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Sparking Global Change through Creative Writing - Interview with Author Rebecca Pillsbury


If you've been following HTC for awhile, you probably know by now that, aside from writing stories, I'm absolutely passionate about environmental issues and making the planet a healthier, safer place for everyone who calls it home. You might even have seen the film I co-produced with my sister Abbie via our non-profit organization, Blue Freedom.

Making the film was an absolutely wild journey, an experience I will never forget and one that impacted me in more ways than I can possibly fit into a short blog post (let me know in the comments below if you'd like to see a seperate blog post about the film sometime!) If you haven't had a chance to watch Voiceless, you can do so for free right here on YouTube.

So needless to say, when marine naturalist and award-winning memoirist Rebecca Pillsbury reached out to Abbie and I about interviewing us for a book she was working on called Guided By Whales - a stunning compilation of colorful, artfully written stories of artists, activists, authors, filmmakers, marine biologists, naturalists, nonprofit administrators, and more who have dedicated their lives to advocating for cetaceans, we were thrilled by the privilege to be a part of it.


Needless to say, I am totally stoked to now be able to welcome Rebecca to Here To Create to share not only about Guided By Whales, but also to contribute to a very important conversation sparking in the writing community: how we can use our craft to create change - in our own communities, and on a global scale.


Kate: Rebecca, when did you first begin to write? Is it something you’ve always been into, or did your environmentalism draw you into the art?

Rebecca: I began writing as soon as I learned the alphabet. I kept a journal and entered writing contests starting in elementary school. At the same age, I started becoming passionate about environmental issues. However, I didn’t combine those two interests until I wrote my most recent book, Guided by Whales.


Kate: What’s the story behind Guided By Whales - were there certain events that inspired the idea for the book?

Rebecca: I had the book brewing inside of me for a long time. After I wrote my first book, a memoir, it became clear that I’d found my calling—and that I had what it takes to complete a full manuscript. After writing my own story, I felt it was a natural progression to write about other people’s life journeys, in the context of themes that deeply inspired me. My second book was a story compilation about the healing power of blues music and dancing, but even before that book was complete, I had Guided by Whales in mind. I found it profoundly enriching to interview people from around the world while conducting research for Saved by the Blues, and knew I wanted to follow that same format for my “whale book.”

There were already so many books out there about whales in general—their migrations, what they eat, how big they are, etc. but what I felt was missing were personal stories about what whales mean to people. I knew from my own experience that seeing them in the wild could be life-changing; I wanted to try to articulate the spiritual transformation that can occur by simply seeing a whale from shore. With all of the threats facing whales—and the environment in general—I felt driven to make people fall in love with them as much as I had, because we can’t hurt the ones we love.


Kate: I’m a huge believer in using art to create change. I would love to hear, in your own words, what your thoughts are on this concept of using art to make a positive impact on the world.

Rebecca: I feel that we live within a society and political climate that aims to divide us, rather than embrace what we have in common. The human experience is universal; art makes people feel. Music, art, literature, dance—these things bring people together by inviting us out of our minds and into our hearts and spirits. When we make decisions from that space, having a positive impact on each other and the world is inevitable.


Kate: So many of us are becoming aware of the fact that we need more eyes on the issues our planet is facing - and more hands to help. What are some ways you think writing in particular can help make a global impact?

Rebecca: I feel that once people become aware of threats, to our planet or otherwise, they are inspired to help in the ways that they can—when it is a topic that hits close to “home.” Unfortunately, media and news platforms often speak of issues in terms of statistics, told through the lens of a particular political or corporate agenda. To me, creative writing—whether it be for a book or a blog—feels more thoughtful and human than what’s written or spoken about in the news and is therefore a much more powerful source of influence and opportunity to get “eyes on issues.” People feel more inspired to act when they have a personal connection with the animal, person, or place in need of help. Writing can share the story behind a statistic.


Kate: please take this question for whatever it means to you: how do you feel that whales have spoken to you, and how do you feel they have guided you on your journey with this book?

Rebecca: Whales are our planet’s wisdom keepers. They have existed on our planet far longer than humans, and therefore have the luxury of intergenerational knowledge going back millions of years before us. I feel there is so much we can learn from whales, if we simply observe how they live (many of those lessons are written about in the book). By observing them, I suppose you could say they have “spoken” to me; they have inspired me with their trust in us, even though we have so degraded their habitat and in some cases hunted them to near extinction. I also have the whales to thank for “introducing” me to so many wonderful people in the whale advocacy community—such as you, and your sister Abbie.


Kate: I think a lot of people look at these big, messy environmental issues and then at their own creative talents, but don’t really see a connection between the two. Having written a book that seems to throw a lifeline to some of the world’s largest mammals, what are some ways you think creatives can use their talents to help the planet?

Rebecca: there are limitless opportunities to use creative endeavors to help the planet! Whatever one’s preferred form of expression is—whether it be writing, painting, dancing, songwriting, photography, film, etc.—it can be channeled to spread a message. Guided by Whales talks about people having done everything from becoming a “real-life” mermaid, creating a “wall” of origami whales, painting murals, to creating documentary films. Art tells a story; what story do you want to tell?

Kate: what advice would you give to writers who are starting out, who want to use their books to make a positive impact?

It’s never too soon to start making connections! Especially if your book is written with the intention of having a positive impact on others and the world, there are people who are going to be eager to support you—don’t be afraid to reach out and, humbly, ask for their support.


Kate: where can we find you and your book?

Rebecca: Guided by Whales is available at the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, WA, the Langley Whale Center in Langley, WA, and the Whale, Sea Life, and Shark Museum in Depoe Bay, OR, among other local bookstores. It is also available on Amazon. More about me and my other books can be found at Duende Press.




TAKEAWAYS

  • Art makes people feel. It brings people together by inviting us out of our minds and into our hearts and spirits. When we make decisions from that space, having a positive impact on each other and the world is inevitable.
  • Creative writing—whether it be for a book or a blog—feels more thoughtful and human than what’s written or spoken about in the news and is therefore a much more powerful source of influence and opportunity to get “eyes on issues.” Writing can share the story behind a statistic.
  • there are limitless opportunities to use creative endeavors to help the planet! Whatever one’s preferred form of expression is—whether it be writing, painting, dancing, songwriting, photography, film, etc.—it can be channeled to spread a message.
  • It’s never too soon to start making connections! Especially if your book is written with the intention of having a positive impact on others and the world, there are people who are going to be eager to support you


A massive thank you to Rebecca for sharing with me and HTC community about her stellar book. Be sure to go grab your copy!



stay stoked!
kate

5 bits of advice for my starting-out self


I published my first book in the summer of 2017. I'm always saying that publishing doesn't change anything, because it doesn't. And by "anything" I mean the heart of the writer, because I've written more unpublished books than published ones, and even if I never published another book again, I would keep the habit up. Because its more than a habit, it's a love and a passion.

But choosing to have a writing career is, like all other creative careers, very demanding and time consuming. And if I could snatch a Tardis and travel back in time, there's a few helpful scraps from some proverbial and no doubt very ancient advice book I would give myself with greater gusto, having now published three novels.

Here goes:


#1 SLOW DOWN

There's no rush. There really isn't. By chance, I recently heard the quote: "there's nothing in life worth rushing over" - to which I immediately snorted and thought "oh, yes there is." But then I began to think about it a little more deeply - mainly about the definition of the word "rush." Rushing a process usually isn't a good thing, in fact the very practice has given us these great quotes like "haste makes waste." I began to look at the things in my life I would normally deem worth rushing for, putting in all the extra hours, cramming late at night, and all to make it happen when I think it should happen - doing all that I can to expedite a thing just so that I can plant my proverbial flag when it's all said and done and declare that I got it done within the timeframe that I wanted to. Just reading that sentence makes me cringe. The best things, the true things, the most creative things, they cannot be rushed, pushed, shoved, and expedited - and often when we do this, we lose a whole lot more than we gain. So don't rush your writing; let it happen...unless you're actually working under a hard deadline that is actually being imposed on you with consequences attached, then what's the big hurry? Write good, slow-cooked stories. Let them come as they will; write them as they reveal themselves and publish them when they hang heavy on the cognitive vine like a ripe, fragrant piece of fruit - and not before.

#2 PROTECT YOUR REASON

Being a published indie author is a very demanding and time-devouring career. Think cookie monster and you've got the right imagery going. Telling stories takes a lot of time and energy, and in order to tell stories well you need to make sure that you're preserving your time and actually carving out that space for yourself regularly. And that's a lot easier said than done, because nearly everything will attempt to come between you and your writing - things like networking and marketing and so on (all such blasted dull words). Don't let them. Delegate time to do the things you need to, yes, but don't let it all edge out the one thing that actually made you choose this path in the first place: writing. The art of using language to hitchhike your way through the hearts and minds of your readers, and impact their lives in a positive way. This is why we do what we do. In Hollywood portrayals, it's when they publish and get busy that the storyteller completely loses track of why they started, takes to heavy drinking, and proceeds to chase futile goals. Don't let that happen. Remember why you started and protect the reason: keep writing stories no matter what. No matter what, find a way.


#3 ENJOY IT MORE

This one tags along well with the first on this list - not rushing it. While you're taking your time, try your utmost to enjoy it. Savor all the little things: the quiet afternoons of pounding out words over a cup of tea, the conversations you have about the book with family or a close friend. Enjoy the flavor of your story, the characters. Ask yourself questions about your story - press it from all sides and see how each little moving part holds up; ask what truth, what mystery, what kind of an impact your story brings to the table. Enjoy the experience of writing, of making a new world, having the ability to make up people and places, invent new planets, technology, animals - geez we can do some INCREDIBLE things through the art of telling stories! Enjoy it more for goodness sake!

#4 LEAN INTO THE EDITING PROCESS

This is where the crooked paths straighten, and the unfocused bits come in crystal clear and technicolor. If ever there was a time not to rush things...this is it. Edit like there is nothing else that needs your attention; shut off from everything else, eliminate distractions, and really lean into this beautiful process of getting more in tune with your own voice to ensure that your story is actually communicating what you truly desire to communicate. This is where your dream really begins to spread its wings: this is a vital time. And if you embrace it, it will teach you more about your writing than anyone or anything ever could. It will shape you, speak to you, and take your hand as you continue on this path. It will become a disciplined, warm-hearted companion in the craft. Though editing your own work may sometimes seem endless and grueling, it's worth every moment and every ounce of effort, and your writing will thank you for it. Your next book will thank you for it. 


#5 WRITE MORE.

Whenever I'm asked what kind of advice I would give a writer who is just starting out, I say the same thing that was said to me quite some time back. A dear friend told me to keep writing, and I listened. And it's one of the most important things I've ever done. If you feel stories burning inside of you, it's really not that big and complicated - find ways to tell them. Write them down. Even if you're busy, even if your life is a big up, down roller coaster, find a way all your own to tell that story. And then, just like that scene from Rebel in the Rye, "write another one, and another one, and another one." Just keep writing. That's the most important part of all of this, without which nothing else matters: the marketing, the blog tours, the community, the fans, the blog posts, the social media - it's all swirling vagueness. It's meaningless. The writing is the electricity that powers it all. It's the lifeblood. So no matter what, no matter what...keep writing.



Now it's YOUR turn...what's a piece of writing advice you wish you could give your starting-out self? I would LOVE to hear about it below.



stay stoked...and keep WRITING!
kate

mastering your weekends


I find a lot of value in taking breaks - in stepping back from the work zone, breaking out of that headspace completely, and finding new perspective. Because often, it's very easy to lose perspective, isn't it? We get so wrapped up in what we're doing, and it can be a wonderful thing to have something that you genuinely enjoy so much that you lose yourself in it, but it can also become a dangerous thing when other things that are of greater importance slip out of our priority zone because of it.

Things like properly and lovingly taking care of ourselves, spending time with our loved ones, looking for and discovering new ways to help a planet that is deeply in need of love and care. When we become so caught up in our own to-do lists, sometimes these things, without our even noticing it, seem to slip into the background noise.

For me, taking a break, stepping back, that's how I remind myself that life doesn't exist within work, work exists within life, and oh man is life expansive: it's vast and multifaceted, and it demands our full attention. And sometimes, in order to give our whole lives the attention it needs, it becomes necessary for us to take a step back: to take stock, reexamine, reorganize.

If you've been around on this blog for a bit, there's a good chance you've heard me talk about going off grid, unplugging and getting outside, getting away from work and the internet, etc. But over the weekend I was thinking about how this isn't always practical, and it doesn't usually need to be a drastic move.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that we don't usually need to drop everything and disconnect from our work for a month to go live in a beach hut in Bali. Though...honestly I'd be down...BUT, my point is, when the goal becomes regaining perspective and fostering a healthy relationship with your creative work? I believe there's a more sustainable way to cultivate this as a lifestyle, not just as a once a year getaway.

And this weekend, as I was out with my husband, grabbing a cup of coffee and a bite to eat in a bookstore cafe, it hit me: get intentional with your weekends.

In fact, master them.


The weekend, for most people and even entrepreneurs, are typically when we stop working and take a breather. But when was the last time we got super intentional about what we were going to do with our weekends? And I'm not talking about making plans to binge watch something on Netflix.

So often weekends simply mean "no work." They are in essence, an absence of something. And, well...that's it. "No work."

...Now what?

What if we got super intentional? What if we used these two days to really hone in on what would replenish us, body, mind, and spirit, the absolute most? What if we were deliberate about how we spent this time, and how we used it?

See, sitting there in that coffee shop, laughing and talking with my husband, it made me realize: this is it. This...this is life. All these little moments are the fabric that makes up reality, the most important things - not things at all, but faces and hearts - these are the most important parts of being alive. And even though I enjoy working hard, I need, need, need, to not get so caught up in the ever popular "grind" that I lose...this. The most important part. The sweetest thing. The cream filling of life.

I want to work hard and enjoy it, but I also want to always, always, always be aware of the fact that there are a few things that are more important than what I make: things like spending time with people you love, making memories with them, helping others, helping the planet, volunteering our time to a cause - all of these things are what fuels what we do. Take that away and everything we make falls flat, because it's missing a very important ingredient: life.


So I encourage you to take your weekend and get super intentional with it. Use it to gain perspective, to refuel, to breathe and take stock. To remind yourself that your craft is a part of your life, your life isn't just a part of your craft. So enjoy, savor, go out for a coffee with someone you love - replenish. We don't have to take a massive block of time to unplug, we can do that sustainably and consistently every single week by mastering our weekends, getting intentional with them - treating them as a sacred space...a place in which we can be reborn.

And perhaps even use them to take a step back and look at all the things we have made...how cool that is, how creative we are, how wondrous and beautiful a privilege it is to even create in the first place. Maybe we should take a little pause and just think about how grateful we are for that.


What's your favorite weekend ritual? What is one way you would like to get more intentional with how you spend your weekends? What's one thing that replenishes your soul and helps you gain perspective?



stay stoked!
kate


The time in between - 5 methods for finding time to do the things you LOVE


It's become commonplace to hear someone say "I'm so busy," or, "I just don't have any time." But the truth of the matter is, we all have time and plenty of it. We each wake up to a completely full new day each morning, we all start out with the exact same thing. We simply choose how to use it.

But this is easier said, isn't it? I mean, if it's so simple why is it that we often feel like time completely gets away from us as creatives? Why is it so difficult to find time to do all the things we want to do, and accomplish all the things we want to accomplish if we have plenty of time?

Let's get this out of the way: sometimes we are genuinely busy, I'm not belittling that at all, and that can actually be quite fulfilling and even fun. But to me, there are different kinds of busy. There's the type of busy I personally prefer to simply call "productive" and then there is this cluttered, chaotic feeling of general busyness - the kind where you feel like you are on a treadmill: constantly running, and yet getting nowhere, lacking time and energy to do even the things that you genuinely love.

If you can relate to that second descriptor, you are definitely not alone, I am right there with you. I too, often find myself wishing that there was just a bit more daylight, so that I could fit in yoga, practicing French, and listening to an audiobook while I meal prep. I deeply dislike the mainstream rush, and that terrible feeling of the days and weeks just slipping through your fingers. In fact it's led me to take another look at my lifestyle and how I go about my every day.

Let's keep this really simple and return to the idea we just talked about at the top of the page - yes, sometimes we are genuinely busy, but that usually isn't a constant, and if it is, it won't be sustainable for long. Most of the time what we're actually facing is a time management issue: we're not able to get the things done that we wanted to, or perhaps enjoy the activities and hobbies that we had hoped to enjoy, because we haven't struck on a balanced schedule - we may not even schedule at all.

If we all start out with the same amount of time in a day, that means we can use this time however we want to, and if we find that we're not able to actually do the things we had really desired to, we can change the way we are going about our day to day life.

Now, there are many ways to do this - from calendar blocking, to bullet journaling, the list goes on and on, but I'm only going to tackle one mode of time management today: managing the time in between.


Everything from learning a language to making coffee to walking my dog, these are all things that I enjoy doing in between the things that I need to get done each day; the things I do in between my creative workflow.

So often we look at our booked schedules and sigh about how busy we are, and how we have so little time to do things we genuinely enjoy, yet we're often only looking at the time that's blocked out for work. What about the time in between? What about that empty block of time first thing in the morning, or just after lunch? What about our free evenings, or our days off? What about the time we spend commuting?

Added up, all of these "empty" blocks of time make up a rather large portion of our days, weeks, months - lives! To overlook these precious parts of our schedules is to waste great opportunities to grow, learn, and enjoy a balanced lifestyle. Often, these in-between gaps in our schedules are filled unintentionally with things like watching videos on YouTube, scrolling through social media apps, etc.

While these resources in and of themselves aren't bad, it's become commonplace in western culture to squander time on social media to the point of it not only not serving us, but making a damaging impact on our lives. (Whole other post for a whole other time.) Some apps have even implemented trackers to help us gauge how much time we spend on social media, because according to studies the average American will spend nearly an hour a day on Facebook, an hour watching YouTube videos, and nearly an hour on Instagram. Of course these are averages and don't apply to everyone, but these are real numbers and real reports - and that equals out to around nearly 3 hours of our daily lives!

You can do a lot with three hours.

That extra time you need to learn a language, or start that new hobby? That space you wish you could create in your schedule for working out or spending time with family? Those couple of extra hours of sleep you wish you had - or that reading time you really crave?

Maybe if we became more aware - hyper aware - of what we are spending our time on and where, we would actually have more time than we realize. Maybe we would be astonished at just how much we could actually accomplish (including that hobby or project we've been wanting to start for ages) if we became intentional not only with the things that we have to do each day, but with the time in between.


So, where can we start - and how?

#1 Become hyperaware. When you find yourself going down an unnecessary time-consuming rabbithole, catch yourself.

#2 Make a very simple, straight forward list of a few things you would really love to spend time on, and then, when you catch yourself wasting those little bits of in between time, turn to this list. Pick one of the things listed and get started, even if you spend just a few minutes doing it. I've found this very helpful for learning French.

#3 Calendar block. My sister got me hooked on calender blocking - I was skeptical at first, but learning how to use this resource has been a massive help when it comes to alleviating that dizzying feeling of chaotic, anxiety and busyness. It's a wonderful way to be able to see everything you actually have to do, just how much time it will take, and how much time you have to do other things, laid out in a cohesive manner. Most of the time I find I'm surprised by how much free time I actually have to work with. (Side projects here I come!)

#4 Prioritize. Take a good look at the list you made, as well as your schedule and take a crack at prioritizing the most important things. Oftentimes I find that I've placed too much emphasis on something that could be set on a backburner for the time being with no damage done, giving me the freetime I was looking for to tackle something else.

#5 Don't be hard on yourself. Weeding distractions and unnecessary or even damaging time-sucks out of our lives takes time and practice. So try to find the fun in the process, embrace the trial and error, and laugh at yourself when you catch yourself going off on a bunny trail. No need for self-deprecating words. ;)


So there you have it: a few ways I am currently trying to get my own personal schedule more free, clear, and easy-breezy. :) Now it's your turn: are you a super scheduled guru, or are you an adventurer who flies by the seat of their pants? What's your favorite time-management tip? I look forward to hearing from you down in the comments. 


stay stoked!
kate