Danica Gim, a 24-year-old flight attendant and poetess from the Netherlands, is steadily climbing up the Instagram ranks of renowned writers and her latest poetry collection, Morningstar Musings, is the perfect example as to why. With over 50K followers, Danica aka @danica.gim, is known for pairing her beautiful words with images created by artists from Instagram, adding another element of power and meaning to her pieces. However, Danica was not an overnight Instagram phenomenon, and she invested months of time, energy, and consistent engagement into building her foundation.
Danica allowed me the opportunity to interview her and pick her brain about not only her personal journey in life but also her writing journey, and just how a young woman from the Netherlands gathered the strength within herself to leave her life and everything she's ever known behind to start a brand new one in a foreign country abiding by her own rules and discovering her own beliefs.
Check out part one of March's Author Spotlight interview with the talented Danica Gim below!
What is your first memory of writing? Detail your thoughts, emotions, the space you were in, age - paint the picture for us.
As a little girl I used to write an endless amount of little poems in Dutch. My mom always read my brother and I stories before going to sleep and my dad is a writer himself with an endless imagination. Writing was the first thing I ever connected to and it was also the first thing I was told I was good at. I must have been around 8 years old when my dad printed all of my first poems and stapled them together in a little book. When I think of my first writings, I think of the happiness and sun rays that are my childhood.
What is it about poetry that you love the most? What do you connect with most in poetry? *
I re-discovered poetry when a friend in Vancouver gave me Rupi Kaur's book 'Milk and Honey'. I was blown away by this young woman that was my age and her ability to write things down so simple and yet reach me to the very core. We spent an entire evening reciting her poetry to each other and talking about why certain pieces touched us more than the others. I really treasure that memory and it's one of the reasons why I love poetry. It brings people together. To know that someone else in the world is feeling like you do can be so healing and valuable. It can also serve as a mirror and not always a pretty one. Poems can have a lot of meanings and are open to interpretations. The way you interpret them can say a lot about you or the current experience you're going through. Hundreds of people can read the same poem yet each think it means something completely different. That's the beauty, it's personal. I know there are a lot of people who are not a fan of this new wave of modern poets and their poetry. In the reviews of other Instagram poets I see their work sometimes being dismissed because they didn't study 'real' literature or never learned how to write 'properly'. I think we would do poetry short as an art if we only deem it poetry if the lines are complicated enough or it passes a set of complicated rules. Not to mention we would dismiss the thousands of people that are touched by it. Just like there are a hundred different painting styles, there are a hundred ways to write poetry and each of them touch a different audience.
What is your favorite topic to write on and are there any topics that are off limits for you?
I think the majority of writers will tell you the best inspiration comes from being in love. It can either be a wonderful or a horrific experience and sometimes a little bit of both. It has definitely given me plenty of inspiration. I don't think any topics are or should be off limits. There are topics I struggle more with. Sometimes I would love to write more about my experience with religion but I don't want to hurt or get in conflict with people around me so that definitely holds me back sometimes. We should always remain respectful towards each other and never spread hate or ignorance. But sometimes I find it’s a fine line between being allowed to share your own emotions and feelings and being silent to make sure you don't hurt the feelings of others. I guess there is no clear answer to that.
What is poetry like in the Netherlands? Do you have a strong community support of the arts? Do you have friends within your community that you can connect with and collaborate with or is the majority of your poetry interactions on social media?
One of my favorite poets has always been the Dutch-African Ingrid Jonker. Mainly my poetry interactions happen on social media. It might sound weird but I'm sometimes still afraid of the judgement outside the Instagram bubble but I would definitely love to connect more with writers and poets in my home country.
Talk about a time or experience that made you fall into writing and how it helped you cope or heal from that experience? What did writing mean to you in that particular moment?
My mother gave me diaries since a very young age and think I must have been four when I got my first one. I remember it vividly. It was a blue diary with Winnie the Pooh on the front chasing pink butterflies and it came with a little golden lock. I loved that diary. I would write and draw all over it. Mostly about my crushes on non-human Disney characters (you can't tell me that Simba didn't confuse you). I kept on writing in diaries all throughout my young life. Through elementary school and high school. I think I stopped after my first year of college. But writing definitely helped me to reflect on all my experiences but mostly on myself. I think it helped me become a better human. Writing down a story can suddenly help you realize the other perspectives involved. Like I said in the beginning, when I moved to Vancouver I was suddenly overwhelmed by this whole new set of emotions and experiences. I hadn't written for a while and suddenly I had no other choice. I had to write or I would explode. It healed me, it made me braver. I definitely still made a lot of mistakes but at least it wasn't destroying me from the inside. Writing meant healing, living and finally finding my voice to speak up and shout from the top of my lungs how I really felt.
When did you first join the IG poetry community and how long did it take you to grow your following? Was it overnight or was it a gradual process?
I joined Instagram in February of 2017. I had just moved to Vancouver and I was having a hard time. This new place made me realize that I had been unhappy back home for a long time and that things needed to change. This also meant letting go of someone, knowing it would break both our hearts. I had been finding comfort in Instagram scribbles and thought - why can't I do that? So I started my writing account, anonymously. Gaining a following was definitely a gradual process. It was an escape for me, a lifeline. I wrote for me but if what I wrote touched or helped someone that was an additional bonus. The first three months I only had 130 followers and I even took a month break in between. It wasn't until I started investing in my account a lot that I started to grow. I would spend hours liking and commenting on other people's work. Slowly I got features on bigger pages and I started posting consistently. By September I hit my first 10K followers and I have been gaining about 10K a month ever since. At this point it's just all happening very fast and I'm just going with it.
What do you think are the biggest pro and the biggest con within the poetry community as well as on Instagram as a whole?
On Instagram the biggest pro is the warm and supportive community. I'm so honored to be a part of this family of writers that roots for each other and is happy for the other's success. Of course social media is also a great way for your stuff to be seen. I think a big con is sameness, which is inevitable when using Instagram as a platform. This generation simply has a shorter attention span and wants something visually appealing. This results in a lot of us using art of the same artists to combine with short lines of our poetry to get the attention of new readers. Instagram's complicated algorithm definitely plays a part in this. It's making it more and more difficult to remain authentic because they seem to rather want to hide your posts than actually make sure people get to see it.
How have you managed to persevere through the ever-changing algorithm’s and what advice would you give someone who is struggling with growing their account?
I'm not going to lie, it's terribly hard. Instagram is becoming more and more a business platform and makes it almost impossible for your stuff to be seen by a new audience. They push you to pay them for promotions. Right now it only shows your posts to 10% of your followers and if those don't like and comment on it enough, none of your other followers get to see it. It can be incredibly frustrating. Consistency is key. Not only in how you post but also how your Instagram looks. In the beginning stages of my account, liking and commenting on other users was important. Now I notice posting every day, around the time my followers are most active is what gains me the most engagement. But it's not the solution. It's still up to the Instagram Gods if your post will actually show up on the timeline of others and I honestly have no idea what makes my one post gain a 1000 likes and the other 10,000.
Name one Instagram poet that has influenced you as a writer and who you admire and describe.
When I was going through a hard time it was Nikita Gill who introduced me to the whole poetry community on Instagram and made me think I could maybe do this too. But it was Lauren Eden who absolutely blew me away with her words. She has the unapologetic and passionate writing style. She made me feel brave, like I could maybe actually make the changes in life that I wanted to make. I will be forever grateful to her and her own bravery of putting herself out there. She saved a part of my life.
Most of your poetry on IG is posted with visual art. How did you get into linking your pieces with art? Do you write a poem first and then look for the perfect art to match or do write a poem for a particular art piece?
I usually always write my poems first and then find the art with them. I have currently reposted a lot of my old work with new art. Instagram has a great art community and it's a perfect way to help each other out and make sure both the work of writers and artists is seen. Words can really compliment the images and vice versa. I do like a certain style as you can see on my Instagram so I try to make sure to find the artists who stay close to that.
What advice would you give someone who is new to IG and the community and beginning to put their work out there? Think about when you were new and what you would have wanted someone to say to you?
It's tempting, but don't let the follow counter be the most important thing. Just focus on connecting first - it's Instagram's original purpose. Follow a lot of other poets, get inspired! Don't be afraid to reach out to people and ask them for tips and tricks or compliment their work. Make sure to stay polite and authentic though. Nothing is more annoying than getting a 'shoutout for shoutout?' in your inbox without people even saying hi to you and just seeing you as a tool to raise their follower count. Be interactive, like and comment on stuff you like! And if someone messages you or leaves a comment, make sure to respond. I have made it my main focus to reply on every single comment I receive. It's only been a few weeks now that it's becoming very hard for me but I still reply to every message I get from people who appreciate my work! Make sure you put your work out there for you! Write for you and then all else will come in good time.
Rate the following in highest to lowest of importance when it comes to growing an account: hashtags, an aesthetically pleasing theme, commenting on others work, responding to comments on your own page, updating your story frequently, captions. Give a brief reason as to why you numbered them as such.
I would like put something else first that I mentioned before - 1. Consistency. Post every day around the same time! 2. Commenting on others work is very important too and definitely very important when you first start out. 3. Respond to comments on your own page. Show your followers that you appreciate them! 4. Aesthetically pleasing theme. Again, make sure there is a consistency. People are less likely to follow you when your profile is a big mess. 5. Captions. I have noticed that my followers sometimes really appreciate it when I write a longer caption or expand more of my poem in there! Keep in mind that the majority of people probably don't read captions but I still do it anyway! 6. Updating your story frequently. I love to see stuff from people I follow in their story, especially when it's something personal. I love it when people make vids of themselves or share stuff about their day. 7. Hashtags. They are unpredictable and I really don't know what to with them half of the time. Instagram itself has stated that hashtags should be the least important thing when you post. They even banned certain tags and if you use them wrong they can make you end up in the feared 'shadowban'. I'm definitely not a fan of hashtags but I do absolutely recommend you use them anyway, especially in the beginning since it's the only way for you to get your work seen.
If you are not working or going to school or writing - what could one find you doing? What other things do you enjoy doing besides writing or being on social media?
I'm a flight attendant so when I'm not writing I'm traveling the world. I'm also still finishing my study so all of that keeps me pretty busy. When I'm not doing that, I spend as much time with my loved ones as I can. I love going to art galleries but I I have to say my biggest hobby is eating. I love discovering new little places in the city I live and my boyfriend is very good at finding them so I must say it's a match made in heaven.
Where do you want to be in the next 5 years? What personal goals have you set for yourself to achieve in the long term?
I just published my first book Morningstar Musings and I would love to get it out in the world more. I would love to continue to grow, write more books and maybe even perform my poetry someday. That last one also terrifies me but it also feels like the ultimate goal. I would love to launch my own website where I can start a webshop for more poetry related items. The best thing in the world would to be a part time flight attendant and a part time writer and just live on an island somewhere while going around the world every once in a while. The Netherlands is very, very cold and after a recent trip to Colombia I have officially realized I need to move somewhere warmer. I was not made for this weather.
What would you want to tell your 16-year-old self?
Go to that one friend and tell him how much he means to you. He won't be around anymore when you're older and you will regret it the rest of your life. Be kinder to people. Look around more and watch closely what moves others. In the end it's all about the connections you make. Be kind to yourself too and stay creative but above all be brave. You're already doubting everything you were taught and you are not wrong. Question things more and don't be afraid to be different because it will be what saves you in the end. Also, don't wear heels so much. It's perfectly ok to wear a pair of sneakers every once in a while.
What do you want people to take away from your writing? What is it that you hope people feel when they read your words?
The reviews I've gotten so far all talk about how my words help them through tough times, to love themselves more or to find bravery when they are on a crossroad. I have written my poems with the exact same struggles in mind and to me it's the biggest compliment I can ever receive, that my words help someone through a difficult time. I find such comfort in the poetry of others when they portray a feeling I have struggled with but could never put into words. To read poetry is to know you're not alone and if my writing can help people feel less alone then my job is done.
stayed tuned for part two of the March Author Spotlight interview where Danica gives us a behind the pages look at her latest poetry collection, Morningstar Musings.
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love & light,