By Jessica Johnson
With Thanksgiving having just passed, I have been thinking about what I am most grateful for. I have to say I am very thankful to the Aptos Times for giving me the opportunity to write The Creative Life each month.
One year ago I approached the editor, Noel Smith, with the idea for this column. I was contemplating a major career change and was fascinated with the idea of living a truly creative life – and what it would take to sustain one. Now, just one year later, I am on my way to a successful career as a writer. My journey has been both bolstered and inspired by the artists, writers, and other makers I have had the pleasure of interviewing over the past year.
I am excited to continue to connect with local creative types and share their insights into the creative process. I look forward to seeing those of you who read this column each month around town and hearing how much you enjoy it — those interactions are welcomed and appreciated!
This month, I thought it would be fun to share with you my answers to the questions I ask everyone else when I interview them. I hope you enjoy learning a little bit more about me and my version of The Creative Life.
How long have you lived in Santa Cruz?
My mom graduated from Santa Cruz High and met my dad at a dance at the Cocoanut Grove, so I consider myself a native, although I was born in San Jose. I arrived a week early and on the day I was born my parents had been in Capitola signing a lease on an apartment, so when I came home from the hospital it was to Capitola.
How has living here influenced your creativity?
Like many of my fellow interview subjects, I am inspired by the natural beauty of this area. However, I have to say the local creative community has encouraged me beyond words and without such a welcoming environment I may never have been brave enough to share my work.
Why is being creative important to you?
It is an innate craving for me. If I am not writing I am making vision boards, learning watercolor, or trying to come up with a creative solution to some sort of conundrum.
Are there other creatives in your family?
Yes! My father is an amazing storyteller and artist. I have his artwork displayed in almost every room in my house. When I was a small child he wrote and illustrated a handmade book for me called The Little Girl Who Could Do Anything. It is a prized possession. His sister — my aunt — has an incredible eye for decorating and was a weaver in her youth. My step-dad also writes poetry.
What is the first thing you remember making/writing/creating?
I used to sit by my open bedroom window and write poetry. I was greatly inspired by the unusual (to me) poetic form of e.e. cummings and Walt Whitman.
What are you working on now?
While I have many creative ideas loitering about, right now I am focused on establishing myself as a freelance writer. I left my decade-long teaching career in June and am working on getting a consistent flow of business going which will eventually allow me to spend more time on my creative projects.
What is your daily routine?
First, coffee. Then take the dogs out and look for my hummingbird friend who frequently alights on a nearby branch and sings to me. Next, I spend time meditating with a small dog in my lap. Then, the work – emails, social media, interviews, pitching clients, research, and writing articles. I am in start-up mode so I work long hours, much to the chagrin of my family.
How do ideas come to you? Are you a flasher or a percolator?
They come in a flash and then percolate!
Who are your creative idols? Why?
I really love authentic voices — Anne Lamott comes to mind. Liz Gilbert. Cara Black and Martin Walker for mysteries set in France, my favorite genre. Rumi and Hafiz for their timeless poetry.
Do you have dry spells? What do you do if you do?
I do! Luckily I have more ideas than I have time to give, so if I am dried up in one area I move on to another. Or I read and nap. Napping is underrated.
What is the best advice you have been given about being a writer?
Just write. Write ugly if you have to, but write. Be fearless.
What do you say when people say they are not creative?
I say, “Don’t be afraid.” I think we are all creative, we just are afraid of what people will say about what we create or how “well” we do it. Don’t worry about that. Follow your dreams, they were given to you for a reason.
What is your definition of a CREATIVE LIFE?
A creative life is one lived with open heartedness, curiosity, and a willingness to get your hands dirty. It is one thing today and another tomorrow. It is authentic and scary and totally worth it.
Raised in Aptos, Jessica Johnson is a freelance writer. A journalist, blogger, poet and content creator she writes for and about passionate people and their businesses. Learn more about her at www.JessicaJanisJohnson.com. Email your questions, comments and creative suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: There is another dimension to Jessica. If you visit the Santa Cruz County Athletic League (SCCAL) website you will find the following entry: All Time Santa Cruz County Track and Field Marks, Event — Girls 100 meters Top Mark — 12.24 Jessica Johnson Aptos 1986.