Author Danica Gim initially created an anonymous Instagram account to share her poetry. Today, she has an audience of tens of thousands of engaged readers and recently published her first book. We talked with Danica about how she found the bravery to move beyond anonymity, the life experiences that inspire her work, and advice for other women who feel mentally or emotionally blocked from coming into their full power.
You started your Instagram anonymously before adding your name to it. In another article, you said, “The reason I was keeping it anonymous now was because I was trying to deliberately hide it from everyone I know. I was afraid what they would think, what they would say after reading words so personal and vulnerable. But I don’t want this to be an account run by fear. I want it to be one that inspires bravery.” What created that recognition/shift for you?
When I started out, I didn’t have thousands of followers overnight. It was a process that took months. I started writing because I needed an outlet. And posting it online seemed like something safe and fun. People could comment on my work, I could learn from it and get better, and at the same time, I had the safety of anonymity. But as the account grew bigger and bigger, it also became a bigger part of my life. And it was also something I was proud of and wanted to share with people close to me. I was still afraid of certain responses, like those from my family. But in the end, it was getting to be a bigger secret than I could live with. My writing became something I didn’t just want to share with strangers but with people actually close to me as well.
Danica with her book, Morningstar Musings.
Much of your work is about love, intimacy, and relationships. What’s your advice for someone experiencing heartbreak?
Heartbreak can make you not only mentally but also physically sick. It’s something you need to heal from. So take that time to heal. You don’t need to get over it in a week. Allow yourself to cry, to lie in bed, to be with yourself for a while. However, it is really important that you don’t keep doing that. Find an outlet. For me this is writing. Just write down what you’re feeling and then talk about it with other people. This isn’t something you have to go through alone, and you shouldn’t. When you talk about things, it helps you gain perspective. Someone might tell you something you hadn’t thought of before.
Be strict for yourself as well. Don’t call your ex, don’t text them, don’t look them up. If a person wants you, they will make you feel wanted. If they don’t, then don’t waste your energy. There is no such thing as staying friends after a breakup where one person is hurting. Don’t fool yourself in thinking there is.
And if you’re the person who broke someone’s heart, you are still allowed to hurt as well. I don’t think there is enough said about this topic. It’s always about the person who got broken up with, but if you decided to move on from a relationship you are also allowed to be sad. Just because you decided this is what’s best, doesn’t mean you don’t have to grieve or learn to move on without this person. My advice for you would be to be as honest as you can. Don’t hide things, don’t try to let someone down easy; give them all the information they need so they can heal as well.
You published Morningstar Musings in February (congratulations!) and much of it is about the struggle of starting over. I think this really relates to anxious thinking because we can become so focused on the finish line, on the future. Do you have any advice for starting over—either in a new relationship, job, city, etc.?
Thank you, I’m still so very proud of this book! I had a lot of starting-overs the last couple of years. I moved to a new city for a while, ended a long-term relationship, moved back, started a new relationship (and now I’m engaged!). All these things were as exciting as they were hard. It takes courage to create new beginnings, because you are always stepping into something unknown and no one but you is going to take that first step. I think the most important thing to realize is that you need to do things for you.
I didn’t start writing because I wanted 50.000 followers, but because I felt like I was going to explode if I didn’t write. Nor did I end my relationship because I wanted to hurt someone, but because it was hurting me. I didn’t move to another city because I planned a whole future there, but because it was what I wanted to do in that moment.
Of course I’m not saying to not take others into account in your life and decisions, but I have also learned that it saves a lot of stress to just focus on the moment because the future always turns out completely different, no matter how hard you are trying to plan it. And that’s kind of the best part about it as well. Life has the ability to surprise you in the best ways.
Still, it’s important to realize that things take work and a little vision. When I decided I wanted to grow my Instagram, it started to grow. Not only because I decided that, but because I started to put a lot of time and energy into it. I didn’t start a new relationship and get engaged out of nowhere, besides all the wonderful moments together it took also took a lot of talking, fights, and work to get to where we are now. When I started a new job, I wasn’t instantly comfortable in the first couple weeks. That took time. So my advice is to do things because you want to do them, not because others think you should or shouldn’t do them. Take your time to get used to a place, a person, or a job, and don’t shy away from hard work.
You now have over 50,000 followers on your Instagram account, which started anonymously. How has creating this community buoyed or supported you? Does it ever feel like a negative?
My readers are so incredibly supportive of my work and I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. Whenever they comment on my poems it simply makes my day. When people tell me they relate to my work and that my words are encouraging them in some way, that’s the best compliment I can ever receive. The only negative that I can think of is that, on Instagram, you quickly start relating the quality of your work to the amount of likes. Which is something I’m still learning to let go of. Sometimes a poem you think is really good doesn’t get half the attention you thought it would.
It’s important to find your value in your work and yourself even without the constant feedback of others. Still, I feel so lucky to live in a time where I can have such close contact with my readers and get their immediate feedback! I also made some great writer friends through Instagram! When I get a negative comment it funnily enough is never about my actual writing. When I get negative comments they are usually from random men that don’t even follow me, on a very women-centered post. Thank god for the block button!
I can definitely relate to the fear of judgment you felt when you first created your account.. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I spend a lot of time fearing the future, which includes what others will think if I post this, say that, etc. What’s your advice to someone with fear or anxiety when it comes to pursuing something seemingly big or scary?
I still feel that anxiety when I post sometimes. When I post something on feminism, or something with a political opinion, my heart starts beating a little faster because I know there are people who are jumping at the chance to write mean comments on strangers’ posts. But that makes me actually less nervous than writing about things that might have people actually close to me, judge me.
I used to write about sexuality way more than I do now that my account isn’t anonymous. Even now, it’s still a learning curve for me. I guess I would say that it’s alright to be scared; don’t let it stop you from anything, but do it at your own pace. I didn’t start an Instagram account, post a bunch of sexual poems and send a copy of it to my parents. No, I started something anonymously and gave it time to grow and also gave myself time to find confidence in what I was doing. So it’s OK to be scared! But don’t let fear hold you back from doing what you want to do! And once you start doing it, it doesn’t have to be a big success the next day. Give it time!
From an anonymous Instagram account to a published author, what’s your best advice for women who are either too anxious or unsure to put their voice/work out there?
Jim Carrey once gave a great speech in which he said, “You can fail at something you hate, so you might as well fail at something that you love.” If anxiety or failing is what you are afraid of, these might be comforting words to you. If failing is a given, then why not have a blast while doing so? And who knows, you might end up succeeding anyway. No one else is going to follow your dreams for you. Only you can put the things in motion to do that. You have way more to say than you think and you deserve to be heard! To conclude with Emma Watson’s line from her UN speech: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”