Writer's Journey | Chapter 2: When She Lost and Found Her Name
I’ve known Daniela Sylmae since the day I learned letters put together create words and words put together create sentences and sentences put together create stories. I didn’t always know her name, but I felt her inside me like a bud waiting for winter to end so it may bloom.
My writing journey began with my first story as a child. I made a little book that I wrote and illustrated myself about Hello Kitty going to ballet class. My mom helped me staple it together, and it is my first memory of writing a story. After that, I never stopped.
I wrote poetry and stories, some meant only for the margins of my math notebook and some I recited in front of the whole elementary school. My first full story was a classic tale where a little pig felt ignored at home, so she left. After going on an adventure with a dragon and a witch, she learns there is no place like home.
In middle school, I started writing longer short stories and eventually took on the daunting task of writing a novel. At the time, however, it wasn’t daunting.
I was a natural-born pantser. I wrote off the seat of my pants. There was no plot or end goal to this story I was writing titled, “Time Before Time.” Every day, after school, I’d write the next chapter with whatever I felt like writing about.
I still think back on that story from time to time and wonder if one day I may dust it off and try again.
Around this time, I started to learn more about the fantasy genre and in particular epic trailer music. I fell in love with film scores, video game tracks, instrumentals, all of it. I would close my eyes to the music and let the story come to me. I still do this as an exercise when I feel uninspired.
Never did it cross my mind to publish my stories until I joined a writer’s club late in my high school years. The teacher who ran the club instilled so much confidence in me. She made me believe I truly had talent. She even accepted being my teacher for a creative writing independent study for my senior year.
Most importantly, I felt like my stories deserved a home besides on my desktop. My characters deserve to be on the shelves with all the other great tales, where all novels live.
From high school to college, I decided to do my research. I learned everything I could about the publishing industry, both traditional and non-traditional. I began following the journeys of other writers who are now successful authors. I even began a blog to try and develop my own audience.
Eventually, my career started to take precedence. I was learning how to be a journalist. I no longer had time to be a fantasy author, despite the many times I desperately tried to keep that alive. I fell into a pattern of building an author brand online that no one ever saw, deleting everything and starting again, and again, and again.
However, I never gave up my dream of being an author. I always tried again and again, hoping one day it would all stick.
With my reputation and online presence overflowing with journalism-related content, I realized I didn’t want to confuse the two. Especially because the journalist in me is not the same as the fantasy writer.
Again, Daniela Sylmae was still under the frost of winter, waiting for me.
I almost met her, once. At the time, she was named A. D. Sage. My first pen name. It was my real initials switched with the last name of a character I played on my radio show, The Fantasy Realm. It seemed to fit well. I grew to like it, until I had an English professor tell me to my face that it was a terrible pen name.
I don’t think he was trying to be intentionally rude. I think he was trying to compliment my real name, telling me that it didn’t matter that I was also a journalist. Still, it felt like a backhanded compliment. It isn't great to hear that as a writer, I can’t even come up with a good pen name.
The comment stuck with me for a very, very long time. I couldn’t shake it off no matter how hard I tried. It fueled the tank that is imposter syndrome, and it kept me going on the path toward self-doubt.
How dare I think of a pen name when I’m not even published? I’m not a real author, not a real writer. I’m an amateur. No one cares. Why should I?
If it weren’t for my radio show, forcing me to sit down to write, giving me the space to remind myself each week why I love to write, I don’t think I’d be writing this blog post.
For a while, that professor made me consider sticking to my true name, but every time I looked it up, all I saw were articles upon articles upon articles. In truth, all I saw was the person everyone else saw.
I didn’t see the person who writes when everyone else is asleep.
The woman who goes to work everyday to write news stories for radio is a woman who went to school to be a journalist and achieved that dream.
The woman who writes in the night is a woman many do not know.
Writing, for me, has always been very intimate, very personal. I always wrote for myself. I loved writing, because I loved creating characters and meeting them through the worlds that I create. Ever since I was young, I’ve always hated people watching me write, because that was time meant for me.
That is who Daniela Sylmae is. She is the night owl with a writer’s amulet and a story to tell. She is the one who wishes for her stories to be on the bookshelves, bound by gorgeous covers. She is the one who daydreams non-stop about the endless possibilities of the imagination.
To the world, my real name is already associated with journalism, and as I've said, Daniela Sylmae is not a journalist. She's a fantasy writer.
Personally, I feel more comfortable having the two writing genres separate. I want to avoid confusion by keeping my fantasy work under one name and my news articles under another. My reporting is meant for an audience that is completely different from an audience that enjoys fantasy novels, poetry, and Dungeons & Dragons. Most importantly, my voice as a reporter is dry and factual, whereas my voice as a fantasy writer is flowery and unique. For me, it just makes sense to keep the two apart.
The journalist has fulfilled her dream. It’s time the fantasy writer finds and fulfills hers.
The pattern started over again when I left behind my first pen name and took on the name of Daniela Sylmae, but this time, it feels very different.
This time, it feels real. It feels as though the chains of the pattern have shattered, because this time, I’m not trying to be an author with an audience.
This time, I’m writing and publishing these stories for myself. In doing so, I hope to inspire others to follow their own dreams, particularly the ones that feel impossible to pursue.
There is a reason you are passionate about your craft, so pursue it. You’ll know it is your craft to pursue the day you realize something so simple can be made into something so incredible, like words creating stories.