Guest Post: Talking About Writing and Writing About Life

by Gurpreet Sihat

Ironically, words cannot describe how excited I was to be invited to talk at the Can Anyone Write A Memoir? event at the end of April. I wasn’t published, my writing had been on a worryingly long hiatus, and yet here was the opportunity to talk about something I loved doing, that resonated deeply within me, and in one of my favourite places in the world: The Hague’s American Book Center! To be part of an event such as this, hosted by Valarie Poore and sharing a stage with established writer and publisher, Jo Parfitt, and memoirists Carolyn Vines and Nimah ni Bhroin – what an honour.

I must have been a little star struck as now, no matter how hard I try to remember it all, it’s simply a blur. I remember preparing, practicing and even giving my talk, but I don’t remember the details: the examples I used, the references I made, the point I was trying so desperately to get across. The only thing I really remember is there being a timeline; an explanation of why and when I started writing and what my current writing practices are. The aim of the event was to help new and emerging authors; encouraging them and inspiring them to write their own life stories. And there I was. A writer with nothing ‘properly’ written. Someone that wanted to tell her story but still hadn’t. Was I a writer like those on the panel, those I was star struck by? Or was I one of the writers that were in the audience, learning from those that were on the panel?

The age old advice of ‘write what you know’ has always been extremely literal for me. Throughout the years I’ve shared my personal experiences in the form of essays, poetic and experimental memoir pieces, and angst-filled poetry that I doubt will ever see the light of day. As much as I rant and rave about being a writer, I find that most of my writing is exactly that: something never to be seen by anyone other than myself.

But I want to share my life! I want others to hear my stories, go through my hardships and my triumphs with me. I just haven’t found a way it in a way that is cohesive, publishable. In the way that I want it to be. Take a look at my bookshelf and you will find notebooks, journals and diaries filled to the brim with my story. A story about a girl in her early twenties who moved across the Atlantic, met her soulmate, stared into the eyes of Death when she was diagnosed with cancer and had her life completely and utterly changed. The stories are there! They’re fighting to come out.

The problem is me.

We all have stories to tell and no matter how mundane they seem in the grand scheme of things, our stories and experiences are important. Our perspectives unique. It is us, the writers that refuse to write because it’s ‘not there yet’ that stop the process. It is us, the writers that talk about writing but refuse to write about life that holds our genius back. It is us, the writers that sit on a panel discussion and can’t remember for the life of us what we just said, that stops our stories from touching the hearts of others.

But now it’s time to take a stand.

Last fall I started writing a blog called Darya Writes. It was meant to help me finally share my writing, letting lose my story. It’s been hard. It’s been scary. In fact, it’s been downright terrifying! To share my life like that? Uncensored? Raw? But I’ll keep on going. I’ll keep on writing because to write about life is the only way to encourage and inspire others to do the same. All those books that drown my bookshelf, all those conversations with friends and counsellors, all those blog posts  – it forms the skeleton of the memoir sitting inside me. All I have to do now is work on creating the strong muscles around it and layering it with skin…

I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t have it all written out. But the stories are there. They are ready to pour from my fingertips and now I just have to let them.

WE just have to let them.



Darya Danesh is a 20 something Canadian writer who as adopted Amsterdam, The Netherlands as her forever home. She is currently working on a memoir to chronicle her experiences through a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and life-after-the-fact. She spends most of her time journaling and eating pizza.

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