We had the good fortune of connecting with Olivia Semple and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Olivia, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk is a fascinating thing. So many of us are obsessed with minimizing or eliminating it from our lives, when what we should do instead is learn to discern which risks we’re willing to take and which ones we’re not. There’s a great quote by Anais Nin that comes to mind: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I think this explains my lifestyle perfectly. It was quite literally painful for me to keep chugging away at traditional employment in the name of “stability”. So I decided to get really clear on what my goals were, and on how uncomfortable I was willing to be in order to achieve them.
This also helped me put preventative tools in place to guard against the worst types of discomfort. For example, always maintaining a 3-month financial safety net has been a gamechanger for me – I haven’t once worried about how I’m going to eat or where I’m going to sleep tonight or even next week. All risk is manageable, but risk tolerance is so personal that it requires a lot of introspection, and that’s uncomfortable, too. It’s overwhelming when you realize just how much freedom you have in life because then the onus is on you to take leaps. You’ll make mistakes, maybe even huge ones, but if you never leap, how do you know you’re not missing out on exactly the thing you’re supposed to do?
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The other day someone said to me: “Are you a writer, writer? As in, have you been published?” And I laughed. I have been, but I think I was a “writer, writer” long before I was published, and will continue to be even if I’m never published again. I’ve been published in several magazines, and today I work on novels even though not one has been published yet – does that make me less of a novelist and more of a journalist? Who judges these things?
I have tremendous discipline and a lot of faith. That’s the most important thing for me. I know I can write books until I’m blue in the face, and I know that as I continue to work on my craft the time will come when one of them pleases the right publisher and marketing people at the right time, and then my name might be on a bookshelf near you. Will that make me more of a writer than I am now, while writing said book? Artistic careers are processes, some shorter, some shorter. I wish everyone could be kind to themselves along their journeys.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Last Bookstore, Broad Museum, the garden terrace up above the Disney Concert Hall, and lunch at Yuko’s Kitchen would be a quick downtown tour. For sure I’d do a long morning hike and picnic in Griffith Park, or a sunset hike in Temescal. Live music at the Wiltern or Echo. Everybody seems to love Venice Beach, but you have to take people to the canals for the full experience. I’d do a day trip to Ojai, and maybe Palm Springs, too. Maybe that’s cheating but I like to give people a good tour, you know’?
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In the weeks before I made the decision to jump ship with my corporate job and set off on this journey, I ran into a friend of a friend, a writer named Jonathan Shaw. I’d been a fan of his for a while and decided to point-blank ask him if he had any advice for me. He was kind enough to invite me out to lunch and let me pick his brain. He asked me why I wanted to write this book I was setting off to finish in Thailand.
“It’s not that I want to, it’s that I have to,” I said to him. He broke into the biggest smile and told me “Ah, you’ll be fine.” I think about that conversation a lot now, how encouraging it was for me to hear him confirm that the only sustainable motivation for an artist is the NEED to get something out there. Not the desire to see their name on a bookshelf or a marquee, but the need to do it even without recognition, “like a scream looking for a mouth” he said to me. He confirmed not only that I’d be okay, but that my dreams were worth fighting for.
Facebook: Olivia Semple