Elliott Hunt has a lot to say. He has lots to say to girls, about his life, and his future. But he can’t always bring himself to say it aloud.
First he has to live it. Then, he’ll write the experience into a song that he’ll perform with his band, Mom Said No.
"If something happens, that song’s written within an hour of it happening," says Elliott, who is 18 and a freshman at Niagara County Community College. He’s wearing a royal blue, short-sleeve button-up and the same black and white checkered sneakers he wears on stage. He’s on the edge of his seat behind a table at a Panera, fiddling with his hands as he pauses to think.
"For some reason," he said, "it seems like the words I have to say always rhyme with each other without me trying."
Elliott is like many creative teens who use their art not only as an activity, but as a key form of communication. Or maybe as an alternative form of it.
"I write about anything I don’t feel like talking to people about in person," he said. "I can say what I want to someone without actually having to say it to them. Instead of getting mad at people, I can just grab my guitar and write a song and then it’s done."
Elliott has always been an emotional person. It’s that emotion that allows him to write so freely and so often.
"I think that it helps that we’re so emotional and young," said Elliott, who spends much of his time outside of class writing music.
He gives everything he has to the music, so what does he give to everyone else?
"The people in my life don’t really see me emotional except for when I write music," Elliott said. "I’m not a big fan of showing emotion to people. The music just hides it for the time being."
Elliott, who jokingly claims he never had communication skills to begin with, says music helps him transmit what he wants to say.
"With the music, people can know what I’m trying to say without me actually talking to them," he said. "I would’ve been that kid who sits in class who doesn’t talk, which I was, but the music let people see the side of me that I talk about. It’s a loophole, it doesn’t put up walls, it lets you go through them."
Cameron More, 18, is an aspiring philosopher and writer. As a senior at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, he tends to pull from his everyday life for his writing.
"I carry around this little notebook, so if I hear some dialogue or something interesting I write it down," Cameron said.
But he measures how much he uses his life.
"There are bits of me in every story, but they’re idealized versions of me," Cameron said as he sat on the opposite side of the table wearing a blue plaid button-up. "The same goes for the people around me. I use idealized versions of them, too."
Cameron started writing as a child, when he had no siblings or neighborhood kids to play with. That sparked his interest in philosophy. He used his thoughts to preoccupy himself.
Cameron said that most of his stories are dark, that those are the easiest to write about.
"There’s always the usual teenage angst that comes with being a teenager," he said. "And that obviously comes through in tone and mood and there’s always some teenage angst."
Cameron mostly writes short stories, but writing fiction isn’t something he plans to do in the future as anything more than a hobby. Right now he’s focusing on the nonfiction works that he knows he’ll need to master for his future career in philosophy.
His dream job entails finding better ways to live and think through philosophy, but he knows that writing, especially nonfiction is a part of that.
For now, he uses writing as a tool to improve his communication, not avoid it.
"Writing can help clear my thoughts up before I speak them," Cameron said. "If I’m upset or angry I’ll vent through writing and that definitely helps as much as venting to a person helps."
Carolyn Guerin, 16, is a junior at Frontier High School. Sitting in a Barnes & Noble over her portfolio of poster-size drawings and paintings, she described the various pieces in the collection. There were almost as many styles as the number of art classes she’s taken: detailed portraits with flowing hair, vibrantly colored rib cages, comic strips and more.
Carolyn’s interest in art was sparked in seventh grade when she was inspired by the work her friends were doing, but it wasn’t until eighth grade where she thought of it seriously. Now, she views art as an effective way of sharing her ideas and making a point.
"I find it easier to express myself through art," she said wearing a red, long-sleeved dress. "Usually people don’t understand quite what the point of your art is," she said, "so when you go and explain it, it definitely does give the other people a sense of what is going on with you, how you think about things, and your philosophies on things."
Her art helps her get to know both other people and herself better.
"I probably wouldn’t communicate as much with people in general if it wasn’t for art," said Carolyn, who also finds her arts allows people to get to know her better, too.
"As you keep going, more and more people begin to recognize your work," she said, "and start asking to see what you’re working on."
For these three teens, the passion they have for their art is so strong that they plan to turn it into a career. Careers in the arts are often perceived as the most daunting and unstable careers with so much talent and so little available work, but these three aren’t planning on giving up that easily.
Carolyn is open: She wants to pursue an art degree in college and then get a job in art after that, but she’s not yet sure what that entails.
"I don’t worry about a career in the arts not being stable because I’m OK with arts in general," she said. "If I was more specific in one field like a tattoo artist, then I would be worried, but I’m OK with being more generalized."
Cameron’s career as a philosopher is as old as time, and it’s a rare choice, but he’s not deterred.
"You can never top out as a writer, or as a philosopher or an artist," he said. "There’s always somewhere to go, there’s always something to do."
Elliott knows what he wants to do and is already on his way. His band, Mom Said No, has released its first EP, "Motivation," which is available on iTunes and Spotify, and has a new album coming this Mother’s Day. The band also has a show this Sunday, Nov. 6 at The Waiting Room in Buffalo.
He knows that he’s dreaming big, but he also knows that success entirely possible. His father Marc, a musician who Hunt names as his biggest inspiration, is in the music business.
"People can’t tell me it’s unrealistic because it’s right in front of my face," Elliott said. "I come home to it, so that’s just made me work harder because I know it’s possible."
Emily Bingham is a sophomore at Mount St. Mary Academy.