On My Creative Path

I recently wrote a guest post for Lisi titled #GIRLBOSS. In response to that post, awesome reader Kimberly asked if I’d ever consider writing about my own creative path as a career woman, how I came to work for Lisi, and what my career goals and interests are in the future. Why YES, Kimberly, I certainly will consider writing about that! In fact, I’ll do it now. Great idea.

I suppose I could start by saying since childhood I always wanted to be a writer. I almost wish there was some variation in the mix–astronaut or pro soccer player, perhaps. But no–since six I’ve wanted to write and illustrate children’s books or fantastical epic stories. The subject matter of what I gravitate towards writing has changed over the years but I may someday go back to my roots in what made the child version of myself delirious in wonderment. Since I had a clear idea of where I wanted to end up–which is already a feat if you are choosing a creative path for your life–I was able to declare the “right” major. Eventually anyway. I ended up in the English and Creative Writing department where I got to read all of the books I’d always wanted to. Whatever I now know about writing, I largely have learned from reading other writers’ great works. I have a very long way to go even still and constantly seek out resources on how to hone my craft. The life of any creative person will be that of an autodidact. It’s important and quite necessary in fulfilling your goals as an artist.

During my last year of university, I started a freelance writing services business, writing articles for various magazines and online news sources, providing copywriting and editing for businesses, managing social media communities and executing digital marketing strategies. It was all trial and error and a VERY bumpy road until after I graduated when I could really teach myself the ropes of how to run a profitable business. It took time, but I learned some major life lessons in the process, like my worth as an employee, how to work independently, how to create structure in my life so that I could work from home (and carve time out to keep plugging away on artistic passion projects!), and how to collaboratively work with all different kinds of people. I also learned how to spot a need in the market so that I could constantly teach myself new skills that would keep clients coming back to me time and time again. It was challenging and fun, but a few years into it I heard by word of mouth that the New York Times Bestselling Author Lisi Harrison was looking for editorial help. What a dream that would be! I had to try my chances and see if we were a fit.

I got my resume together and wrote a cover letter specifically for Lisi expressing what the opportunity to work with her would mean to me. I didn’t expect it, but I got a call from her saying we should meet for an in-person chat. I drove down to Lisi’s office that sits right on the Laguna Beach coastline and had an interview with her. She was dressed stylishly, yet effortlessly. I was the schmuck in a black blazer at the beach. She gave me a shot anyway. It’s a tricky thing taking on creative help and working together in the way Lisi would need to work with her assistant, and what seemed to be the most important factors were whether or not our personalities would vibe together, if I had an intuitive understanding of her needs as an employer, if I understood her brand and readers, and if I genuinely cared about her message and product. I’m happy to say that all of those areas checked out, but it wasn’t in the bag there… There were many other strong candidates Lisi had seen and now it came down to a creative assignment we were expected to complete.

Lisi briefed me on an upcoming project (The Dirty Book Club which she is currently writing) and asked that I write up mock descriptions used in developing the setting of a particular scene in 1962.I remember pulling together research for that assignment and hoping or maybe WISHING I’d get the chance to continue working with this author that required such fun and interesting creative help. I was holding my breath, waiting to hear back about who Lisi would choose to bring on board her team. A few days later, I got the news. I could breathe easy as Lisi’s new editorial assistant! I clinked glasses with a friend in celebration of the good news that night. Lisi and I have taken on many projects, sometimes together, sometimes individually, ever since and it’s very easy for me to say she is BY FAR the best boss I will ever have.

Today I view the job as somewhat of an apprenticeship. I am constantly learning from Lisi whether or not she knows or intends to be instructional. As all her readers already know, she’s an amazing role model to girls and women and in many ways I view her as a mentor, succeeding in a field I’d like to be in myself one day. I also get a pretty cool inside look at the day and life of a writer, how a novel comes together, and ALL of the INSANE details that create what you will eventually know as Lisi’s books. They’re really tangible pieces of life and time and effort and tears and sweat all melded together into words on a page. Enjoy it!

The story doesn’t end there since Kimberly also asked about future goals and career interests. It’s difficult to speak on this since, as I mentioned, Lisi is a fantastic boss and I can’t imagine not working closely with her. But of course someday I’ll have to spread my wings even further and tackle new challenges in order to keep growing and developing my career. One thing I’ve learned about choosing a creative path is that “plans” are often not a part of it. There is no linear structure to becoming a successful writer, artist, filmmaker, etc. There’s a lot of daily hard work involved, making it up as you go along, putting yourself out there and being vulnerable to rejection. You also need a lot of luck with a dash of having the right connections. So for now, what I have are many ideas of where I’d like to go. What would bring me the most happiness personally and professionally. If I can somehow marry travel with work, I’d love the opportunity to do so. If I can contribute to the wonderful social work taking place abroad that helps young women and impoverished families, I’ll be there. I’d also feel right at home at a boutique media company in creative direction or in the art department. For now, I am loving working with Lisi and having a hand in the development of her stories. And if I get my schedule together, I can even find time to keep my own writing going (I have several essays and poems forthcoming in print soon!). If you keep your dream close, but sleep very little, you can make it all work. I promise you that much.

For any aspiring writers out there who read this, one lovely thing to remember is that finding your career will be a process that will continuously evolve as you refine your passions. You don’t have to know all the answers today or tomorrow. And if you end up somewhere that doesn’t have you writing, also know you can keep chipping away at your dream in your free time. Many writers have what they call “paycheck work,” or their day job, while they consider their writing to be their “passion work.” That’s the trend for many of my artistic friends in various creative industries, but it is always best to get your day job as close to your heart as can be. That much I’m sure you already know.

I can only remark on my personal experiences and would love to hear about what any aspiring writers out there are doing to further their artistic careers. Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and Lisi will be back next week.

 

xx

Alisha

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9 thoughts on “On My Creative Path

    • Thanks for asking! I’d also love to know about what you’re doing on your writing path. You mentioned you write for Wet Paint?

      • Sure! So my day job is in PR at NYU but outside of work I’m building up my freelance writing clips. I blog too but mostly for fun. So far I’ve written personal essays and fashion related stuff for the huffington post and a few smaller sites. I’ve been applying for editorial and social media jobs at magazines but nothing has panned out. I’m obsessed with YA though and have always wanted to write a series like the clique, so I’m signing up for a fiction night class soon. It’s hard to work on writing after a long day at another job as I’m sure you know!

  1. That was so inspiring! Thanks for writing that, it gives me confidence that I can hopefully do what I want do one day, which is fashion design! Creative paths are tricky, because like you said, it’s really hard to make plans, but that;s part of the fun of it I guess 🙂 Thanks for sharing, I always enjoy reading what you write.

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