One of the best things about blogging are the amazing people I get to meet. Although I may never meet these people in person, they have quickly become friends who are sharing the journey, who become cheerleaders, and sources of wisdom.
Recently I have become a fan of Erika Liodice, who is the author of Beyond the Gray, a blog that is one part 'follow your dream' inspiration for everyone and one part one writer's personal journey toward publication.
Every month Erika interviews one of her readers by sending them five questions in which they are asked to describe a dream they are pursuing. This month was my turn. So if you click on the link above, you'll go directly to her blog and be able to read my responses to the five questions about my current journey.
But before you leave.....I decided to turn the tables on Erika and asked her to provide answers to the same five questions as a way of introducing her to all of you. And she kindly agreed.
Please take a moment to read her answers below and then head over to her blog. While you're there, take a look around. It's one of the most inspirational blogs I've read, and a real bright spot to the day.
All the best,
Q: Tell us about yourself and your dream.EL: My name is Erika Liodice and since graduating from Lehigh University almost seven years ago, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect job. I’ve sold everything from vaccines to virtual worlds and I currently work at an advertising agency in Bethlehem, PA, where I manage a handful of B-to-B accounts. What have I learned on my journey? That there’s no such thing as the perfect job. Luckily, I’ve landed in a place where I’m surrounded by creative people, working on projects I enjoy for great clients. Plus, my schedule allows me to pursue the things I love in my free time, particularly writing. My dream is to be a best-selling novelist.Like many writers, I wrote my first book when I was about five years old. I don’t recall the title, but it was about a little girl with 18 brothers and sisters who all had to share one bathroom. (Talk about conflict!) It was illustrated and everything. When I showed it to my grandmother she said, “I think you’re going to be a writer one day.” And her words have echoed in my heart ever since. Q: Describe a “gray” time in your life.EL: I suppose I first stepped into “the gray” in college. Initially, my heart was set on art school. I wanted to paint, draw, design, photograph and write. My soul was bubbling over with creativity and I couldn’t wait to translate my passions into a formal education. But soon the critics started voicing their opinions. Art school? How are you going to make a living off of that? And so on. I became acutely aware that the world is designed for business people, not creative soul-types. And so I headed off to business school where I grappled with finance, economics, statistics, and other left-brain courses, squeezing in art classes whenever I could. The next big question in my life was: what should I do after I graduate from college? The summer before my senior year, my family took a vacation to Australia. As we explored Sydney and hiked the Blue Mountains, I wrestled with this question. I was bound for graduation in nine months and I was engaged to be married just three months after that. Everything was falling into place and the future seemed promising. My only dilemma was that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Correction: I knew what I wanted to do, but I was too afraid to listen to that insistent little voiceinside of me. My heart begged me to follow my creative inclinations but without so much as a Fine Arts minor, that seemed less and less realistic. On the other hand, the pharmaceutical industry seemed a good match for my business degree and had all the makings of a “real” job: a salary, health benefits and a healthy 401k match. I puzzled over it the entire time we were in Australia: follow the money or follow my heart? My dad made a compelling case for the pharmaceutical industry, but when we arrived in the Outback we met a fellow traveler named Andra. Irony of ironies, Andra was an artist. Naturally, she defended the case for following my heart. In the last few days of our trip, I found myself in a little bookstore staring at a book entitled, “The Book of Answers.” It was like the magic eight ball of books – it had to be 700 pages or more and it was filled with all kinds of zany answers to whatever question you wanted to ask. Ok, I thought. Why not? And so I placed my right hand on it’s cover and asked the question that had been simmering in my mind the entire trip: should I follow my heart and pursue a creative path? I took a deep breath, opened to a random page and the only world that was staring back at me was…YES. I would love to tell you that I came home from Australia, followed my heart and have lived happily ever after. But I didn’t. I came home, finished school, got married, and accepted an offer into a management development program at a big pharmaceutical company. I followed the money. And, as a result, it didn’t take long for ”the gray” to envelop me completely. I floated in the gray for three years and then I switched jobs to a start-up technology company. I told myself it was a better fit but it wasn’t. I floated there for two years but during that time, something good happened. I started channeling all of my disappointment and regret into creative projects, one of which was a novel. I changed jobs again about a year and a half ago and now work for an advertising agency, where I’m surrounded by other creative people and I’m able to continue my developing my business career while also focusing on my dream to be a writer. Q: How are you working towards your dream?EL: Slowly but surely, I’ve been working towards my writing dream in my “free time.”I squeeze in 5 a.m. writing sessions before work and have been known to write for 10-12 hours straight on a Saturday. I recently finished my second novel and am now in the editing phase with the goal of seeking representation this spring. I’ve also had a handful of travel articles published byThe Savvy Explorer and Lehigh Valley InSite, and am busily working on proposals for other article ideas. Last but not least, I run a blog, Beyond the Gray, which is a motivational resource for anyone who is chasing a dream. Q: What fears and challenges have stood between you and your dreams? How are you working to overcome them? EL: Pursuing my writing dreams while working full-time has been incredibly challenging. It’s not easy to get up at 5 a.m., write for two hours and then put in a full day’s work. Often times it’s a sacrifice, forgoing a lovely Saturday spent outdoors with my husband in order to write. Another big challenge I’ve faced is the “chicken before the egg” paradox of the literary world…agents and publishers want to work with writers who have been published, so how does a new, unpublished writer break in? My approach has been to get articles published whenever possible in order to build the credibility that agents and publishers are looking for. Given the fact that I have very limited time to write, I would much rather focus on writing novels, but I realize how important the articles are too. As far as fears are concerned, my biggest fear is that nagging question that rattles around in the back of my brain from time to time: what if I’m not good enough? That’s a tough one to talk yourself out of. That’s why it’s critical to have loving, supportive and honest people around you to give you a self-confidence boost when needed, but to also help you manage your own expectations. Q: What inspires you to keep pushing forward when the going gets tough?EL: The most inspirational thing for me is talking to other people who are chasing a dream, whatever their dreams happen to be. That’s why I started Beyond the Gray. I'm hoping other dream chasers will join the conversation and share their experiences so we can support each other, learn from each other, and grow together. Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone else who is struggling to move beyond the gray and follow a dream, what would it be? EL: Don’t float along in the gray for too long. If you’ve got a dream burning in your heart, take action today. Begin by mapping out a path for how to acheive your dream and take the first step. Do at least one thing, whether big or small, to work toward your dream every day. As Confucius said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”