Sam Houston State University is home to many exceptional students who are doing incredible things outside of their academic career. The Houstonian would like to recognize some of those amazing Bearkats.
When asked about a life motto or a phrase that motivates him to work hard and be successful, Daniel Johnson, spoken like a truly passionate writer and poet, quoted one of his favorite writers and biggest inspirations.
“There’s a quote from Zora Neale Hurston that I’ve loved ever since I read Their Eyes Were Watching God. ‘There are years that ask questions and years that answer’. That’s probably the best way to look at life,” Johnson said.
Daniel Johnson, a junior English major has taken his great passions for poetry and spoken word and used them to jumpstart his career before he even finishes his degree.
It was not too long ago that Johnson was a new student at Sam Houston State University, getting used to college life, and curious about different creative outlets that could help him grow as an artist. He stumbled upon the student-run Poets Lounge, and the experience had a great impact.
After that first visit to the Poets Lounge, Johnson continued to attend every week to share and listen to other students’ poetry. He later made the Slam Team, the university’s competitive slam poetry team. Johnson now hosts the Poets Lounge every week while juggling numerous responsibilities outside of school.
Johnson has started contributing his work to the world of published writing. He has compiled two books of poetry and is currently working on a third. Johnson talked about how he became a published author and what followed his publication.
“I blog and some of them have gone viral,” Johnson said. “I wrote an ‘Apology to Black Women’ and Urban Cusp published it a year ago on September 1. That one got a lot of feedback and got me a lot of friend requests.”
Johnson is now in the process of getting more of his work published and has begun working with a couple of different publications in Houston. Johnson talked about the work he is currently doing as well as how he keeps busy outside of school.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll have something published soon,” Johnson said. “I just picked up contributing writer status in Houston Trend Mag and I’m an intern for Day and Dream, also based in Houston. I’ll also be submitting some things to The Houstonian. Working for Anderson Merchandisers, hanging with family on the weekends, writing, thinking about story ideas for short stories, and working on the Lounge.”
Johnson also talked about some of the classes and professors here at SHSU who have influenced him and helped to aid him in his creativity.
“One of my favorite classes so far was the introduction to fiction class taught by Dr. Nowlin-O’Banion,” Johnson said. “It taught me that I could write pretty good fiction. It exposed me to a different kind, a different mode of writing. It taught me a different way of seeing the world and rendering the world.”
Johnson also talked about other Professors as well as peers that have inspired him and changed the way he sees and experiences the world. Johnson said,
“Outside of Dr. N-O, Dr. Tracy Bilsing’s way of teaching definitely impacted my learning experience,” Johnson said. “As far as other students, the people in my creative writing classes helped me refine my storytelling and assisted in raising my creativity.
Johnson finds additional inspiration in the works of esteemed writers and individuals who have helped to shape history and our society such as Zora Neal Hurston, James Baldwin, Malcom X, Angela Davis and Assata Shakur.
After he finishes school, Johnson has a few plans for what he wants to do with his future.
“I’m debating a residency program in the Creative Writing program somewhere, but if I don’t go that route, I would love to write for The Atlantic, Time or Blavity,” Johnson said.
If Johnson could give a piece of advice to other students on how to be successful or to achieve much in their lives, he said it all comes down to defining yourself and working towards your own ideals of achievement.
“Understand your own definition of success,” Johnson said. “When you understand your own definition of success, you’re free from the societal imprinting of what success is. To paraphrase Albert Einstein: It’s kind of like measuring a fish’s intelligence or worth by its ability to climb a tree. Success is not monolithic. Success has as many paths as we have fingerprints. Find your fingerprint.”