Unfortunately, writing can be one of the primary struggles for students at any level of education, simply because of how freeform of a task it can be. In many cases, the structure and content of the piece are completely up to the creator, tearing down walls of comfort and accessing a place of unadulterated vulnerability.
However, Amanda Clark ‘22, a Muhlenberg sophomore and the most recent recipient of this year’s Espi Guinto Award, gave words of reassurance that she felt this way when she first started writing. Her success as a writer is attainable for any student, so long as they are willing to fully dedicate themselves to their craft.
The Espi Guinto Young Writer’s Award is given to the winner of a first-year writing contest in which applicants submit either one long eight-to-ten-page academic essay or two separate shorter academic essays during the summer after their first year. The pool of applicants is then narrowed down to a single recipient, in this year’s case Clark. The 2019 runner-ups for the Espi Guinto award were Jenny Moretti ‘22, Betty Ben Dor ‘22, Grace Oddo ‘22, Natalie David ‘22, and Marc Szechter ‘22.
Clark was ecstatic about the overall experience provided by the process, and was enthusiastic in her description of the positivity that she had garnered through the undertaking of writing original work for Espi Guinto.
When asked to tell the secret behind her success in attaining the award, Clark was careful in emphasizing that the absence of perfection in one’s agenda and the ability to learn from negative experiences is ultimately the way to succeed as a writer in the long term.
Clark’s knack for writing began in her childhood, where her mother would point out her natural ability to compose meaningful work through text. This continued throughout her secondary school experiences.
However, when she arrived at Muhlenberg as a first-year student, she noticed that the stakes had been raised. The rigor and heightened expectations of college writing assignments had become apparent, and she realized that she needed to make a change in order to be successful.
“I really learned what it means to be a college writer at that point,” said Clark. “I learned a lot more about analysis, and most importantly, how to mess up.”
She greatly emphasized that the most crucial factor in play during one’s college writing career is to turn constructive feedback into motivation.
“I think a big part of the process of writing is making mistakes, and I found that I had to keep writing to really understand what I was talking about,” said Clark.
Clark was deliberate in emphasizing the idea that learning to improve one’s writing is a process of self-discovery as well as a process of academic esteem. In addition, one of the striking aspects of Clark’s interview was how enthusiastic she was about sharing her knowledge, and her passion, with others.
It was apparent from the exchange that positive reinforcement for one’s own writing abilities allows for decreased stress, which is necessary for college students who would otherwise be procrastinating and working on assignments instead of sleeping, exercising, socializing, and carrying out other functions of a happy and healthy college life.
Above all, Clark implied that the journey of academic self-improvement and her drastic progress as a writer were the most important takeaways of her first year at Muhlenberg, leading up to the culmination of Espi Guinto.
She is inspired to take the lessons that she has learned through the process and use them to benefit others in the Muhlenberg community who started their college experiences under the same pressure when faced with a daunting writing assignment.
“Just keep writing, that’s all I can say,” said Clark. “Don’t beat yourself up over a bad grade…just take it for what it is, and know that things can only go up from there.”