The hazy months before my junior year was spent like each block of those that came before: chattering outside while performing nonsense with a friend, growing my freckle collection, laying around melting like the cherry popsicles I indulged and muddling through my summer reading. This was a time where I still read for pleasure, although child me would brag about how many books she read in a day while I was elated to finish one. Summer reading, in short, was dull. My love for literature could not triumph over the suffocating heat that comes with extra homework. I had a change of heart when I opened my tattered, school-issued copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
Lamott’s writing was unlike any I had ever read for school or fun and I was instantly hooked. This was the first book I read for school that made me laugh. Lamott’s language is powerful and her story-telling techniques are palatable to the most adverse of readers. She’s clever, she’s intelligent, and she makes language fun. As a teen who pretended to be much cleverer than I was, I took to her writing style and her advice to heart. Bird By Bird was the first of many influences that shaped my writing journey.
I spent a lot of time in high school writing and revering to other writers. I had an intense poetry phase despite knowing nothing formal about poetry. I liked witty lines with intense double meanings and an unhealthy dose of sadness. The relics of that phase live in a locked folder of my notes app that was cracked open for the first time in years during the peak of summer quarantine. I think back to that time with fondness because I was dedicating all of my time to expressing myself and trying to get better at something that I loved. I sought out writing that made me feel alive with all the emotions I couldn’t articulate within myself and tried to learn from it. High school was also the time where I started being challenged with my academic writing. I had one high school teacher who told me that I was an excellent writer and because of that, she was going to push me more than I thought I needed. I got better, I got frustrated, and then I got better again and by the end of the year I had decided that I would be attending UNH and majoring in English. She wrote me a personal letter in a copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own for my graduation.
My first year of college resulted in losing a lot of myself. I was confused about what I wanted and clueless about what could make me happy. I stopped writing for fun once I realized the full scope of commitment being an English major entails. Retrospect fuels my regrets sometimes, but ultimately each choice leads to the next, and somehow everything balances out. In pursuit of “fixing” my freshman year “mistakes,” I found Her Campus. That blisteringly hot U-Day was a supplier of free sunglasses, half-melted candy, email chains, and potential. I knew that I wanted to start writing again, and I also knew that I wanted to work on my devastating introverted tendencies, so I went to the first meeting and finally felt excited about a decision I made at college. Since that sophomore slump, my writing and I have gone through several transformations. I have formed beautiful relationships with professors in my department who have challenged me to improve with each sentence I write. I have become the kind of articulate that would have impressed my younger self. I don’t know that I’ve cultivated the angst that she loved so much, but there’s always something to work on as a writer, right?
Writing for Her Campus has been a bridge between the writer I used to be and the writer I want to be. As a kid, I wanted to be an author. As a teenager, I thought I was better than Shakespeare. The college has been a deviation from my creative writing endeavors but has given me so much in terms of effective communication and writing styles. I am confident in how I convey my ideas even if they aren’t in the poetic form I used to aim for. Her Campus has helped me stay connected to what I’m passionate about, including my writing, sustainability, social issues, and ideas that I have about the world. As my senior year concludes, I have too many goals to conceptualize on paper, but I do know from being a UNH contributor that I want to continue to incorporate my love for words into my personal life as well as my professional one.
“You are lucky to be one of those people who wish to build sandcastles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually, only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.”
– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life