Introducing Danielle Larsen who shares an insight into her journey as a writer.
I never really thought of myself as a writer. Even now, with a published book, it’s still something I struggle with. I think it’s because I’ve always had this image in my head of what a writer is “supposed to be.” I picture Charles Dickens or Jane Austen sitting by candlelight hunched over pages and pages of handwritten stories. I see Jo March from Little Women feverishly writing into the night until her hand cramps up. I never thought that simply writing about myself was enough to consider me a writer.
Looking back, writing has always been part of my life, but it probably wasn’t in the way that most of my peers came to it. I was the teenager with endless journals and diaries, pouring my heart and thoughts into pages but struggled with writing assignments in school. If there was an opportunity for an alternate assignment that didn’t involve writing a paper, that’s what I was going to do.
When I was in college, my school had a habit of “personal reflection essays.” At the end of each semester, you had to write a paper for almost every single class reflecting on your journey and time in that class. Writing these small essays got me into the habit of looking inward and really putting my thoughts into something coherent. I fully believe this is what eventually led to my current blog, The Mindful Fight, which has been up and running for about a year and a half now.
But writing a memoir, even though people had told me that I should, wasn’t really anything that I thought I’d ever be able to accomplish. While writing any kind of book is a never-ending process of revisions, edits, and late-night writing sessions, when it comes to memoir writing you have to look so deep within yourself that the process itself is extremely exhausting. I knew that writing about my own story, which involves domestic abuse, would be something that would take a lot of strength and courage.
Even as I started writing, though, I doubted myself. The stories and words were pouring out of me, but diving into things that I’d long since buried was extremely difficult. I was finding that if a story was in my head ready to be written that I had to get it down or I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I spent many nights writing until the crack of dawn because of this. The process of tapping into these memories was exhausting enough, and I was burning the candle at both ends.
It’s been 6 months since my book came out and, if I knew then what I know now, I would have taken my time. I would have paced myself instead of subjecting myself to a constant flow of difficult memories. I had friends telling me to, but I simply couldn’t stop writing. This sounds like a good thing, but in hindsight it actually made the process harder. I would write a difficult story and then jump right into the next one. Then I would go back a few days later to reread it and it was like a severe form of immersion therapy: being constantly throw into the deep end hoping that I would swim.
Writing a memoir, no matter the subject, is something extremely personal and unless you’ve done it, it’s hard to explain how difficult it really is. Many people see memoir writing as self-indulgent and I simply don’t think that’s fair. It’s a weird thing to say, “Hey, this book is about me,” and hope that people will read it, but we wouldn’t tell our stories if we didn’t think they were worth telling. My story isn’t unique at all, but many abuse survivors never find their voice. I was able to find the strength to tell my story and my hope is that it can help others in similar situations find theirs. That’s why I called my book From Voiceless To Vocal because I went from being silenced to speaking out in the ultimate way.
As I sit here, with my book on a shelf over my head, it’s still hard to think of myself as a writer. Most of my peers are fiction writers and a lot of the time I feel as though I’m on the outside looking in within the writing community. It’s hard to consider yourself a writer when those around you are promoting their multi-book series and you have a 140 page book about your own life. But at the end of the day, I am a writer. I’m a published author regardless of what exists between those pages and even if I never sell another copy, I’ll always have that.
My advice to anyone struggling with their identity as a writer is to not compare yourself to your peers. Trust me, I know how difficult that is, but we’re all struggling with the same things. Even if you never publish a book or you have 20 by the time you’re finished, simply writing things and committing yourself to the page, regardless of whether others see it or not, makes you a writer.
Maybe some will disagree with that, but that’s part of being a writer too. Not everyone is going to love everything you have to say… but say it anyway. If you have a story you want to tell, tell it. Write the stories that you want to write because you love them and don’t worry about what might happen down the line. It might live in your computer forever or maybe you’ll become a bestseller, but you’ll know that you put those words down and that alone should make you proud.