22 March 2021

Alumna Daniela Bragato left her Milan home and launched herself into her Creative and Professional Writing degree at the University of East London (UEL). Her dream was to become a novelist.

But, like the stories that pack the shelves of bookshops, there are twists and turns and where you end up might not be where you intended to go - but it might just be the place you need to be.

And so it was with Daniela. After she graduated in 2014, she never stopped writing, she never stopped dreaming or pushing, but the obstacles strewn in her path seemed to be nudging her in another direction.

As soon as I graduated, I started to look for work experiences in the publishing industry. I wanted to become a novelist and thought that working in this field would help me.

"But I soon realised that publishing wasn’t the right career for me - I missed interviewing people and writing stories. So, I applied for roles in communications and secured jobs in different industries - I even worked at UEL in the communications department for a while.

"However, by 2018 I felt stuck and unhappy and that was a pivotal moment for me because I realised that I needed to change my trajectory,"

Daniela Bragato, UEL alumna and writer, says.

That trajectory took Daniela to her own business. Launched in September 2020, Women MAKE Stories (WMS) is a safe space for women to write and create, without judgment or pressure and supported by mindfulness workshops which help to drain away anxiety created by false notions of ambition or failure and allow women to reconnect with their body and mind.

She said, "I was attending career events for women in the creative industry. By listening to their stories, I realised that many other women felt the same as me. I slowly started to figure out my next steps and knew that I wanted to create something to help other women that played to my strengths.

"Having experienced the benefits of mindfulness myself and seeing how it helped my writing I had no doubts. I had planted the seed for Women MAKE Stories."

Launched in the teeth of the national Covid-19 pandemic, Daniela’s business and her work has taken on a special relevance.

She said, "As bad as this Covid situation has been and still is, it made people aware of the fact that we need to take breaks and that the whole 'hustle' or 'always on' mentality is so detrimental.

"I really hope that one day things will be different, and that people won't feel judged for taking time off to look after their mental health. Mindfulness at its core is about being less human doing and more human being. It's about non-striving, slowing down and not being on autopilot all the time.

"If we're constantly stressed out and worried about the future or we feel stuck in the past, we're unable to pay attention to our present moment and we miss out on what really matters to us.

"What I love about mindfulness is that it keeps it real. It doesn't give you any false promises. There's no quick fix. Mindfulness teaches you how to navigate life through uncertainty and challenges."

Time of growth

Daniela looks back at her time at the University as one of change and growth.

She said, "Attending UEL was such an amazing experience. I learned so much, not only about creative writing, but also about myself. I've always been shy but sharing my writing with other people and receiving feedback helped me to overcome this fear.

"I can definitely say that in three years, my writing improved a lot, my reading list expanded and my confidence and self-esteem grew. I met so many people from all over the world and my lecturers were very helpful and encouraging. In my first year, I even won a certificate for Most Promising First Year Creative Writing Student.

"It must be really tough for students as Covid has completely changed their university experience and many of them probably haven’t had the chance to be on campus. So, I hope that when they come back, they'll feel more resilient and able to adapt to whatever comes their way - which are great skills not only at university but in life in general."

And as for advice to creative writing students, she said, "I'd tell students them that if they write, they are already writers and you don’t need anybody to validate that.

"I'd also tell them that rejections are part of the challenges of being a writer. It takes a lot of courage and persistence to put yourself out there but if students know that this is what they want, they should keep trying.

"Ultimately only you know what's best for you and it's so important that students are encouraged to create a life and a career that they're really happy with and that align with their values.

"This is what drives me in life and in the work I do with Women MAKE Stories. I'd encourage students the same way I do with the women I work with: you already have everything you need within you, just believe in yourself and unlock it."

Follow Daniela on Instagram @womenmakestories or email her at:

If you want to pursue a creative writing degree with the School of Arts and Creative Industries, go to the course website pages.

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