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A Poet’s Advice On Writing From The Heart (And Protecting Your Peace)
'One thing I’ve learned is that when readers are seeking more details, what they are often truly seeking is validation for what they are going through.'
Welcome to the Collective World Careers Newsletter. Collective World is a one-of-a-kind creative network powered by the minds and voices behind The Thought & Expression Company. We’re so glad you’re here.
Today we’re talking to Parm K.C., author of You Will Feel Whole Again, about writing from a vulnerable place and why boundaries are so important to creators, especially those who draw inspiration from personal experiences.
1. Give us a brief rundown of your career. Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?
From a young age, I have used writing as a catharsis and an outlet. As a fairly introverted individual, I always felt I could share my thoughts and feelings with a notebook in a more honest and vulnerable way than I could with anyone else, even the people I trusted most. Through journaling and poetry, I leaned on writing as a way to sort through the inner world of my head and make sense of my emotions.
I started my writing page on Instagram in 2015 under an anonymous name, as I wasn’t ready to attach my face or name to my writing publicly. At the time, I was going through a lot mentally and emotionally and sharing my writing and connecting with others going through similar experiences felt therapeutic. My intention at that time was not necessarily for my platform to grow or to build an audience – I was simply seeking an emotional release and comfort. I also come from a cultural background that has not historically prioritized discussions around mental health, breakups, emotional healing, and self-love, so it was a way for me to be able to talk candidly about my views on those topics.
My page slowly grew in audience, which I was not expecting, but which gave me the confidence to simply keep sharing my writing in a raw and sincere way. I knew I wanted to start writing books but was definitely suffering from imposter syndrome that delayed the process. I actually had the content for two full books complete and ready around five years ago, but fear kept me from actually doing anything with either of them, other than posting excerpts on my Instagram page.
When I finally started compiling the pieces I had written into the format required for these two books, it was like the Universe saw I was ready and I was connected with Thought Catalog. I self-published one of the books and created the other with Thought Catalog. I finally felt like I was able to exhale now that all of those pieces I had written so long ago were now existing in a physical form. I had healed from the experiences that led to those two books, and it felt like the final step was to free them into the world. As I continue to write, I have several more books in my mind waiting to spring forward and pushing through that initial imposter syndrome has allowed me to see that this is truly what I’m meant to be doing.
2. A lot of your work is about healing and mental health, including your new collection you will feel whole again. These subjects often come from a very personal place. How do you know when you’re ready to write about something so close to you?
Writing about healing and mental health has long since been the way that I’ve worked through my own emotions and struggles. Hearing from others that I have put into words how they are feeling and that I have aided in some small way in their healing journey feels surreal and like the most fulfilling goal I could strive for. I pull my writing from my own personal story and the stories of those close to me; however, the fact that for so long I was writing from an anonymous place spoke directly to the fact that while I was ready to write about these topics, I wasn’t ready to share them in a fully vulnerable way. I know that I’m ready to share when I feel willing to fully let the experience go and not be defined by it anymore. It is no longer touching me and the pain no longer has power over me, so I no longer need to hold it close and can release it through my writing. In this way I simultaneously release it from myself. I can put it into the world, let it help others, and say goodbye to that story as it now lives not within me, but out there in written form.
3. What boundaries do you think are important as a writer? Which ones do you personally uphold?
This is a topic that is close to my heart because from the moment I started my writing page on Instagram, I have grappled with the questions of how much I am willing to share and how to create and uphold boundaries around that. My entire mission with my writing is to make others feel less alone and to connect in a meaningful way with my readers and balancing that against maintaining healthy boundaries for myself can be tricky. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that it is important to me to listen to my comfort level when that comes to sharing and let my intuition be the guide. Further, because some of my written pieces are inspired not by myself but by those close to me, there are times when the details are not even my story to share and I must remain respectful of this. If I release a piece of writing, while I am happy to talk about the feelings that inspired that piece and the lessons I learned from it, I maintain the boundary that simply because someone asks does not mean I am obligated to share the specific detail of the event or the people involved. I do this to protect my peace and to let myself share the teachings of my experiences without being forced to relive them in a way that doesn’t serve my mental health. I always hope to pass this same message on to my readers – that they too are entitled to uphold healthy boundaries in their lives and focus on prioritizing their mental health and what feels right to them.
4. When you write about something so personal, people tend to feel deeply connected to you and your words. However, this sometimes can lead to a false sense of familiarity and lead to people asking further questions regarding your experiences. Has this ever happened to you? If so, how did you navigate this?
I find when you share topics surrounding mental health and healing, by nature you will connect with others who are going through or have gone through similar experiences, which is a really beautiful thing. However, it can indeed create that false sense of familiarity or intimacy between yourself and those reading your writing. This is not to say there is no level of closeness created, as sharing such personal pieces of writing does lead to connection. However, it can give the impression that because I’ve shared to some extent, that I would like to share all of the particulars of what or who inspired that piece. I navigate this by remembering that we can actually connect with others without sharing specific details, but rather by sharing what the experience taught us. One thing I’ve learned is that when readers are seeking more details, what they are often truly seeking is validation for what they are going through. They want to hear the story behind the piece or the poem because they are looking for themselves and their story in those pieces of writing. That itself is never a bad thing, but I remind them that the fact that they relate to the writing and feel seen is validation enough – the details don’t matter. What matters is the fact that they are not alone and whatever hardship they are facing, others have gone through it too — whether that is me or someone else entirely. I am simply there, putting it all into words.
5. When sharing your work with the world, how do you draw the line between what is public and what is private?
When I share my work with the world, it often means that I have worked through the emotional burden of the experience that inspired that piece, at least in some small way. I tend to draw a line with myself where if I haven’t begun working through something yet, it’s probably not my time to open up and share pieces about it publicly. This of course may change in the future as my relationship with my own writing evolves, but I find this allows me the space to share what I’m comfortable sharing and continue to maintain healthy boundaries for myself.
6. There are boundaries with your audience, but there are also boundaries with social media, since so much of your work lives on places like Instagram, TikTok, etc. What are your most important tips for protecting your mental health while also still maintaining an active presence online?
One tip I have is to understand that whatever you engage with, you feed. It took me a few years online to really learn and internalize this. What I mean by this is that while I have an incredibly supportive and empathetic audience of readers who make this experience so special, sharing my work so publicly means that it may land on the page of someone for whom it’s simply not for. Some people may not resonate with my work, and that’s okay. I remind myself that I can let them pass through, wish them well, and focus on the audience who relate to the intention behind my work. Another tip I have would be to separate yourself from the numbers. Anybody sharing any part of their life or work on social media knows how hard this can be, but ultimately, follower and like count is simply not what matters. If you like your own work and it’s coming from an honest and heartfelt place, that needs to be more than enough. My last tip would be to remember to be present in “real life” off of social media. I have strict boundaries with myself around how much time I spend on the platforms and how frequently I check in. This may mean it takes me a bit longer to respond to comments or DMs, but when I do, I’m bringing a much healthier and happier version of myself to my readers and audience. I do try to respond to almost every comment and DM because my relationship with my readers is very important to me. But I would rather do so “late” and with intention and heart than doing so quickly and mindlessly without giving thought to how I interact with my readers.
7. Anything else you’d like to add?
At the end of the day, I am so beyond grateful for my readers and fully understand that I wouldn’t be where I am without them. They’ve given me the opportunity to turn my life stories into something beautiful that can be shared and hopefully help others in difficult circumstances. I try to have empathy for their curiosity about the stories behind my writing but also try to practice what I preach to them – that boundaries and self-care are of the highest importance. Connecting with my readers brings me so much joy and I’m able to do so in an authentic way when our conversations focus more on the fact that we are bonding through shared experiences, regardless of the details of what those experiences are. I love to hear the stories of my readers as well and how different pieces I’ve written have helped them feel seen. It only inspires me to continue doing what I love and what I want my focus to be on, which is writing and transforming emotions into words.