take leadership opportunities in creating. What do those look like?
Usually they are creative opportunities, but I’ll be guiding a team to do something. So I find worshipping – doing worship arts – and leading a team is very creative to me, where I get to make these key decisions about what we do as a team, and maybe the decision to not make a decision on here and just let the Holy Spirit be. So that’s kind of the way I’m leading as creativity.
Are your creative processes for music the same as your writing and acting processes?
Creativity is all different. I said writing is more logical and acting is more emotional, and I think music is a mix of the two. Music, for me, it really has to do with what instrument I’m playing, or what instrument I’m singing -myself. I think when it has to come to singing specifically, is very emotional to me, while playing bass, or any kind of instrument, is very logical. So that’ll be either side, but music in general is just both together.
Why is playing bass more logical than singing?
I think more. I feel like singing is more personal because you’re singing these words and what you’re singing may be true or may not be true, you know, whatever you find, but usually whenever I’m singing I find a way to have the words speak to me, or at least speak to a part of me. So that’s why it’s a little bit more emotional for me, rather than just playing a four on the floor bass line. I think about that. I’m not crying over my bass.
Is this because if you make a mistake in singing, more attention is on you, and nobody would notice so much if you made a mistake on bass?
Yeah. Because honestly, when the words fail me, is when it starts not becoming emotional anymore. That makes me sad – that’s an emotion – but it makes me have to think more logically when I forget the words, but then I really don’t get into what the music is saying. And that’s a bummer. It does go back and forth between emotion and logic because I was playing in the jazz ensemble, and there was this one part of the song and I just loved playing it every single time. It just gave me goosebumps every single time I played it, and I was like “oh, this is sick!”, because me and the drummer would lock together playing these octaves, and I was like “yeah!” I wasn’t going to cry, but I was like “yes!” So that’s the more emotional side of things. And then also, I usually play bass in the worship team, and so I’m thinking logically, but it’s almost all emotional when I’m doing worship. So it’s emotion and logic working together.
How long have you been playing at Bethel?
I’ve been playing for two years.
How old were you when you found out that you were a creative person, like when you wrote a piece, or wanted to go into acting or play music?
Okay, so all of them are different. Music was sophomore year of high school. So yeah, pretty late – actually all of them are pretty late. I think my creative side when I was younger was all about just learning whatever I could. And so I think creativity is learning too. Learning and leading. I feel like learning is part of creativity for me, but I didn’t really get into the most creative sides of me until sophomore year of high school for music. I didn’t really get into writing until Creative Writing here, but I started writing in senior year of high school. Just random poems, and I was like “oh, this is sick!” And then I went into engineering. And then acting was junior year of high school. So I kind of found them each step of the way. Freshman year was boring. It’s not like I wasn’t creative up to that point, but I hadn’t really been focusing on anything. And that kind of has to do with a lot of personal things that were going on in my life. Up to that point, I had moved about forty times, so I really didn’t get to have a place to settle down. I didn’t really get to be creative. It was just learning all about new situations. So that was my way of being creative, learning every situation I had , and once I finally got to high school – I mean, I moved once I got to high school to different places around, but I stayed at the same high school – I was able to go for my creative spots there.
What do you think about the “unconventional areas” of creativity, such as math or science?
Oh, there’s so much creativity there! I used to be really, really into math. I guess that’s where my creativity was at. I would just try to learn every single little math thing I could, and any kind of trivia. I would just try to learn it all. Just trivia in general. That’s why I love Jeopardy. I think Jeopardy is super creative, not only just them creating the questions, or anything like that, but I think whenever you have to think critically, which is really important to me; thinking critically about anything, like trying to find anything in the back recesses of your mind creatively, cause even if I answer something wrong in Jeopardy – like I just scream out an answer and it’s completely wrong – that’s being creative. I’m making up something. I’m making up something that’s completely wrong, but it’s still making something up. Anyways, back to math. I really like thinking about things beyond what was in front of me. I love logic, but I just was really interested in the other way of getting to the same answer. I was like, okay, four plus four is eight, but guess what, two plus two plus two plus two is eight. And I was like, “oh I wanna try to figure out another way.” Something I like doing with addresses too is taking any number of an address and rearranging it so I can get zero, or some weird number. But that’s kind of the creative side of math for me; just thinking of it, rather than just numbers of the page spatially. So that’s why I don’t like stats, and I love calculus. I’m not saying stats is not calculus; I’m not saying stats is not creative!
So what made you leave engineering?
I realized that I was just going to be in it for the money, and that’s cool, but, I mean, I wasn’t happy. I was really depressed. And the thing is, I felt stifled in a way. I was just trying to think creatively of different things I could do, and then I ended up taking twenty-four credit hours in one semester and twenty hours of work each week, and I was wondering why I was being burnt out. You can think creatively about stuff, but you really need guidance, and I think that’s why leading is also creativity, because I needed good guidance from someone else. To lead me to be creative in the right way, because I was like “I’m going to take as many classes as I possibly can” and I was getting super burnt out. I think that a lot of my experience here has been super creative, but I found myself saying “yes” to too many things. And that limits my creativity. I think that you need to be creative with certain things, so that’s why I’m like “yeah, it’s cool that I’m involved in three different things” – acting, music, and English – but if I say yes to one, I suffer in the other two. That’s why I love being well-rounded in these things, but I really do encourage creativity to be really focused on one thing at a time. That’s where you can really shine, because I’m writing a bunch of SATB – soprano, alto, tenor, bass – choir pieces, and I’m having so much fun on just focusing on that. I was just focusing on poetry, and I got so much poetry done over the break, but now I’m focusing on this, and I’m getting so much of this done. It’s really, really fulfilling. Because the thing is about creativity is sometimes you can’t finish things. And that bothers me so much with these right now. You know, you want it to be so perfect, you want it to be exactly the same way it was in your head, but if you don’t focus on that one thing, you will not get it done. And finishing something is so great, even if it’s not perfect. Even if it’s not the way it was in your head.
So what you’re saying is learn as much as possible, but limit your scope at certain times?
Yeah, and I’m not saying don’t go for the other things. I think me taking a back seat with acting or anything with theater right now has been really great. But I’m missing acting. I miss acting, so I think that, you know, once I’m done with these two areas I’m focusing on at the moment – I think music will be my thing for the next two months or so; I won’t be focusing much on writing – but once I get to creative writing within Literature as Protest, I’ll be focusing on that a little bit more. Then after I get out of university, I think I might be going into working and editing, and that’s kind of another way of creating. I’m really looking forward to that and, you know, what the possibilities are related to that, because even thinking about your future is creative. You know, you’re creating a version of yourself in the future, where you wanna be, and the way that you get there is creative as well. Everything you do is creative. Sending a text message to my wife when I’m lonely is creative. We are created beings by God, and so we are creation. As a created person who is able to create, we can’t be anything other than creative.