By Aaria Shah
8th grade, Buzz Aldrin Middle School

Nestled in the heart of Montclair, New Jersey, Anderson Park enchants visitors with its whimsical beauty. The entrance leads to a sprawling landscape of rolling hills, winding paths, and towering trees. The lush foliage sways in the gentle breeze, casting dappled light onto the park’s verdant grass.

As one wanders deeper into the park, the vibrant display of nature captivates the senses. The air is perfumed with the scent of blooming flowers, whose colorful petals dance in the sun’s warm glow. The meticulously maintained gardens are a visual feast, bursting with hues of purple, yellow, pink, and red.

The park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering ample opportunities for picnicking, jogging, or simply basking in the natural beauty. The winding paths lead visitors deeper into the heart of the park, where towering trees create a natural canopy overhead. The leaves rustle softly in the breeze, weaving a soothing symphony of sound.

Anderson Park is a dreamy escape, a place where time slows down, and the beauty of nature takes center stage.

My journey as a writer has been a fulfilling and enlightening experience. It all started when I was just a young child, creating mini-stories and poems for my own enjoyment. It wasn’t until sixth grade that I fully realized the power of writing and how it can be used to create entire worlds and complex characters. From then on, I devoted myself to the craft of writing and have been consistently honing my skills ever since.

As 8th grade approached, I knew that I wanted to enter the Anderson Park contest one last time, a local writing contest in my town. I had entered twice before, in previous years. But this time, I was determined to do things differently. Instead of focusing solely on winning, I decided to focus on the process itself. I wanted to write something that was true to myself, something that I could be proud of regardless of the outcome.

Throughout this journey, I have had the pleasure of working with an incredibly inspiring teacher, Ms. Grassi. Her feedback, guidance, and ideas have been instrumental in my growth as a writer. With her support, I’ve learned to experiment with different genres, play with style and tone, and develop my own unique voice. She has not only helped me to improve my technical writing skills but has also nurtured my creativity and pushed me to think outside the box.

Over time, I have developed new skills and techniques in my work that have shaped me into the writer I am today. I often look back at my old writing and realize how far I’ve come in only a few years. I used to write stories about best friends with superpowers and mythical creatures. I even wrote a book series about two sisters who explored the world together. Along with gaining a stronger grasp of grammar, a more nuanced understanding of character development, and a greater ability to write vivid descriptions, I’ve become comfortable with my writing and its limitations.

Writing gives me confidence, and it feels like an escape, even if I were to write a short poem. It helps me transcend into a new reality; a better one. For me, writing is an inspiration, a reason to develop my skills. It’s as if I can’t connect with my emotions until I write everything down. Being able to write such tales and experiences has shaped the way I see the world. I have developed empathy for others, become more self-aware, and I’ve finally found a creative outlet for my thoughts and feelings.

As I reflect on my journey as a writer, I’m reminded of the profound impact that stories shared through written words and sentences can have on the world. Through my writing, I’ve come to appreciate the power of carefully chosen words, well-crafted sentences, and thoughtfully constructed narratives. It’s through these tools that I’ve been able to amplify the messages I seek to convey to my readers and connect with them on a deeper level.

However, with personal growth comes personal decay. On this journey, I’ve made many mistakes that I likely could have avoided had I been more experienced. Nonetheless, these errors have only encouraged me to pursue my passion and love for writing.

Additionally, I want to speak about writer’s block: a concept so simple yet so frustrating. The way I see it, it’s a barrier between a writer and their work that takes hours, days, weeks, months, or even years of thought to overcome. As a writer, I’ve struggled with this on almost every single piece of mine. At some points, it feels almost impossible to create a story that qualifies as “good.” Even though this is a dreadful part of the writing process, it’s precisely how the mind comes up with impressive work. Anderson Park to me is a place where I can find inspiration to create and push through this challenge.

As a writer, I’ve come to realize that rejection and feedback are an inevitable part of the creative process. It can be disheartening to pour one’s heart and soul into a piece of writing, only to have it rejected or criticized. However, I’ve learned that these experiences are valuable opportunities for growth and learning. Through rejection, I’ve learned to develop a thick skin and not take things personally. Instead, I focus on taking feedback as constructive criticism and using it to improve my writing. I’ve also come to accept that it’s not possible for my writing to be perfect — everyone has different tastes and expectations, making it impossible to satisfy their needs without losing a part of my own identity as a writer. Instead, I strive to write authentically and true to myself, knowing that there will always be someone who resonates with my words and message. It’s through this understanding that I’ve been able to find joy and fulfillment in the act of writing, regardless of external validation or acceptance.

I find that being outdoors and in the face of nature surfaces thoughts that are sitting just under my consciousness. At a casual glance, the park seems so peaceful, yet when I pause and look deeper, there is a world of activity — a bird carrying a twig back to build its nest, an ant hauling food back for its family, a bee pollinating a flower, and two squirrels playing hide and seek around the base of the big tree. It is when I’m lost deepest in these observations, that a story, idea, or breakthrough comes to me.

Moreover, I have discovered that writing is a process that never truly ends. Even when a piece is finished, there is always room for improvement, and there are always new stories waiting to be written. As such, I approach each new project with a sense of excitement and curiosity, eager to see where the journey will take me.

One of the most significant challenges I have faced as a writer is finding my own voice and style. It’s easy to get caught up in imitating other writers and trying to write in a way that I think will be popular or well-received. However, I have learned that the most compelling writing comes from authenticity and staying true to oneself. For me, this has meant developing a writing style that is unique and true to my own experiences, thoughts, and feelings. I’ve discovered that this can be a vulnerable and sometimes uncomfortable process, but ultimately, it is the most rewarding.

Another crucial part of my journey as a writer has been my love of reading. From classic literature to modern fiction, reading has broadened my horizons and expanded my writing abilities. Reading has allowed me to learn from other authors’ styles and techniques and incorporate them into my own writing. I have found that reading different genres has helped me to explore new ideas and themes, which has been essential to my growth as a writer.

When it comes to the revision process, I’ve learned that it’s essential to take a step back from my work and approach it with fresh eyes. I often take a break from a piece for a few days or even weeks before coming back to it with a more critical eye. During revision, I pay attention to the flow of the piece, the characters’ development, and the overall message I want to convey. I also read my work out loud to hear how it sounds and catch any grammatical errors or awkward phrasing.

Looking toward the future, I plan to continue developing my craft by experimenting with new genres and writing techniques. I also hope to attend writing conferences and workshops to learn from other writers and industry professionals. My goal as a writer is to continue creating stories that inspire and connect with readers, and I plan to dedicate myself fully to this pursuit.

Anderson Park has become a special place for me, not just as a source of inspiration but also as a symbol of my growth as a writer. Every time I enter the park, I’m reminded of my journey and the challenges I’ve overcome, as well as the joys and fulfillment that writing has brought me. It’s a place where I can reflect on my progress and continue to push myself forward.

Looking ahead, I’m excited to see where my writing journey takes me. There are still so many stories to be told, so many characters to be developed, and so many messages to be conveyed. I’m eager to continue exploring different genres and styles, experimenting with new techniques, and challenging myself to push beyond my limits.

Writing has become an integral part of who I am, and I can’t imagine my life without it. Whether I’m writing for myself or for others, I know that the act of putting words to paper will continue to bring me joy, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose.

It’s not that the process of writing has become any easier. Often, I still don’t know what to write or how to write it. But I’ve learned to trust myself more. I know that the ideas are there, waiting to be discovered. I just have to be patient and let them reveal themselves to me.

Anderson Park holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I first discovered the joy of writing and what sparked some of my best work. Every time I walk through the park’s winding paths, I feel a sense of peace and inspiration.

As I walk out of the park, feeling refreshed and inspired, I can’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to pursue my passion for writing. Writing has brought so much meaning and purpose to my life, and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

As I continue on my journey as a writer, I am excited to see where it will take me. I know that there will be challenges along the way, but I am confident in my ability to overcome them and grow as both a writer and a person. I am grateful for the support and encouragement of my family and friends, as well as Ms. Grassi — more recently Mrs. Chicaleski, and Ms. Norat, who have helped me to find my voice and pursue my dreams.

Over the past two years, I’ve written stories about time travel, danger, and romance. Each story has been unique, but they all share a common thread — Anderson Park. This one single location has sparked my imagination and inspired me in ways that I never thought possible.

It’s funny to think about how much of my life revolves around this small, charming park on the outskirts of my town. It’s not a place that holds many significant memories for me, yet it seems to be stuck in my head. Perhaps it’s because of the stories I’ve written there, or perhaps it’s just the magic of the place itself.

I thought about all the possible stories I could write — a tale of aliens visiting Earth, a journey through the cosmos, or a discovery of a new planet. The possibilities are endless, but instead, I chose my story. The story of my writing, my growth.

I know that this year will be different – I’m not the same writer I was two years ago. But that’s the beauty of writing, it’s always evolving.