“I want everyone to realize that it’s okay to own who you are. To simply be yourself and not care about what other people are going to say. We are humans who were created to feel, and live, and grow. Not expressing ourselves is such a missed opportunity.”
Writer and Illustrator
Melissa Santell is a native New Yorker with a thirst for adventure and creative self-expression. She is Italian-American by heritage and loves to create. Melissa is happiest when she is writing and runs a blog what would MS do? which is a collection of words and inspiration. You can also find more of her work on her Instagram, where she posts some of her short quotes. Read on to find out more.
Tell us about your poetry and how you got started.
Bringing my thoughts, feelings and imagination to life on paper became an outlet for me at a very young age. Truthfully, writing found me long before I even thought to look for it. There’s something to be said about an undeniable attraction- and writing will never be lackluster in my eyes. Poetry is an instinctual passion of mine. It amazes me how a string of words can recreate an entire memory.
What is it that you love about New York?
Oh, New York! What’s not to love about New York is the real question. There’s an uncanny freedom in the entire Big Apple experience. Thriving in the city is a rewarding but constant challenge, and it forces you to get to know yourself better. There is always an adventure to be had, a new restaurant to try and an immaculate gallery to walk through. The irony of New York is the most beautiful part, I think. You’re in this gigantic city surrounded by millions of people yet it can be incredibly lonely. On the other hand, there are so many opportunities here that don’t exist elsewhere. It’s such a lovely conundrum.
Was this always what you wanted to do or did it emerge over time?
Interestingly enough, I have always admired writing, even as a child. My best friend moved away in second grade and for the next year we stayed in touch via hand-written letters. Of course, the grammar was marginal, but our intentions were good! I believe writing is an extension of who you are, and it deserves to be heard. It’s that kind of liberation that drives my love for the craft. So yes, I’ve always wanted to explore just how far my writing could go.
Who has helped you in the process of following your dream?
Teachers, counsellors, shitty ex-boyfriends. They’ve all been part of the process. I have to give myself a huge pat on the back, because all my thoughts and words start with me. Writing is a very personal dream to pursue.
What inspires you?
People. Memories. Tiny moments that we all tend to overlook. Feelings that turn your skull inside out. All forms of inspiration. A lot of my writing is based on real experiences with people I’ve been romantically involved with. I think love brings out the best version of Melissa Santell.
What is your favourite thing you have ever written and why?
Asking what my favorite piece of writing is like asking a mother to pick a favorite child. There are so many things I’ve written that I adore! I tend to gravitate to the short but impactful pieces. The poem I’d like to share is one I wrote recently. The immediate take away is that this piece is driven by love, which make no mistake it’s definitely a factor. What I wanted to emphasize was that over thinking your feelings can ruin you, and anyone else involved in the situation. Sometimes you just need to let things be what they are. Here it is:
“Maybe love is simple.
Maybe it’s feeling your smile on my skin
After a kiss that steals the air from our chests.
Or reliving our beautiful adventures in my head.
Whatever it is, I’m beginning to realize.
We don’t need to have it all together to be complete,
We just need each other.”
– Melissa Santell
What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
Writer’s block is my worst nightmare. There are times when I’m dying to write and can’t find the words to express myself. Or I can put something down on paper but don’t feel fulfilled by it. It’s so important to continue adjusting the way you see things, because things change and you need to change with them. Coffee and a walk to clear my head always does the trick!
Have you encountered burnout and if so how do you deal with it?
Ugh, yes. I go through phases. Sometimes I write everyday for a month, but then stop writing for weeks. If I ever need to push myself out of a funk, I’ll start reading a new book. It gets me out of my head and into a new creative space.
What message are you trying to share with your work?
I want everyone to realize that it’s okay to own who you are. To simply be yourself and not care about what other people are going to say. We are humans who were created to feel, and live, and grow. Not expressing ourselves is such a missed opportunity. Think about how different the world would be if everyone said how they actually felt all of the time. Unreal.
How do you overcome the vulnerability of sharing your work?
I think you become more comfortable with sharing your work when you accept that it’s a piece of you. I’m not a very private person to begin with, but writing is a very personal talent. Right now, I write under an alias because I wanted my instagram followers and supporters to enjoy my words without an identity, or any preconceived notions.
How have you learned to deal with criticism?
Dealing with criticism definitely takes time. It’s been challenging for me to not take it personally, but it’s so instrumental in making you a better writer. You just need to keep reminding yourself that you aren’t the words that are being criticized.
What is it that you love about poetry?
I love poetry for its versatility. Poetry can take on so many different shapes and forms, leaving the opportunity for you to make it what you want. My poems are like emotional snapshots of my life.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
If you believe in what you’re doing, you will be amazing at it. Never stop pushing your mental boundaries, unexplored territory is a gold mine.
What have you learned in the process of following your dream?
It is so necessary to take risks and trust yourself to make the best life decisions. After all, we’re young and free, what do we have to lose?
What are you most excited for in the future?
I’m looking forward to writing a book (fingers crossed!), and sharing it with the world. I hope that I can be a source of inspiration and creativity for others.
Writer and Illustrator