Writer Spotlight: Nicole Belanger

Writer Spotlight: Nicole Belanger

As a writer, feminist and creator of this here site, I’m excited every time I come across someone whose mission is all about lifting up other women and whose writing I so admire.

I’m not sure how exactly I came across today’s interviewee, although Twitter was likely involved. Nicole Belanger is a writer and public speaker who talks about feminism, perfectionism and grief with eloquence and candor. Once I began reading about her latest project, Conversations With Her, I knew I wanted to have a conversation with Nicole. Lucky for us all, she agreed, and she has some wise words to share.

Meet Nicole Belanger

Tell us about your latest project, Conversations With Her. Where did the idea come from, and how did you choose your interview subjects?

To be honest, I can’t quite remember how the format came into being, but the idea came to me out of the blue last spring. I was having yet another moment of being brought to my knees with gratitude for all the phenomenal women that I have had the pleasure of knowing so far in my life, and I thought, “I just want to shout from the rooftops about them, I just want everyone else to know how great they are.” So, without much of a plan, I sent a tweet to a woman (Kate McCombs) that I followed on Twitter whose work I had admired from a distance and asked her if she would be open to being the first interview in a series that I’m starting. Thankfully, she was excited about it!

The only criteria I have for choosing a subject (beyond identifying as female) is that I am drawn to her and her work—for whatever reason. Sometimes these are friends or people that I’ve known for a long time. Other times I’m approaching complete strangers on social media!

Why is telling women’s stories is so important? What do you hope will result from the project?

Stories in general have this magical healing quality to them. When we see ourselves reflected in a story, it is a powerful reminder that we are not alone. I want every woman to have that experience. That moment of, “Wow, me too, I guess I’m not the only one.” To do that, we need to collect and share as many narratives about women’s lived experiences as humanly possible.

Another piece of it is that stories have the power to tune us into possibilities within ourselves that we never realized were there. They can be an invitation to imagine new ways of living and being that we didn’t think were possible. That’s really exciting to me.

Who are some of the women and writers (and women writers!) you admire most?

The list is endless, so I’ll give you some favourites women writers of the moment: Lyz Lenz, Stacia L. Brown, Safy-Hallan Farah, Durga Chew-Bose, Alana Massey, to name a few!

Nicole Belanger: Conversations With Her

You call yourself a “recovering overachiever.” How has your definition of success changed since you’ve dropped your overachiever tendencies?

It’s ever-changing, but I’ve let go of titles in a big way, and I’ve also let go of any major “career planning.” Things happen in their own time, and I’ve found that all you ever really need to do is work hard, keep your heart/ears open for the guidance, the “pulls” that will tug you along in the right direction, and then follow them.

You write a lot about grief and have been very open about mourning your mother. Once you allowed yourself to experience the grief of losing her, what steps did you take toward recovering? What was most helpful for you?

Short answer to a long question? Being kind to myself. That was a fucking battle. Allowing myself to be sad and messy and not super fun to be around and slow and needy.

It was a long, gradual process of cracking myself open. Cracking the veneer or perfectionism and logic and intelligence and maturity and control and letting a tender, vulnerable version of myself come through—the self that needed healing and attention. I was so scared to let that self through. I was afraid that she wouldn’t fit into the life I had built for myself, the life that I loved.

So day by day, month by month (and, if we’re being honest, year by year), I cracked myself open. At first, it was through my therapist’s assigned daily 15 minutes of grieving—literally forcing myself to take 15 minutes to sit with my grief, that’s how buttoned up I was. Then it was things like reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and letting that give me feelings. Then it was writing about it. Then it was talking about it with others.

It was such a long, gradual process that I’m not sure I could look back and point to some specific step or strategy that made a big difference, but huge credit goes to my supportive, patient, and understanding circle of loved ones.

Your newsletter Girl Gang Missives is so wonderfully curated. What do you love about the medium and the community you’re growing?

This is my desire to shout from the rooftop about how awesome women are coming through again! Honestly? It’s just fun. It’s exciting for me to learn about what women across industries and walks of life are doing, and it’s really satisfying to amplify their work using my TinyLetter. I love that it’s fun, casual, and informal—like I’m sending an interesting article to my cousin.

Also, it is positively thrilling when a woman sends her work in to me to be featured. We deserve to have our work recognized and celebrated and put in the hands of the biggest possible audience!

Do you have any writing rules, routines, or mantras?

To be totally honest, I don’t. It changes week by week and month by month. It’s really about listening to my body. Last month, I rented an office in a coworking space to grind out the last of the work on my first ebook. This month? I’ve been feeling like a slower pace is in order, so I’ll be working from home to allow myself more flexibility. It’s basically body’s choice.

What advice would you give to your teenage self on writing and pursuing a career?

I recently heard one of the greatest pieces of career advice, and although I’m not sure I would have been able to internalize it as a teenager (or even a few years ago), it would have been helpful:

“If you want to achieve your dreams, you must follow them, and the best way to follow them is not to think about wanting to be very rich, but to think about doing something that you really want to do.” – Jackie Collins

What are you reading right now, or what’s on your to-read list?

On my night table right now is Syd Field’s The Foundations of Screenwriting, because that’s something I’m planning to explore this year. I also just wrapped up Rupi Kaur’s utterly breathtaking collection of poems titled milk and honey. Up next? I’d like to read God Help The Child by Toni Morrison, Legacy by Waubgeshig Rice and more of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels.

What work are you most proud of? What kinds of projects would you like to pursue in the future?

Right now, I’m really, really proud of the fact that I’m about to self-publish my first ebook. It’s a special collection of Conversations With Her pieces on the theme of resilience. The seven women featured in the book are remarkable individuals with tremendously powerful stories. I know that they will make a lot of people feel less alone, and I can’t wait to put that love out into the world. It’s going to be amazing.

Now that the book is wrapping up, I definitely have an eye to the future and am spending quite a bit of time thinking about what I’d like to do next. Like I mentioned earlier in the interview, I’m feeling a real pull toward screenwriting, so I’m definitely planning on following that pull to find out what that’s all about. I’m also really feeling guided to create some content around women’s reproductive and sexual health—what exactly that will look like, I’m not sure. But it’s something that I know can make women (myself included) feel awfully alone, and you know by now that I can’t stand for that!


Thanks so much to Nicole for such thoughtful and insightful words. (Seriously, how awesome is she?!) If you enjoyed Nicole’s interview, be sure to let her know in the comments and follow her on Twitter. While you’re at it, sign up for the Girl Gang Missives newsletter.

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