Senior English major Mikayla Hamilton wants her peers to “skip the trying-to-make-people-like-you phase and just fast-forward to the being-yourself phase”

Up until recently, senior English major and Creative Writing minor Mikayla Hamilton would have described herself as a “short story girl.”

“I have three really polished ones now that are like my babies. For my senior seminar I was going to do a short story collection. I had an idea of a theme they could all loosely relate back to,” she said. Over this past winter break, however, Hamilton began to develop a new idea, and has since started the journey toward writing her first novel. “There’s this character in my head now, and I know everything about his life, I know every thought he has ever had, I know every desire he has ever dreamed, and I have to tell his story, or I will explode.”

Although Hamilton said that her plan for the story and the development of its main characteran aspiring fashion designer who struggles to balance his career with familial and personal responsibilities after landing his big break with a popular fashion magazinecame together quickly, the process of writing the novel, and the skills she needs to successfully execute a long-form piece of fiction, have been a longer time coming.

Throughout her college career, Hamilton has been vice president of the Creative Writing Club; has served as the editor of “Ragweed,” the college’s student-run literary journal; and is currently interning with “Sinister Wisdom,” a lesbian literary and art journal that has been publishing quarterly since 1976. These extracurriculars, along with her experiences in the classroom and the relationships she has built with her professors, have helped Hamilton develop her skills to a point where she can now see herself tackling such a large undertaking.

“Freshman year me would be surprised that I have an idea like I have now. That was the only thing that was holding me back. I always wanted to write a big project like this, and I had a vague idea, but it wasn’t working,” Hamilton said. “I have to shout out everyone in the English department. I feel like the faculty care about my success not just because it makes them look good, but because they see potential in me and want to nurture that. That support system I have found with the English department has been so amazing. It’s just this atmosphere of positivity and encouragement that makes me think I can do all the things they think I can do. They give me hope in myself because they see something in me.”

That encouragement from her professors and the self-confidence she has been able to strengthen throughout her collegiate career has helped Hamilton develop her life-long passions for reading and writing into a skill and career path. Now, having begun to develop a story she is excited to tell, Hamilton feels like she has truly come into her own.

Currently, she is planning to continue developing her novel until she has 30,000 to 50,000 words she can use as her senior seminar project. From there, she will continue to polish the story and use it to apply to English graduate programs, for which applicants typically need 25 to 30 polished pages of fiction writing.

Although she hopes all her experience will give her a leg up during the application process, what she is perhaps prouder of is the way she has gotten to know herself throughout her college career and the way that self-confidence has translated to making her a stronger writer.

“If someone had told me this when I was an incoming freshman, it would have changed my perspective a lot: just let yourself like the things you like and do the things you want to do. Don’t force yourself to be something that you’re not because you think it will get you temporary happiness,” Hamilton said. “I have been in groups of people where I didn’t exactly fit in with them, and there were times when I changed the way I would act or the music I listened to to try and feel like I had a place with them, and it just never worked. When I started doing the things I wanted to do, and prioritizing things that were actually important to me, I attracted the people I wanted to be around. That was ultimately what I was trying to find all that time: a group of friends and people to connect with.”

Taking the time to invest in her own passions, discover the ways she wanted to express herself, and tell the kinds of stories she wanted to tell ultimately led to a more fulfilling experience for Hamilton. Looking back now, she said she may have never been able to accomplish some of the things she has if she had not been able to learn that lesson of self-love and strengthen her sense of self-confidence.

“If you can just skip the trying-to-make-people-like-you phase, and just fast-forward to the being-yourself phase, you’ll get what you wanted from the first attempt. You’ll get people who like you and who you like too,” she said.

By Maya JarrellMarch 27, 2024