Jessica Love is a busy lady. Not only is she a teacher (a job I cannot even think about without getting exhausted), but she’s a YA author as well. She found time to talk to me about her intense schedule, her Creative Lady role model, and some really solid writing advice. You can find Jessica on her website, on Instagram, on Tumblr, and on Twitter @_JessicaLove.
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’m a middle school English teacher by day and a writer of contemporary young adult novels by night. I spend all day surrounded by angsty teens, then I go home, take all their drama, change their names, and write them into my books.
My typical working day is a crazy one. In my classroom by 7:15am. Kids in my face at 7:55am. 7 periods, 6 classes, 40+ students per class. Zoom through our curriculum, manage my classroom drama, run to the bathroom when I can, collapse in my chair at 2:43pm, completely and utterly exhausted. Then I wrap up in my classroom before I head home and try to write. (Sometimes there is a nap, conversation with my husband, and/or a workout involved at this point in the day.)
The quality and quantity of my writing depends on the kind of day I’ve had. If it was an easier day at school and my brain isn’t completely fried, I can get in an hour or two of quality writing or revising. If I had a rough day, then I just do whatever I can. On days like that, just one new sentence is a win.
As an introvert, it’s difficult working such a taxing day job and then trying to be on the top of my creative game when I get home at night. But I do what I can when I can, and I make the most of my weekends and holidays.
What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?
Traveling as much as I can afford. Spending snuggle time with my two dogs, Gunner and Patrick. Reading. Listening to music. Going to concerts. Internetting like it’s my job. Going to brunch with friends and drinking too many bottomless mimosas and laughing so loudly I get shushed by the table next to me.
What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.
Music inspires me more than anything else. Sometimes I hear a song and it sparks an idea for a novel. Sometimes I listen to an album on repeat because it’s comfortable and familiar and it’s perfect background noise as I finish a tough revision. Sometimes just the way the singer says one line sticks in my head and I create a character around that voice.
Music soaks into my soul and dances around there, so it’s just natural that it partners up with my writing.
In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.
Learn From Everything
I try not to say no to things so I can experience as much as I can from life and use it in my writing. I also welcome critique from people who are smarter and better than me. I’m never going to improve as a writer if I don’t let people look at my writing and give me suggestions on how to make it better. Then I thoughtfully consider those suggestions and don’t use critique as an opportunity to beat myself up over the things I did wrong. Everything in life is an opportunity to learn and grow and be the best creative person you can be. I try to take advantage of that as much as possible.
How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?
Sadly, it involves a lot of internetting. It’s something like, write 5 sentences, go on twitter for 15 minutes. Write a paragraph, reblog some stuff on tumblr. Finish revising that page, reward myself with some facebook. It’s pretty much the least efficient creative process ever, but I need to give my brain frequent breaks to keep it working. Or that’s what I tell myself, anyway.
What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?
Finishing my first novel. I have been a writer since I was wee, but my writing was always in the form of letters and blogs…short, real life stuff. I made the decision one day to attempt a novel, having no idea at all what I was getting myself into with not only a work of that length but also writing fiction. I started, and it was hard, and I wanted to give up a hundred times. And I did give up one time. But I un-gave up and went back at it even though it was so hard and I never thought I would be able to do it.
I took a creative writing class taught by a New York Times Bestselling author. He told us that most of us would never get published, not because we weren’t good writers, but because most of us would give up when it got hard. I decided then that I didn’t want to be one of those people he talked about. I didn’t have control over getting published or not, but I did have control over finishing. So even though it felt impossible sometimes, I made myself finish. It took three years, but now writing a novel doesn’t seem so impossible anymore.
What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?
As a writer, and anyone who is trying to make a career out of a creative pursuit, you face a lot of rejection, at every stage of the game. It’s everywhere!
I’m a delicate flower, and rejection is tough for me because I take everything way too personally. So every single rejection I get is a lesson for me. A lesson in toughening my skin, sharpening my pencil, and getting back to it. A reminder at how subjective this business is, and that a NO doesn’t mean YOU SUCK, it just means NOT THE BEST FIT. And that’s okay.
Not every piece of art is for everyone. Not everyone loves every book. (Lord knows there are some books my friends love that leave me scratching my head.) Not everyone is going to love what I write, but I can’t get all up in my feelings about it. I need to take it as a learning experience, let it make me better, and move on to the next thing.
Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?
Maggie Stiefvater. This woman constantly blows me away with her talent. She will write a gorgeous book, then hand-draw the book trailer and write some original music to accompany it that she records herself. Writing, music, art…she’s amazing at all of it.
And she writes books about weird things, right? Emo werewolves and the girls who love them. Magical killer horses from the sea that want to eat your face. A dude who is obsessed with some dead Welsh king. And every time I’m like, Maggie, no, I will not follow you down this crazy path with this book. But then I always read it and it only takes a page or two for me to fall ridiculously in love with her story and writing. She’s able to make me lose my mind over these books that, when I read the back, I’m all WTF NO.
Plus, in addition to being like Queen Creative Lady, she is also a wife and a mom and replies to all her tweets and answers all her tumblr asks like a boss. AND she has goats. Goats!
So, yeah, I love her.
What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I’m not an early bird or a night owl…I’m a straight up middle of the day peacock. I get jealous of those writers who wake up a few hours early to get some peaceful words in, or those who can stay up to the wee hours, burning the midnight oil. My brain doesn’t function properly until I’ve been awake for at least two hours, and the second I yawn my first yawn in the evening I’m completely useless. I think you can actually hear my brain running a shutdown sequence once it gets dark outside. I do all of my best creative work in the early afternoon, which is unfortunate because that’s when I’m still teaching.
Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?
I saw Laurie Halse Anderson speak once, and she said it was important for creative people to take themselves on artistic dates to recharge. My artistic dates are to concerts. Music inspires me, but live music makes me come alive. Standing in a room with hundreds of other people who are all there for the same reason, because they have a personal connection to this music like you do, and hearing the singer of band perform it right there in front of you, feeling it in your ears and all through your body…there’s nothing like it in the world. Live music heals me and energizes me.
What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It’s such great advice for living a creative life.
What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?
Stop making excuses. Everyone is busy, ridiculously busy, but you make time for the things that are important to you. If being a writer is important, then do it. Turn off the TV. Close the door. Carve out some time and focus. It’s so easy to spend time on the internet trying to be a writer – reading writing advice blogs, following publishing people on twitter, researching agents. But before you know it, you’ve spent all of your precious writing time trying to figure out how to be a writer that you haven’t actually written anything.
Like Faulkner said, don’t be a writer, be writing. That other stuff will be there later. Write. Focus. Finish your project. That’s the hardest part. Use the research as a reward, not as a way to put off the actual writing.
Do it if you want to do it.
What’s your Creative Lady motto?
I know it sort of takes the shine off of the allure of the Creative Lady, but it’s a quote from Nora Roberts that one of my writing friends uses all the time – “Don’t give me any drivel about your muse not working, or writer’s block. It’s your job. Do your job.”
It’s easy to sit around and wait for the muse to come and inspire you to be creative and all of that, but if you want to live a creative life, you need to live that life with purpose. Being a Creative Lady isn’t all bohemian skirts and burning incense. It’s working your ass off, and plowing through even when it feels impossible because this is how your brain works. I don’t think any of the Creative Ladies here on your blog have talked about how EASY it is to be creative. Because it’s NOT. It’s impossibly hard sometimes. It might be the way we think and operate, but it doesn’t just flow like water from our fingertips. It takes work. It gets hard. You keep going. You do your job. Not because it’s easy, but because you love it, difficulty and all, and you can’t imagine doing anything else.