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  • Writer's pictureAriane Signer

Behind the Scenes: Writing 'Helvetica'

It's been way too long since I've updated my blog, and I am going to be making an effort to doing so more regularly! Since last December, I've been working as an advertising copywriter at a new agency, so that's been keeping me very busy (and very happy, I looove my job).

Lately I've been revisiting my most recent publication, Helvetica. This was such a fun passion project that was a perfect final chapter to my Swiss years and all the weirdness/wonder of that era.

I was looking through my Helvetica folder, and found a few great examples of my writing process that I wanted to share! It's cool to see the evolution of how a poem is created from a bigger piece of writing.

Often, I start with free-writing, or journaling, and then go back and pull out themes and words that resonate, to arrange them into a prose-like format. There is obviously no science to this, cause it's very intuitive and creative, but I often spend more time editing than writing.

Original journal rant that became the poem, 'non-linear'

(written early 2022)


It’s difficult to articulate how you can love someone deeply, yet know that you must set each other free. The constant struggle, the cognitive dissonance that accompanies such relationships is exhausting. I love you, but you are harming me. I love you, but I don’t really like you. I want the best for you, but I can’t carry you there.

I struggled with these thoughts for so long after the separation.

At the same time, I was feeling the same inner conflict with my feelings of national identity. I’m Canadian, but I feel very strongly Swiss. I love both countries. Switzerland means more to me than I can explain…. can I explain it? How can I honour both of these countries that have played such huge roles in my life?

How can I hold space for all the feelings, especially when they seem to be so contradictory?

Am I holding on too tight? To thoughts, to feelings, to ideas of how things should be?

There was no way I knew how to sit with everything, except to reinvent the way I was viewing my life story. It didn’t fit the linear narrative of how life is meant to unfold, so I was constantly trying to make sense of what that meant for me. My life was messy and confusing, and embarrassing. It was beautiful and broken. It was filled with adventure and life lessons.

And the truth is, I don’t want to forget any of it. All of this confusion, all of this pain, all of this despair. All of the tears, all of the shifts in perception. This beautiful mess of a chapter; my 6 years in Switzerland. Sometimes it hurt while it was happening, but I have proof that it was beautiful and worthwhile, too. I’ll take that back with me like a treasure chest.


You must set each other free

It was barely a whisper.

I can’t carry you there,

But the cognitive dissonance

Might keep you company.

And how many feelings

Must there be?

And why do they all seem so


Don’t know how to sit with

This, but I can’t stand.

A linear narrative

Is not part of the plan.

This was one of the alternate covers for Helvetica, that I really loved, but the pink clouds matched the mood of the book more!

Alternate back cover author photo! Ultimately, felt like it might've been too 'suggestive' for a book cover. lol

Poem that got cut from the final manuscript, but I love it and I don't know why I didn't keep it. That's totally the way it works, right? I'm constantly second-guessing my writing, then loving it when I look back (the opposite also happens, hating words that I once loved). All part of the life. But this is cute. Up Here

Up here,  

I feel somehow less far away 

How many daydreams can I dream in one day? 

I picture you watching me 

Walking these trails 

I breathe in so slowly 

Then forget to exhale. 

Another Word doc I found that has my playlist AND the original version of, 'Fingerprints'.

Here I lay with the phantom cathedrals

The ghost churches

Forgotten in the fog



Albums I hiked to:

Hiking the trails around Evilard/Macolin/Biel, I was always listening to music. These were some of my favorite albums during this era. I hiked, cried, and healed to these songs!


Noah Gundersen- Lover

Taylor Swift- Reputation

John Mayer- Sob Rock

Jets to Brazil- Orange Rhyming Dictionary

Ruston Kelly- Shape & Destroy

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit- Reunions

Lord Huron- Long Lost

Flatland Cavalry- Homeland Insecurity

Turnpike Troubadours- Diamonds & Gasoline


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