Danielle Coffyn has moved through several careers — she was an educator for 12 years before moving into the corporate world to become a leadership development professional — but she has only recently begun to pursue her longtime passion of writing, as well.
Although Danielle always loved writing, she often faced feelings of imposter syndrome and would assume that she would never reach the level of other writers. However, being a teacher changed her perspective.
“I grew up with this fixed mindset of if I’m not immediately amazing at something, I didn’t want to pursue it,” Danielle says. “With writing, I thought, ‘I’m not good enough to do this,’ but I always wanted to. When I was a teacher, so much of what I taught my students was about growth mindset, and it was so interesting because I was sitting there teaching kids about growth mindset and learning from your mistakes and I thought, ‘I don’t have this. I need to start practicing this.’”
This mindset shift pushed Danielle to sign up for a fiction writing class and launch her Instagram account, where she shares her writing — mainly in the form of prose poetry.
As she consistently shared her writing and built a community, Danielle received positive feedback that spurred her on.
“That motivated me to keep going because I thought, ‘Even though I see flaws in this or it’s not as good as I want it to be, there are other people that this is impacting or who are connecting with what I’m writing,’” Danielle says.
Danielle draws inspiration from various sources and experiences, including the perspective she gains from her day job working in leadership development for a financial company. She works mainly in the realm of diversity, equity and inclusion, and helps to facilitate conversations among employees about topics such as race, LGBTQ+ rights and neurodiversity. She became passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion while working in education and witnessing the disparities that exist there.
“Historically it has been a very specific group of people who the stock market has benefited, so the company I work for has made a lot of commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Danielle says.
Some of her writing is influenced by her experiences in this field. For example, she writes about gender norms and body image. She is also inspired to advocate through her writing for issues she has faced herself. Society’s approach to body image is especially close to Danielle’s heart since she faced a traumatic eating disorder herself in her twenties.
“I feel like I’m able to process a lot of things in my life through writing in a way I can’t in any other way and that has kept me going,” Danielle says.
Danielle also has a son who is almost 3. Her role in diversity, equity and inclusion has influenced the way she raises her son, and motherhood has also shifted her approach to writing.
“I think a lot about how I want to raise him to be in this world, who I want him to be and how he shows up in spaces, and making sure I am preparing him to be open-minded, thoughtful and an advocate especially because he will have certain privileges because of what he looks like,” Danielle says.
“When it comes to my writing, I think a lot about the legacy that I’m leaving and that I want to model for him. Me pursuing my passions — I think I’m a better mother because I make sure as much as I can to try to fill my bucket so I can show up and be my best self for him and he can see me doing things that bring me joy.”
Danielle juggles many roles and is still trying to find balance among them. She finds it helpful to take it day by day and to remember that some weeks are better than others.
“My biggest thing would be progress over perfection, and just giving yourself permission to do things solely for your own joy, no matter how small they are,” Danielle says.
Danielle hopes to continue to hone her writing. To do this, she is starting with leading a hiking and writing retreat with a group of women this fall, and one day, she hopes to return to school to earn an MFA.
“‘She can be both’ means, for me, that we don’t have to live within a single identity or narrative,” Danielle says. “We can hold many different identities within ourselves. I think sometimes we can feel so compelled to live in this one space that we don’t allow ourselves to explore these other areas of our personalities and ourselves. I think it’s about allowing yourself to delve into that space.”