Is your dream practical?
prac·ti·cal / ˈprak-ti-kəl /
: relating to what is real rather than to what is possible or imagined
: likely to succeed and reasonable to do or use
: appropriate or suited for actual use
Let me ask again, is your dream practical?
Probably not. If it were practical, by definition, it wouldn’t be a dream. It would be doable.
Yet, some people do end up fulfilling their dreams. What’s different about those people and their dreams? The difference is those crazy few choose to redefine the power that practical has in their lives. They decide to loosen the grip of guarantee that threatens to choke the life from their futures. They come to the conclusion that though following along the expected path gives a sense of security it will never produce strength.
Twentysomething author, Leah, was creating stories before she could even actually write. Her very first documented story was written in the third grade, and she’s been writing her stories ever since.
Once in college Leah switched her major right before her junior year to Early Childhood Education because “it was practical.”
“I really chose to do teaching out of fear,” she said. ” I was so focused on needing to have a job, so I stuck it out even though I hated it.”
After graduation, Leah married her high school sweetheart, Zach, and began teaching at a private elementary school because they needed the money as newlyweds. After a full day of teaching, Leah would come home and write her own stories all evening, essentially working two full-time jobs. At the same time, she also started freelance writing for various clients as well as editing for the popular lifestyle blog MaieDae. In addition to her full plate of writing and teaching, Leah began her martial arts training in Hapkido and Taekowndo, in which she is now a black belt and blue belt, respectively.
“I really loved working with kids, but I couldn’t do the drama and the politics that came with the job. It just became so soul killing,” she said. “I realized that teaching is not just a job, but a calling. It wasn’t my calling.”
Recognizing his wife’s passion for writing was only continuing to grow, Zach encouraged Leah to stop teaching and to find a way make writing her profession. After two years of teaching, Leah took a leap of faith and resigned from her job to pursue writing full-time. Though it was a financial risk, Leah walked into the unpredictable world of freelance and self-publishing confident that she was making the right decision.
That was a year ago. She has since self-published two books in a trilogy as well as a novella.
“Self-publishing has let me learn the process at my own pace,” Leah explained. “Plus, it’s more cost effective.”
With traditional publishing, you have to pay people like agents, editors, and graphic designers. By publishing her books independently, Leah filled all those roles herself while learning the ropes. She is currently working on two new novels that are set to be released by the end of this year.
Leah also formed her own LLC and her freelance career is growing. She is the “Administrative Maven” behind MaieDae as their chief editor and business administrator. She is also writing for various blogs, including her own blog.
Leah’s first love will always be her stories. She is energized by developing her characters and plots. She says she ends up putting a bit of herself in each of her characters.
Leah’s advice to other twentysomethings is “Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”
Photo Credit: Savannah Wallace
Twentysomethings Savannah and Jenny aren’t your typical girls. Their mantra—“make it happen”—is true in theory and practice. The pair went from best friends to business partners when they spearheaded the lifestyle blog and design company, MaieDae.
In May 2010, Savannah and Jenny graduated from Berry College together. As they both settled into a full-time corporate jobs, they struggled with feeling stagnant creatively.
“I just want to do something that matters,” Savannah told her husband one day.
“You just need to do it,” he advised her. Those simple words became the launching point for the humble beginnings of MaieDae.
“We spent a lot of time dreaming, and finally said, ‘Lets just do it!’” Jenny explained.
Savannah and Jenny started by selling handmade items on Etsy, which consisted of jewelry, hair accessories and home goods that they created on nights and weekends in between their full-time jobs.
“Creating handmades ignited something in me,” Savannah said. “We started to dream.”
At first, their work was less of a business and more of a hobby. There was no name, no branding, and just the beginnings of their collaborative blog.
“We were just doing what we knew at the time,” Jenny said.
As their handmades business grew, Savannah and Jenny realized that what they loved most about their business was connecting with other artists, bloggers and small business owners at shows and craft fairs. They began to dread orders coming in, but always got excited at the thought of talking with people.
At the start of their business, Savannah and Jenny had set long-term goals to be able to work from home and start their own families someday, but they realized that constantly making products and filling orders didn’t fit into those goals. As they reevaluated what MaieDae was and where it was going, they decided to drop the handmades business and focus on the parts of MaieDae they loved: their individual blogs and graphic design for other bloggers/small business owners.
As with most startups, it became difficult for Savannah and Jenny to maintain their full-time jobs while managing their growing small business. While they had originally planned to go full-time with MaieDae in 2014, it soon became apparent that the leap could be taken sooner. By Christmas of 2012, MaieDae was growing so consistently that Savannah was able to make the transition to full-time at MaieDae, and Jenny shortly thereafter in April 2013.
Today, all of their future plans are coming to fruition right before their eyes. Savannah is expecting her first child in February 2014, and Jenny is due in the spring. They are grateful to be able to share their pregnancy journeys with all of MaieDae’s followers.
“The community is so encouraging,” Savannah said with a smile. “It is so exciting to be able to share, although I am trying to figure out what types of boundaries and balance will be needed when the baby arrives.”
Beyond the blog aspect of MaieDae, they also have a booming design business, where they create everything from corporate logos to blog designs. They strike a great balance as Jenny has taught herself HTML code, and Savannah enjoys graphic design. Their love of connecting with people has seamlessly been incorporated into business strategy. They’ve recently launched events and workshops like the MaieDaie Mixer and The Brand Market Workshops. They also attend three or four conferences a year, networking and gaining creative inspiration from panels, keynotes speakers and fellow bloggers.
As lifestyle blogger, the MaieDae ladies were full of good advise for fellow twentysomethings.
“It really helps to have someone be a cheerleader for you,” Jenny advised. “I have Savannah, and we push each other along and encourage one another in our different strengths.”
“Take time for personal development,” Savannah added. “Create a guide for yourself to make decisions. Ask yourself, ‘Who am I and what do I love?’”
A year and a half ago, 22-year old Alyssa experienced some bad rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups that could have changed her life forever. Nearly missing her chance to study abroad in college, Alyssa realized that moving past her condition was a blessing, and used her experience as the inspiration to begin her novel.
This fall, she began a one-year master’s program for creative writing at Bath Spa University in the UK, where she’s polishing off the finishing touches of her book before sending it off to agencies.
“I think that real blessings—the deep blessings that mold and change lives—are the things that unmake you,” Alyssa said. “Being blessed isn’t the absence of pain, but rather a joy or love that springs out of (and despite of) sorrow.”
Alyssa’s writing career is well under way. As soon as her semester at Bath Spa began, Alyssa traveled back to the States to receive an The Elie Wiesel Foundation Prize in Ethics third place award for her essay about visiting her sister in Afghanistan in 2011, despite the physical dangers and political instability. Her thoughts on terrorism’s aftereffects on American and Afghan cultures, and her revelation on loving people past their prejudices won third place in the prestigious contest.
Alyssa receiving her award from Elie Wiesel
While writing her essay, she developed an overwhelming love for the people of Afghanistan.
“I wish I could tell you all the little stories I saw while I was there,” she reminisced. “How I got to run with school boys in the mountains as they showed off their beautiful country, or hold the hands of a woman beaten by her husband, or watch our driver play with his toddler daughter, or see the old men on their bikes with roses twisted into the handlebars and blooming, or soothe the tears of a stranger as she confessed her terror that the Taliban will return.”
As she learned in Afghanistan, writing can be a therapeutic hobby, and she hopes to continue exploring that in the future.
“When something traumatic or painful happens to us, it is really important to talk through what happened with someone else, ideally someone supportive and/or trained,” Alyssa said. “I think that writing takes this a step further. Journaling privately gives you an outlet to really let yourself go—you can work through your thoughts and feelings and either burn it or save it to think over.”
In fact, Alyssa has been given incredible opportunities to use her gift and love of writing to help the of Afghanistan begin their own healing process.
An Afghanistan-based human trafficking rescue and aftercare organization called Hagar needs someone to capture women’s stories to broaden awareness, but lacked writers. Alyssa hopes to work with them in the future. Another opportunity she discovered is located in Bath, helping Afghan refugees come to a healing place via writing. Alyssa hopes to maybe connect with them while she is in Bath studying.
“Afghanistan is beautiful and mind-bogglingly complex, and I think that’s why I am hungry to learn and do more,” she said.
And by these plans of giving back to a community of people by teaching them the art of expression through writing, she’s one step closer to achieving her dream.
Also a talented photographer, Alyssa edits photos of her international travels while on the coast of Izmir, Turkey
Creative Writing Masters Candidate, writer • 23 • Bath, UK