The Changes That Define Us: How I Became a Writer by Jen Drews

Borne out of sexual trauma, Jen Drews’ first collection of poetry 'These (Transitional) Words' became an integral part of her healing process. For today’s #LWLbookclub, she’ll be sharing her experience of becoming an author with us, alongside the important role art plays in offering victims emotional support.



Jen Drews photographed by Jess Kalman

Do you ever get the feeling that everything is the same except in a completely different context? It’s a feeling that followed me today as I went to the same café that I always go to, a feeling that sat down beside me as a opened my laptop and began to write. This feeling was so strong that it took over my thoughts and echoed throughout my words.


Physically, I was in the exact same spot that I was a year ago, in my safe haven at the Princess Café that fuels me with coffee as I day dream, mindlessly watching the street as I avoid doing work. Yet, emotionally there is almost nothing similar about the person sitting in that chair, sipping her coffee and procrastinating. And so here I find myself, completely different but in the same place. This feeling is connected to the story of how I became a writer: defined by everything and nothing changing at the same time.


In the past few years, a series of events happened in my life, which drastically impacted my career decision to become a writer and shaped the genres I focused on in my writing. Through my experiences both in Canada and abroad, my ideas about conventional careers and creative entrepreneurship were challenged and shifted.


Being a ‘writer’ was not something I thought I could do as I studied Spanish Literature at University, yet during my time in school nothing seemed to give me a sense of passion. I was lacking purpose and I decided to take a semester off to work in The Dominican Republic at a hostel for a few moths to give myself clarity.


It was during that time that I met so many freelancers who embodied my dream of living and working on an island, which sparked my interest in their professions. I was so intrigued by the creativity and freedom that came with some online jobs and I wanted this to become a reality for myself. At this point I was already disenchanted with the professional options waiting for me back in North America. I began applying for online writing contracts and by the end of my trip I had landed a book contract to write a travel guide on The Dominican Republic.


After two years or so of attempting to be a successful freelancer, I learned that my dream lifestyle was much more difficult than what I assumed. At this point I was focused on travel writing and was backpacking my way through Europe while working for blogs. That is when everything changed, in one night my whole world perspective shifted and sexual trauma transformed me into a shell of a person.


Writing became a cathartic exercise for me, a healthy way to process my emotions and give me time to truly express how I felt. Part of my daily exercise was creating poems that acted as a diary entry to capture my mood. With time and through art I became healed and put my poetry together to create a collection called ‘These (Transitional) Words’ that echoed my experience, and the emotions of so many others who have dealt with trauma.


How I became a writer and a published author was through the changes that defined me. Without my experiences, both good and bad, I would never have released a book or spoken so openly about my struggles with the topics of pain, love, and healing. Learning to embrace the changes in life and incorporating your story into your passions is not always an easy task, but releasing a vulnerable book that outlines my difficult experiences has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done.


You can find Jen's book 'These (Transitional) Words' on her website now.


Image credit: Jess Kalman at KLMN Media

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