Laryssa Wirstiuk is the author of The Prescribed Burn, which I wrote about on HelloGiggles way back in 2012. I really enjoyed her book, so I was super-excited that Laryssa agreed to answer my nosy Creative Ladies questions. You can find Laryssa on her website and on Twitter @ryssiebee.
What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.
I have two primary jobs: I’m a college-level writing instructor and a marketing professional. I teach creative writing and digital media at Rutgers University. In addition, I work for a small pharmaceutical marketing agency in Manhattan. When I’m not doing either of these jobs, I tutor privately, edit manuscripts, and write articles/reviews. I don’t really have a normal working day because every day is so different; the best part is that I have a lot of control over the hours I spend working!
What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?
My main hobby is creative writing. I enjoy writing short stories, poems, and plays. When I don’t feel like writing, I practice yoga, experiment with vegan cooking, and play with my dog Charlotte Moo. In addition, I like to read books and magazines.
What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.
My students definitely inspire me. I’m so charged by their positive attitudes and their hopeful outlook on the world. I’m also inspired by my belief that I’m only guaranteed this present moment; with this attitude, I try to fill the present with as much joy and creative energy as possible.
In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.
Color, simplicity, depth.
How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?
To be creative, I definitely need quiet and some time to myself. On days when I’m rushing from task to task or surrounded by lots of people, I feel like my head is crowded with noise, and I struggle with being creative. I sometimes need to spend an entire day alone to decompress. Though I wouldn’t describe myself as shy or reserved, I’m definitely an introvert and use alone time to recharge my creative batteries.
What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my book The Prescribed Burn, which I published through my publishing company Painted Egg Press in December 2012. The Prescribed Burn evolved from being my graduate school thesis, which I started in the fall of 2007, into a complete short story collection. In May 2012, I used Kickstarter to raise $5,500, which covered the costs of printing the book. In the fall of 2013, my book won honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards, in the Mainstream/Literary Fiction category: http://www.writersdigest.com/online-exclusives/april-14/21st-annual-writers-digest-self-published-book-awards-winners.
What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?
When I was in graduate school, I started an online magazine called Too Shy to Stop. I recruited young writers from all over the country to submit articles related to arts and culture and hired both a designer and a programmer to build the site. I loved running Too Shy to Stop, but it involved a lot of work; I was basically running an online magazine by myself! I ran out of energy and time, and I couldn’t figure out how to monetize the project. I consider Too Shy to Stop to be one of my biggest failures. What I learned from it is that I’m passionate and energetic, but digital publishing is a tricky industry that often requires more luck than strategy.
Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?
My Creative Lady role model is my friend and current boss Madeleine Beckman. She’s a published poet, journalist, fiction writer, and overall awesome person. I see her about three times per week, and I can talk to her about anything from the latest New York Times book reviews to fashion to the men we’re currently crushing on. I consider her to be one of my mentors, and she’s given me a lot of invaluable advice about building my career.
What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I love waking up early, especially on the weekends, because everything is so quiet, but I’m definitely most creative at night, right before I go to sleep. I sometimes need a whole day to mentally prepare myself for writing. I can’t just wake up and write.
Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?
To relax, I practice yoga and “japa mala” meditation, which is a type of meditation that uses “japa mala” beads or Hindu prayer beads. I also love reading vegan cooking blogs. I’m addicted to pinning vegan recipes on Pinterest.
What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?
The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene: The ultimate guide to understanding what attracts one person to another and how you can make that knowledge work for you.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson: A genre-bending study of the color blue.
The Stranger Manual by Catie Rosemurgy: One of the most unusual and awesome poetry collections I’ve ever read, The Stranger Manual follows a fictional character named Miss Peach.
The Meat and Spirit Plan by Selah Saterstrom: Another genre-bending book, this is an amazing coming-of-age story.
Proofs and Theories by Louise Gluck: For anyone who loves poetry and language, by a Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet.
What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?
I can’t say it enough: believe in yourself. No one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself first. You have to be your own best cheerleader and advocate. You have to “fake it until you make it” with the blind faith that what you’re doing every day is moving you forward, closer to your goals.
What’s your Creative Lady motto?
Trust the process.