A Woman's View: Danai Mushayandebvu, Writer & Blogger
Name: Danai Mushayandebvu, but everyone calls me D.
Age: 29 babyyyy!
Current Job/Company: Writer & Blogger
Education & School: McMaster University and Seneca College
You have a degree in English and Cultural Studies, and a diploma in Corporate Communications, how did that help you in your current role as Account Manager and writer?
My undergraduate degree definitely refined and solidified my love affair with words and I’ve always been a better communicator on paper than I am in person (which to some is surprising because I can barely shut the f*** up) so my writing and creating a distinct voice in my writing was developed there. I also read so many amazing novels and studied English lit, American lit, African lit; all of which it would take most people a life time to read.
Corporate communications is just another way to say public relations, so my postgrad definitely helps my current role in the PR firm that I work for, but I do have to say that I learned so much more from the relationships I created with my peers (what up CCM girls!) than I did from class and my instructors. Public relations is like 90% relationship building and that really can’t be taught, but rather lived out.
What is it about writing that you like?
That’s a good question and one I haven’t really given much thought to. I think what I love most is that when I do write something, it’s a cathartic experience, so a lot of the time – unless I’m writing freelance and given a specific topic to research and write about - it’s like a proverbial purging and I don’t ever know what to expect when it comes out, but I feel lighter and freer every single time. But even cooler than that, is when someone tells me how they’ve connected with the words I’ve written, or how it’s in turn made them braver or freer or encouraged them to live in their truth, and that is really really really special.
You have an amazing website, what are the steps you took to start your site and why did you want to start your site?
Thank you! Well this isn’t my first rodeo! My girl friend Carolyn and I started a blog called The Breakfast Club a few years ago, so I like to think of Mush Love as the solo extension of that – kinda like when Lauryn Hill left the Fugees – beacause the Fugees were, like, the most dope as a group, but Lauryn solo was like on a different galaxy. So, I needed a portfolio for my writing, so I looked at it from the perspective of practicality and necessity (not really the sexy story you were hoping for, I know) first and foremost, then as an opportunity to create engaging content that I just wasn’t seeing anywhere else online. That’s the thing with being creative, is that you can make something that doesn’t already exist, and that in and of itself presents a WORLD of things you can talk about and share.
Where did you get the idea for your site from?
I am surrounded by the most beautiful, dopest, smartest, most determined, coolest, funniest women and I just want to celebrate them! My eventual hope is that my website will be a spot where people can go to inspire and be inspired and in it’s small way, I want to shape a generation of women who are so different and unique to recognize that we’re all part of a sisterhood. That’s the bottom line; we’re all in this together. Let’s celebrate that in love. Mush love.
What were some initial challenges you faced when launching your site?
The main challenge was simply getting started. I had this idea a year ago, literally last Christmas my girl friend Laura actually coined the name “Mush Love” (I wish I could take credit, but alas) and I knew what I wanted to talk about and what the site would look like, but I was so focused on people not liking it, and ego got in the way. It became abundantly clear that as I was writing more and getting more freelance projects that I needed a place to put them, so I bought a domain, had a photo shoot, and launched in April. I had a backlog of content that I could post, and the refining process still proves to be challenging, but I am learning, and everything is trial-and-error. It’s funny what people respond to the most, and what they’re “..meh” about. And there are no real mistakes, only lessons, you know? Forward ever, backward never.
What does a typical day look like for you as a blogger ?
A typical day is that there is no typical day. Ha! It's how I do my best work. But to answer your question in all sincerity each day involves content writing, research and outreach. To break that down even further, content writing is for both clients and my own creative stuff. Research involves finding new clients or new contacts, researching new topics that I want to dissect (in the world of feminism, travel, music, books and all the topics that I love to explore), and then outreach involves reaching out to my existing social and professional network and then building my network through events, forums, groups, or even using my dope AF LinkedIn premium account. Which p.s., I adore and recommend that all freelancers get!
What are the biggest challenges you face as a writer?
Writing is a very personal and inconsistent process, and it can often feel a bit like you're severing a limb, but in that same respect is really cathartic.. but only if it comes from an honest place. The difficulty comes from getting to that point. My most honest writing, is always my best writing. When I'm not honest, it tends not to resonate with people and doesn't have an impact. I find that to be true for both clients and in my personal projects. I'm still figuring out how to work around this and finesse the art of writing, and when I do, I'll write about it and let you know.
What has been the best moment of your career so far?
It has to be the first time that my creative writing got published. On my birthday no less. What a great gift.
What are the perks of your job?
It's cool to go to different events, be the first to try out awesome new tech, travel for shows, try high end beauty products, visit custom-built homes, try out new restaurants and meet people that in ordinary life I may not have had the opportunity to met.
You have a strong social media game, what are your tips for social media?
Thank you! Post about things that make you happy, what you think is beautiful, and what is aspirational to those who are looking at it. Instagram in particular is your 21st century scrap book, so post shit that you can look back on in 2046 and have a smile about. Use a good camera if you can, and invest in a couple of photo-editing apps like Afterlight and A Beautiful Mess. And always always always remember not to compare someone else’s highlight reel with your behind the scenes.
How do you stay motivated and inspired doing what you do?
Hope is a powerful thing - I mentioned I’m a woman of faith, so aligning my life with that is really important and remains a point of reference when I need to be inspired. Sleep is also very important. So are endorphins, so get sweating and drink plenty water. Also drink wine and have fun; good laughter is the best medicine.
Which other woman working in your field do you look up to?
I made a very conscious effort to only follow women on my Instagram and Twitter accounts that I aspired to be like. So yes, they had to be black, they had to be in the “industry” (anywhere from the arts, to entertainment to real estate development) and they had to be fly as hell.
A few notable accounts: @vanitygroupnyc Karleen Roy – Founder of the Vanity Group @rajni_jacques Rajni Jacques – Creative and Fashion Content Creator @beingupile – Upile Chisala – Malawian Storyteller @kahlanabarfield – Kahlana Barfield Brown – InStyle Editor @issarae – Issa Rae Comedic writer @oprah – need I say more.
What advice would you give someone who wants to do what you're doing?
I’ve had a really convoluted, colourful career journey thus far, one that has taken me across the world, made me spend thousands of dollars on yoga apparel and have given me the opportunity to make the best of friends I’ll ever have – this was my journey, and I am SO happy that life choose me to live it.
While this isn’t everyone’s experience, and I’ve had friends who went straight from high school to university to a job to another job, and are perfectly content, I truly believe that there isn’t a perfect path to where you’ll end up. You just have to get real with yourself, with your strengths, with your capabilities, and try a few things out ‘til you find a good fit.
I’m not the most qualified person to be giving this advice. I’m not the university brochure example of the easiest journey to get to a dream job or dream writing career (heck, it took my 5 ½ years to finish my undergrad alone!) But what I’ve realized about working for the 14 years that I have thus far, is that it actually doesn’t matter what you do; what just matters is how you do it. The intention with which you execute every task you’re given is where the character building happens. It’s also remembering to always ask yourself “am I learning something new today? Am I trying my best?” when yes stops being the answer to that question, have the bravery to ask for more or walk away from that which you are doing. Life’s too short to stay in a state of mediocrity.
The key is not only follow your passion, but to also follow your purpose. We all have one, and I think life is about finding it. Just like Justin Bieber. So while I could say to you go to McMaster, then to Seneca, then take a year to travel and find yourself then find a comfy 9-to-5, it’s different for everyone.
The one thing I know for sure is that life is not built in an office, number crunching and squinting at a computer screen. It’s built in the relationships you form with coworkers who become best friends in the retail jobs you work, the internships you dread that remind you what you don’t want to do with your life, and the after school group sessions you’re forced to do with people who end up being your peers and advocating for you.
Don’t be so results driven because you’ll miss the beauty of what’s unfolding right before you. It really is all about the journey like they said it would be.
What an inspirational woman!! Thank you so much, Danai for your knowledge and kind words!
How inspired are you by Danai?