HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, WORDS LIKE SILVER!

If you'd told me that a piece of my identity I created for myself in seventh grade would still exist, I'd probably be very concerned. Looking back, I don't trust my preteen taste.As of today, I've been running Words Like Silver for eight years, and finding the words to describe how I feel is difficult. I want to articulate how much this little blog has gone through, and how amazed I am that it's still one of my favorite pieces of my life. Some years, I let the anniversary pass with little fanfare. Other years, like this one, call for a bit more reflection.Eight years is two student generations. High school, college. So much change that it's comforting to know I have a constant -- something that I exclusively do and work for, that external circumstances can't affect.Despite evolving interests, I am a reader and a writer at heart.It's not that I thought it wouldn't last, when it started. I was in seventh grade though, and started a post-midnight project (as one does), and never expected it to shape so much of my identity.But I'm proud. I've built this site from the ground up, expanded it into a lot of different creative functions and places, and kept it going regardless of what I have going on. I've built a loyal following of readers, a curated aesthetic, and a fierce gratitude for all that's worth loving (and talking about.) And reading continues to be a foundation for me.If you're just popping in to see what's going on today on the blog, welcome, and happy birthday to Words Like Silver! If you're sticking around for my reflection, I have a lot of thoughts on how far it's come.When I started this blog in seventh grade, I was just looking for an outlet.I'd been frustrated, both with feeling like I didn't relate to those around me (a little middle school misery for you) and in being lumped in with my identical twin sister, despite having divergent interests. I'm a passionate person, and that was extremely draining. Most people didn't take me seriously when I talked about my passions because of my age.Additionally, I credit "the twin thing" for a lot more than I used to, because it caused my desire to forge an identity that was solely mine, not related to somebody else. (Even now, I hate when people view us as two halves of one whole, or frame me in relation to Hannah.)I'm still excruciatingly shy -- the quiet twin, always. I'm still intensely driven. Those aspects of my personality haven't changed, but having something that I've built gives me a lot more confidence and the freedom to be independent. (Although having an excuse to hide behind a book or a camera doesn't do much for the introversion.)In 2012, the blog became real when I had a blog post get some traction in the book world and suddenly started getting involved in the publishing industry. I met a lot of people who helped me to develop my voice more and get involved in the behind-the-scenes. Started caring about upcoming years' titles and not just the books that had been on my shelves for ages.I started editing manuscripts, talking to authors, created buzz for upcoming titles, and even helped out with the formation of some elements that made it into real books. (I'm nothing like the main character of this book, but my answers and interviews helped the author to create a blogger teen, and I appreciate having helped with something so tangible.)The blog has never been huge, but I'm affectionate towards the small, loyal community of readers that I have, and I love it so much. I love the feeling of somebody telling me they found a new favorite book because of a post, or getting sucked into a conversation about a book we've both read.My teen years passed. I read a ton. Started moderating a book club for teenagers in my hometown. Worked at a bookstore.I edited a book that made it onto shelves. Saw books published that I'd seen as Publishers Weekly book deals. Advanced copies I'd had hitting the bestseller lists, being turned into movies. Attended conferences and panels and events. Wrote some myself. I thought I'd work in publishing, and although that perspective has now changed, it's responsible for a lot of my growth.Even now, the scope of the history I have with the publishing industry feels surreal, and having my creativity/intensity validated was something I'd needed then.It had always been a hobby rather than a pursuit, but WLS influenced nearly every sphere of my life. I met some of my best friends through blogging (either directly through comments or online interactions, or because it was a reason they recognized me later.) Instead of being a Smith twin, exclusively, I was also "book girl."In 2016, I went to a tiny college (which I'm still attending!) and the blog was the reason I felt comfortable talking to people -- because everyone had shamelessly online stalked each other before heading off to Lexington, and it was an easy way to introduce myself. (In fact, I met one of my best friends when he went up to me the first night and told me I had a typo on my most recent post.) As the years passed and stressors changed, reading felt more like a luxury and I appreciated the ability to be able to sink into a read and widen my perspective.Reading has always been a way for me to keep ahold of my identity. To root myself to what I believe in, and what I love. Escapism or inspiration.One of my favorite quotes by Pablo Neruda captures it well, how much I just love sharing my interests.

“Take it all back. Life is boring, except for flowers, sunshine, your perfect legs. A glass of cold water when you are really thirsty. The way bodies fit together. Fresh and young and sweet. Coffee in the morning. These are just moments. I struggle with the in-betweens. I just want to never stop loving like there is nothing else to do, because what else is there to do?”

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Words Like Silver was the catalyst for a whole host of interests and explorations. I describe it as the umbrella under which I fit all of my creative pursuits, and as the manifestation of all my passions.Fundamentally, I took photos, and talked about books that fascinated me, and taught myself an assortment of skills. I've gotten to work with some phenomenal people, and some lovely brands.Having this blog led me down a rabbit hole of creative activity. I wholeheartedly fell in love with lettering, with art, with hunting for coffeeshops. Got really into design, in a ton of different spheres. I developed a new appreciation for anything well-curated, whether that was a brand or a space or even just a person so wholly himself or herself that everything they do just feels so spot-on. I love the niche of distinctive voices, and I love that sharing keeps me grateful.It's all been a natural evolution, a series of changes I never particularly noticed until they were so fully ingrained in my identity that I couldn't imagine being anything else.I read. Make happy lists. Write often. Save up for plane tickets and just wander through places when I can. Take photos. I pick up instruments, and create art, and dance way too much for someone who no longer dances. Everything about the way that I am is directly related to loving forms of art and media. I throw myself into projects and hobbies, and keep forging ahead independently, and I (of course) write about it on here.I have no plans to ever stop writing. I assume that one day I'll just feel like it's time to let this little site go, but that day hasn't come yet. It's my platform, and it keeps me going.This post is a lot of then-and-now. When I started, books were my thing. I'd come home from school, do my homework, go to lacrosse or dance, and then come home and read until I fell asleep.Now, I'm spread across a lot more activities on campus (although I'm giving myself a real, full senior year!) and prioritize time with people more than I did. My family's made up of readers, so in my hometown, it was a lot easier to get away from distractions. At school, I'm aware of how little time I have there and how many different pieces of it I want to try.I've branched out into coverage of a lot more of what makes me a person. I'm passionate about books, and those will always be my foundation, but I'm much more comfortable talking about other things I love too: places, music, foods and drinks, shops, publications.Because WLS has built a lot of the way I operate -- my organization, philosophies, interests, priorities -- I have no doubt that my future career and life will incorporate a lot of the lessons I've learned from running this little place. The aesthetic I've curated or instinctively developed in my years of collecting, creating, and posting. I just want to be kind and smart and work hard, and the blog helps. Reading builds empathy and gives you perspective. Reading teaches me so much, and allows me to explore other interests. And blogging proves to me how much I can do if I keep my head down and put my mind to it.I'm hoping to end up working in content creation of some kind. Or social media. Or design. Something that incorporates all the elements of running WLS that I love.

I love to crunch the numbers, especially on anniversaries, because it lends more weight to the idea of EIGHT FULL YEARS inside my head. I've been writing on here for a long time.It's been 8 years. I've read 1652 books, approximately.(You can see more by stalking any of my "Read in" pages in my header, for given years.) Written 825 blog posts. My blog's been read by over 150,000 people. I've written two manuscripts myself, and an uncountable number of poems and stories. And we're still rolling.Although it's something I've thought about, especially on Instagram, verbalizing an aesthetic always feels odd. I'm shameless about my use of the word, because it's the most apt description of what I love to chase: distinctness. Beauty in the little things. I love the elements of intention incorporated into styling -- whether it's food in a restaurant, or a gorgeous piece of design, or a book photo.Because I'm trying to do use my creative energy for a career, I started an art portfolio website, full of mood boards, my style, and my pieces. Because it's been eight years and I'm overdue for a personal audit, I'm going to review a lot of the way I unconsciously structure my Instagram.On it, I discussed my aesthetic as including evocative words, romantic styling, and "fond references to nature." The filters I gravitate towards are vibrant and underexposed, with bold colors surrounded by browns and greens. As a whole, I aim to spotlight anything that makes my mind race -- usually books with a tinge of existentialism.My aesthetic, in some ways, goes back to my happy lists.

bookscoffee & pretty beveragesthe woodsFLOWERSlightsreflectionsroads & nomadic imagescozy chaosscrawled words, collage, that crafted touch!

While there are some aspects of my visual taste that remain constant, at times I'll notice trends weaving their way through my photos. For example, I've noticed that most of the photos I've posted in the past few months have a glow to them: the fading sun, or a light leak. When I'm at camp, my photos are all green-tinted and full of foliage -- and paint and clay, from teaching my activities. When I'm in Canada, it's all dark wood and golden hours on the porch. Although my social media is curated, it feels authentic to who I am and what I prioritize. It's not glitzy, unless I'm posting travel photos of places that took my breath away. I fully embrace the embarrassment of staging props for a photo in front of my friends. (It's also easier to maintain a genuine perspective when I'm posting words, because I feel like I can tamper those images down more if necessary.) I like having photos for memories, but try not to let that desire creep into the moment itself; some elements of my life are too precious for interruption.Although I'm drawn to capturing beautiful images and moments, life is also bumpy, and I never want to make it seem like it's picturesque. As a person though, I usually keep a rosy perspective -- I'm an optimist at heart. I'm conscious of the separation between posting beautiful photos and the assumption of an exemplary life.Recently, I haven't been posting as many book photos (because I've been reading a ton of ebooks from the library) and that's a way my feed has changed. I still struggle to articulate what exactly about my Instagram makes it "Grace" -- saturated colors, vibrant textures, my penchant for captions with back slashes --  and how to use it as I start in the workforce!Still, it's one of my favorite spaces. I love to talk about books, clearly, and I love being able to capture moments of beauty that are satisfying to me. It's the same feeling I get when I go back to read my journals, or stumble across a quote that perfectly articulates a feeling or sensation that I thought would be impossible to preserve. That, at the end of the day, is what WLS is all about.At the end of the day, thank you to everyone who's been there for me through it. Who's supported me as I've been a stubborn, introverted workaholic. Who's given me a leg up in pursuing my interests. Everyone who's read a book I've talked about in an Instagram caption or blog post! And all the people I love personally, who put up with the intensity and appreciate the existential book talks, the sneak-reading, the quick photographs. I love you all for it.Cheers to eight years of Words Like Silver, and hopefully many more.