Artist Spotlight: Danabelle Gutierrez, Writer
Artist Spotlight –
Danabelle is the author of two highly acclaimed books of poetry: I Long to Be The River, which was published in June 2014, and & Until The Dreams come, published in September 2015. Here, Danabelle takes us through her journey as a writer and shows us a glimpse of what her mind looks like on the inside. Hint: it’s gorgeous.
I like to think of writing as an overflow – something that can’t be helped or forced or held back. You do it because there is this urgent, compelling need to say something. Poetry is some form of a scream, sometimes a whisper, sometimes a thought. And I guess that’s what I like about it. It is all of that and it is none of it.
I started enjoying the art of writing when I was in middle school: mainly prose and a bit of very bad poetry. I wanted to be a rockstar and I wanted to write songs. The rockstar bit hasn’t happened, but poetry is a form of singing, I suppose. Back in 2012, I started writing a novel, which shouldn’t have been a big deal. Since I was in high school, I’ve had the habit writing novels that I could never finish. What made this 2012 attempt special was that I actually finished it. I was very proud of that – that I had set out to do something and followed through with it. However, after reading through it, I realized that I did not like it very much.
But I didn’t want to give up. I couldn’t let one piece of work stop me from what I wanted to do, which was to write. So I sought advice and tips from several writers, and the one common advice that kept coming up was, “just keep writing”. So that’s what I did. Unfortunately, I couldn’t focus on a story or anything longer than a page and everything that was coming out of me was prose and poetry. But even then, I still did not want to give up, so I stuck with it, and after a while, I realized I had more than enough poems to publish a book, so I released “I Long To Be The River” in 2014 and after that, I stuck with the advice to just keep writing.
I’m not really sure if I actually have a “process,” because I’m usually surprised at how and when the words make it to the page. I wish there was a pattern or a formula – like if I do A and B and C, a piece would come out – but most often, I find myself staring at a blank sheet of paper or a white screen with a blinking cursor waiting for me to say something. Some days, nothing comes out. I still show up everyday, though. I read, then I write in between. Sometimes, I hate what I write with a passion. Sometimes, I like it. Some days, I even like it so much that I put it in a book and share it with whoever is willing to listen.
While my work is MY work, I like to think that when someone else reads it and experiences it, then the words are no longer mine, but theirs. And I suppose the same can be said for all poetry. We write for ourselves, but what we’ve written is for another person to experience. I am not as concerned about being unique or distinctive as I am concerned about being compelling and good.
The highest point in my journey as a writer so far was the & Until The Dreams Come book launch and exhibit, held in November of 2015. Being invited to read poetry and being a featured artist to several events are high up there as well. I mean, a few years ago, I was just a girl, writing whatever I felt like writing, and now I get invited to speak in nice places and people actually seem to like the words that come out of me and they actually want to hear me say them out loud.
Being a self-published writer is not the easiest thing. It has afforded me a lot of freedom with expressing my artform, but spreading the word out there is not as easy, as distribution is limited to online sales, which sometimes involve a hefty shipping price. I recently teamed up with CommonRoom PH and have had some amazing response from the Philippine market. This is where I am currently – working on the administration and business side of publishing to try and get a wider distribution for the books to make my work more accessible and affordable.
I am attempting to write my third book – which is taking longer than I would have hoped, but I’ll get there, I’m sure. This is just one of those times when the blank sheet of paper and white screen with a blinking cursor are waiting for me to say something substantial and I have nothing great to say. I’ve hated almost everything that I’ve written so far, but I’m still writing. I’m still trying.
I am reminded of this quote by Dorothy Parker:
“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
Writing is hard, but it is necessary; a requirement, if you may. See, wanting to write is not nearly enough. You have to have that need for you to do something this excruciating. And so, if you feel that it is something that you need to do, that you would rather die than do anything else, then just keep writing. At some point you will get frustrated, but all it means is that you want to get better at your craft. There is nobility in that.
Also, read. Read as much as you can as often as you can. Reading is as necessary as writing. I think it was Stephen King who said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time to write.“
So read, read, read, and write, write, write. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I Long To Be The River & Until The Dreams are available at FNDesigns in Dubai, CommonRoom PH in Manila, and Amazon.com