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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Yay! First post!

Hi all. 🙂

Welcome to my new little space on the Internet. Lisi is incredibly busy writing up a storm, meeting deadlines, making moves, so that means I’m the lucky one who gets to spend some quality time with her lovely readers. I hope you will bear with her intermittent absences from her Wednesday Blah-g to hear some musings of my own, but rest assured I’ll just be posting here and there when schedules permit. With that said, I’m so excited to finally be writing my first post on the Office Elf blog! Before I go any further I want to give you a visual idea of what my experience looks like while working with Lisi.

Here’s a shot of the very professional-looking Round Table, on which a great deal of magic happens. As you can see, we take to our notepads and certainly make ourselves at home. Or, at least I do since the office is pretty much Lisi’s home away from home. Lisi keeps a mini fridge nearby and usually offers me numerous caffeinated beverages that I rarely refuse, even if I’ve already had my morning coffee. This is how I get so much work done. And did I mention her office is literally in direct view of the beach? Fresh, ocean breezes mixed with caffeine probably sounds paradoxical, but the combination definitely speaks to productivity. (I am in no way endorsing a spike in your Redbull consumption.) What you can’t see in the above photo is Bee Bee sleeping near our feet. She refused to be pictured because she felt she wasn’t looking her best that day. (But click the About tab up in the Nav Bar for one of the cutest photos of her ever!)

Oh look–

Lisi’s caught red-handed! Er, blue-handed. I turn my back for one second and she’s goofing off again. That’s okay. Considering she’s written upwards towards forty books by now. She probably needs a goofing off session every now and again. I guess Bee Bee and I will let that one slide.

When I’m not literally in Lisi’s office, I get to work from my own office space that’s set up to inspire creativity. Here’s a shot of what I call my “thinking wall,” which helps me do just as the name implies. When I’m working on something creative either for Lisi or for myself, I take to the collaged wall and seek out activating ideas. What you see here is only about 1/4 of it, but Instagram likes to restrict my angle of view.

Here is a link to one of my recent obsessions: AH-MAZING WORK SPACES! There are some featured that belong to famous writers, artists and just overall creative types who clearly have a great sense of the aesthetic. Maybe you’ll get inspired to jazz up your own creative space.

Sometimes I’m not in Lisi’s office or my own office at all, but out at a cafe working via laptop. Here I am at one of my favorite coffee shops called Paper or Plastik.

There is a dividing door and on the other side of it is a dance studio. Might be one of the nicest sights to look up from working and see ballerinas dancing in window light.

And if that weren’t enough, here’s the nifty telephone the cafe keeps in the powder room! (Not that I could say if it’s in working order because I’ve never touched that thing–gross.)

As much fun as working in cool coffee shops and in my own office space is, it still never compares to the good times Lisi and I have at our meetings. She’s so silly and hilarious, and yet completely professional and brilliant that I am just hoping I learn a thing or two through osmosis while I’m elving around her office with her.

Like I mentioned at the top of this post, things have been crazy for Lisi while she’s making deadlines for The Dirty Book Club, and as you know, she has recently finished the first draft for The Phoenix Five (Go Lisi!!! Check out Lisi’s Pinterest to get familiar with characters from each novel). I’ve never had to rely on this mantra before, but I’ve seen the famous saying hanging on the wall of Lisi’s office since our first meeting…

Yep, I figured it was there with a purpose. It’s crunch time for as far as the eye can see and I’ve got a pretty good feeling we’ll both be replaying the framed statement over and over again until 2013 and beyond. Wish us luck and I can’t wait to share more with you next post!

xxoo

Alisha