Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life

Amy L. Bernstein – communicating creatively

July 07, 2024 Claire Waite Brown/Amy L. Bernstein Episode 103
Amy L. Bernstein – communicating creatively
Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life
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Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life
Amy L. Bernstein – communicating creatively
Jul 07, 2024 Episode 103
Claire Waite Brown/Amy L. Bernstein

From corporate communications to embracing personal creativity through writing, coaching, and more, Amy L. Bernstein illustrates in this episode that
owning your identity and being true to yourself can lead to a sense of empowerment and fulfillment.
Amy shares how she transitioned from high-paying corporate communications' jobs to pursuing more personally creative endeavours.
Amy's turning point came when she decided to write her first novel during her commutes, which lead her to explore playwriting as well as poetry and non-fiction writing. Now Amy also enjoys helping others to write their own non-fiction books, and encourages any one of any age to take their own creative risks and be prepared to succeed as well as fail.

CreativityFound.co.uk

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Researched, edited and produced by Claire Waite Brown
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
Photo: Ella Pallet

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Podcast recorded with Riverside and hosted by Buzzsprout
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

From corporate communications to embracing personal creativity through writing, coaching, and more, Amy L. Bernstein illustrates in this episode that
owning your identity and being true to yourself can lead to a sense of empowerment and fulfillment.
Amy shares how she transitioned from high-paying corporate communications' jobs to pursuing more personally creative endeavours.
Amy's turning point came when she decided to write her first novel during her commutes, which lead her to explore playwriting as well as poetry and non-fiction writing. Now Amy also enjoys helping others to write their own non-fiction books, and encourages any one of any age to take their own creative risks and be prepared to succeed as well as fail.

CreativityFound.co.uk

Instagram: @creativityfoundpodcast
Facebook: @creativityfoundpodcast and Creativity Found group
YouTube @creativityfoundpodcast
Pinterest: @creativityfound
Twitter: @creativityfoun

Researched, edited and produced by Claire Waite Brown
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
Photo: Ella Pallet

Click here to book a 1-to-1 online chat with me to understand more about the Creativity Found Collective, the promotional and networking membership for creative small businesses.

Support the Show.

Podcast recorded with Riverside and hosted by Buzzsprout
Subscribe to the Creativity Found mailing list here
Join the Creativity Found Collective here

Here I was making a lot of money, working really hard, really long hours. It was very grueling. It was very high pressure environment. And I was quite miserable on many levels. And I knew that one thing that I needed to do was find a way to write for myself. If you're passionate about doing it, about trying, about being creative, and it doesn't have to be writing, you know, you just owe it to yourself to try. You really do. And I think while we have to allow ourselves to fail, we also have to allow ourselves to succeed and to try and embrace that too. I'm heading into the far side of my middle 60s, okay? And I find that this is an age where you can really, really step into your own power, certainly as a woman and as a person. It is never too late and you are never too old to really look beyond the horizons you Hi, I'm Claire, founder of Creativity Found, a community for creative learners and educators, connecting adults who want to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them do so with workshops, courses, online events and kits. For this podcast, I chat with people who have found or re-found their creativity as adults. We'll explore their childhood experiences of the arts, discuss how they came to the artistic practices they now love, and consider the barriers they may have experienced between the two. We'll also explore what it is that people value and gain from their newfound artistic pursuits, and how their creative lives enrich their practical, necessary, everyday lives. This time I'm chatting with Amy L. Bernstein about transitioning from corporate communications to communicating in a more personally creative way. Hi Amy, how are you? I'm fine, hi Claire. Thanks so much for having me on. You're very welcome. Start by telling me how you currently express I have really taken the last few years to lean into finding all kinds of ways to express myself creatively mainly through writing but also through teaching writing courses. So I'm writing fiction and non-fiction and a newsletter on Substack and I post videos on TikTok and I love teaching courses about the craft of writing. So I'd Brilliant. We will hear lots more about all of that. Were your childhood experiences of being creative, were they positive? Were they encouraged? And what I don't remember being especially encouraged. I know that my father was extremely practically minded. I think he thought that all us kids should really get business degrees. He was just so worried about us being able to go out in the world and make a living. Of course, then I became an English major and had trouble finding a job. I did write when I was very little. I think my mom had a kind of a hidden creative streak that she didn't really activate. I wouldn't say that my household was overly encouraging about nudging us toward the arts. They weren't discouraging, but Was the English major a kind of in-betweeny, I came out of college in the late 1970s, and at that time, majoring in English literature was an extremely common thing to do. I will say especially for females, but I loved it because I had a passion for reading, for analysing text, I loved to write, although I wasn't writing a lot at that time outside of college papers. I didn't just do it as a default. I did it because I really loved it. That was a time when we just didn't think so much about connecting college to career as much. Now, there's such a tight link and you're supposed to really think twice about what courses you take because how are you going to make a living. But back then, it With that in mind, you've mentioned your dad and the idea of being a practical, responsible person in society. How did that play out for you leaving university and then going into the world of work? Was there something that you wanted to do, or were you winging it, or Yeah, well, you're touching on something that's really very deep for me. I'm old enough now that I can look back a little bit objectively and reflect on choices I made in my 20s and why I made them. First of all, I did need to earn my own living. My parents were not going to support me after college and so that was a necessity. I found work as a low-paid editorial assistant on a boring insurance magazine and made my way to being a writer on a bit more respectable computer magazine, but I always needed to find that really steady paycheck. And when I look back now and realize that I took these flights into doing freelance articles and freelance writing because that other side of me was clamoring for more freedom to just write what I wanted to write, and I barely recognized it at the time, and that was not lucrative. So I was always on the the push and the pull of wanting to follow my heart's desire, which was never going to pay me very much or enough to live on with needing to kind of earn that paycheck that was going to pay their rent and put food on the table for myself. So that was an ongoing conflict. And I will say, ironically, it culminated all the way into my 50s when I was working in communications and I was extremely well-paid. And ironically, the more money I made, the more miserable I was. So there Yeah. So was it a cutthroat environment, the way you were working? Were you out there getting No, I mean, I still remember getting turned down for jobs I really, really wanted. And who knows why that happens, right? You're never going to know. So it was always difficult, very competitive. And I always did well at my jobs, but you're always in competitive environments. And I think when your core skill is writing, the business world at large, the corporate world at large, and even the nonprofit world, and even the government world, it's not that highly valued. There aren't that many people out there who really understand how everybody thinks everybody can write, which isn't true. So, you know, when you're hired, whether it's to be a speechwriter or communications director or all these other things that I've done, or as a journalist, which are around writing, the journalism folks understand that it's a skill set, but everybody else in all the other walks are like, oh yeah, you know, you can write. I mean, everybody can Yeah, so where did you learn? Was that all from the degree? Were you learning each time you did a new job? I think a lot of this kind of thing is just one's innate skill set. I mean, there are people who grew up and they're really good with numbers and I don't think it's that they necessarily learned that. It's the way their brains are wired. My brain is not wired for mathematics in any way, shape or form, but it is absolutely, I'm just hardwired to make sense of text. I used to joke that people who can look at a spreadsheet and tell a story about the numbers, all I'm seeing is a sea of numbers, but you can show me a couple pages of text and I can very rapidly figure out what's being said, whether it's being said in the right way. I can just do that quickly. Then of course, there's the 10,000 hours of practice. I've written so much and in so many different forms that you It's been so varied for me. I mean, I had a job writing for a consulting firm, helping to sort of describe and market what they did and writing up conference stuff. I was a print journalist with a business newspaper. I freelanced in public radio for National Public Radio. I was an executive speech writer in Washington, D.C. I was a communications director also in government, working on a lot of complex technical information that I was rendering into very clear, plain English for the public nationally. So I've really kind of done a little bit of almost everything. And, you know, that's continued on into fiction and Well, let's talk about that then. Fiction and playwriting, because you did mention at the beginning about writing what you wanted to write rather than writing what is very useful and required as well to communicate a point that other people want to communicate. Was there a inkling throughout this career journey that you wanted to do a bit more of the other type of writing or was there a pivotal moment when Yes, let me just say that I think that my experience is really applicable for anybody maybe in midlife or approaching midlife and they feel like they're just not getting enough from life and they have these creative urges and they don't know what to do with them. And you really need to let yourself grow in those directions. It's so important, I think, for your well-being as a human being. So, you know, in my 50s, here I was making a lot of money, working really hard, really long hours. It was very grueling. It was a very high-pressure environment. And I was quite miserable on many levels. And I knew that one thing that I needed to do was find a way to write for myself and not just for the government, the big bad beast. So, on my commuter train, I basically wrote my first novel just to prove to myself that I could do it. I self-published it. It wasn't a big deal and it definitely is not my best writing, but it was a credible effort. I realized, okay, I have to do more of this. And I fell into playwriting. I don't know exactly why, but I did and found a wonderful local group of playwrights and I started learning from them and teaching myself and reading plays and learning how to write plays and having some plays. in some place produced and that was wonderful. Then I pivoted back to fiction knowing that I had more novels in me that I just had to write. It's difficult. It's not easy to do. I have never looked back or regretted for one moment pushing myself because taking creative risks is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health, especially I think as an adult settled into life. So did you feel risky then? Absolutely. Not only did I step back from paid work, left a couple of different jobs over a couple of different years, needed my husband to essentially support me, and I realise not everyone has that, but you know, there were discussions. And I had moments of flat out panic. What have I done? I've stepped away from all the things I know I'm good at. and I want to try all these things where I don't really know. It absolutely is scary. The thing is though, if you're passionate about doing it, about trying, about being creative, and it doesn't have to be writing, you just owe it to yourself to try. You really do. I think while we have to allow ourselves to fail, we also have to allow ourselves to succeed Yeah, wow, that's very brave. Like you say, it's risky and I think it's brave on a practical, everyday life level but also on an emotional and a mental level because you don't know what's going to happen and you don't know if you're actually going to like it or not. You said about fiction, you said about plays, I think you've even spoken to me in the past about poetry. Where is it all coming from? Where does the inspiration Mills And I'm also a working book coach, so I'm helping other authors on their journey. That's incredibly rewarding. Incredibly rewarding to watch other people help them wrestle with their text and with their vision and their passion. I think, for me, it's a combination of what story do I want to tell, what's the form I feel I need to tell that story in, and what's my inspiration. For me, the poetry absolutely comes and goes. I do not have a regular poetry writing practice. I went through a year, year and a half, where I wrote a tremendous amount of poetry. I've had a number of poems published and was in an anthology, but the poetry has its own seasons and reasons that I don't even mess with. It's there when it's there, and it's not there when it's not there. But with fiction, if you're going to write a novel, you really have to put a sustained effort into that. I have a non-fiction book coming out this fall, which I'm also really excited about. Those are the things where you really have to find a sustained practice to make that work happen. I stopped writing theater when the pandemic hit because it's very hard to get produced anyway, With the theatre pre-pandemic, and you said some of them were produced, how involved were you with that? Because that's another creative arm in itself, actually, getting a play from paper onto Yes, so theater is an incredibly collaborative medium. So for the most part, with exceptions, the playwright is not working in a vacuum, right? You write the play and that's between you and the page, but after that you need collaborators to make that thing come alive, right? And so it is a very, very exciting process to be in the room when a play is being read or put up on its feet on stage and you're watching a director do the work that they do. It's a very exciting experience. It's also extraordinarily nerve-wracking because everything is happening in real time. And probably the biggest play that I had put on took place where we seated the audience on stage with us. It was a very experimental Dada kind of piece. We didn't know if this was going to work. And so people were very puzzled, like, why I'm in the audience? Why am I coming up on stage? You're going to ring the players? This is how we're doing it. So, you know, there's a lot that's terrifying. Will an actor get sick? Will they not show up? Will they forget their lines? Will they just turn in a bad performance? Will people be able to hear? I mean, it's nerve wracking. And the wonderful thing about writing long form fiction is really, it's just you and the screen. And then you can go through your publishing hassles. But the point is that It's a lone creative endeavor where you're in control of all of it up until you're not, you know, if you get into the hands of a publisher or I once heard a children's author speaking. She was very good about it. And it wasn't about writing a play. It was her fiction. and it was How to Train Your Dragon, and the dragon that Cressida Cowell had created didn't fly. She was very open about the fact that she would just have to go with whatever the film people said, and she didn't mind that. I know other people might get a bit precious about how somebody interprets what you've written, or in that case, that was quite a big change. Did you have any Well, first of all, you know, with that author that you cite, I am nowhere near on that level. I mean, no one has yet come calling for the film rights to one of my books, but they're, they're welcome to do so. I think my books are cinematic. Um, you know, well, here's the thing, this, this happens, whether you're writing a fiction as in a book, or you're writing a play at some point, somebody else's hands are going to get onto your stuff. In fiction, you might have an editor who really wants a lot of changes, a developmental editor who really needs you to go through changes. That can happen on that level. Then you have to negotiate. How do you stick to your vision and what you really intended with the editor telling you this is not coming across or you can do this better? You have to work through that. Certainly, when you're working with a director in a theater environment, the director has their own vision of your work. And again, it really is a negotiation and a collaboration. And very often, I mean, I find that directors find wonderful things in your work that you didn't quite see yourself and they bring that out Two way. Brilliant. Tell me about the coaching. Are you coaching all sorts of writers? What I'm an accredited book coach through a program called Author Accelerator, which is an absolutely wonderful, rigorous program. for acquiring some tools. and ways of working with authors to help them get their own work done. You're an accountability partner. You're working with authors on structure, helping them identify who the reader is, what their own why is for what they're writing. Now, I specialize in creative nonfiction, which includes almost any nonfiction topic, and also I have a few memoir clients. I'm not coaching fiction because as a fiction writer, I didn't want to muddy the waters there, but many, many book coaches are working with fiction authors as well. And it is an absolute joy to watch my clients really come from, in some cases, a bare idea stage through to really having a credible book outline, book proposal, sample chapters, which is how it works in the nonfiction side, at least in the US. It's just a joy to watch them sort of step into their own vision and knowledge and figure out what they really have to say and who they're writing for. It can be an arduous and slow process, but Yeah, I can imagine that is very supportive. Like a lot of creative roles, they can be quite lonely and isolating, can't they, when you're there creating something? And certainly when I edit books, Not from a lonely point of view, but it definitely needs a second eye. When I've gone through a whole editing process, I will always have somebody else to do the proofread because I get to a point of, I can't see things. Not necessarily grammatical things, but actual structural things or whatever. So it's really good for somebody else Mills Absolutely. One of the hardest things for writers any artist really, but writers certainly. I mean, you know, we're a sensitive prickly bunch and writing is a very vulnerable activity and it's really, really hard to hear, really hear somebody else's feedback and take that on board. It's hard to do. Listen, I struggle with it as a writer, even though as a book coach, I'm as sensitive as I can be to others in making suggestions about, you know, I think this is not organized the way, you know, it's going to serve you and you're really trying to help them do better. it's a tough thing and we really have to bring a lot of sensitivity to it when we're giving feedback and hope that people treat us the same way. Yeah, I can imagine it's a very personal experience for the writer. At the beginning, you talked about always wanting to write, and we've talked about writing what you want to write. Do you feel that by doing that now, you have extra benefits that affect other parts of your life that you may That is a really interesting question, and I think that the answer is a combination of the risks I've chosen to take combined with the aging process. Because I find I'm heading into the far side of my middle 60s, okay? And I find that this is an age where you can really, really step into your own power, certainly as a woman and as a person. And basically, you really can own who you are, what you're good at, own the risks that you're willing to take and really try and make things work, and not be quite so worried about what everyone thinks every step of the way, to be able to basically own your mistakes and move on and not be floored by them, and basically to have the self-confidence to really be who you know you were meant to be and really want to be. Really, really own your identity. Really just fully come into your identity. That's taken me a whole lifetime. And other people get there. I have a daughter who's about 31 and I feel like she's getting there or has gotten there very quickly and I'm in awe of it. But it's taken me a long time, partly because I think too, you know, coming of age when things were somewhat different for women still. So I think that is a combination for me of, I absolutely, if when I look back at over the last, say, five, six, seven years, eight years maybe, on the one hand, I can be astonished at what I've accomplished. I would not have guessed that I would have done all these things. So I'm really pleased about that. And then I say to myself, well, that's fine. We're not done. We're going to do more. And that feels very exciting. But I really also think that I wasn't ready to do those things until I was ready to do those things. And for me, that's come a bit later in life. And again, that gets back to anyone who listens to this, do not be afraid to make those pivots. You might be 40, 45, 50, 55, 60. It is never too late and you are never too old to really look beyond the horizons you think that are set for yourself and Very nicely summarized of the whole creativity found ethos there, Amy. Thank you. I've lived it. Yeah, that's brilliant. It sounds like with writing, with coaching, you perhaps have quite a lot on your plate now. Do you feel that? Do you cope with it easily? Are things balanced daily? Yeah, I do have a lot on my plate and I will tell you that I'm in a situation now where first of all, I'm very fortunate that, I mean I am happily married so I have a husband in the house, but most of my time is my own. So I can organize my hours for the most part as I need to and as I wish to. But I will tell you I have put myself in a situation where I'm working at least part of every weekend, like chunk of Saturday and or a chunk of Sunday in addition to Monday through Friday. And so you could say, gosh, you know, am I overextended? And I think it's just that I've taken on enough things that are filling out a lot of the time to get them done. That's my own doing. If I don't want to live that way, I can cut something out. But right now there's nothing I want to cut out. So I've made that choice and I'm OK with it and I can I can manage it. until I can't. I have to work really hard at downtime and taking extended breaks and getting off the computer, but I'm working on that. Honestly, I'd rather be too busy than not busy enough because it tells me that I'm engaged. I'm really engaged and I'm really putting things out there. I'd rather be on that side of Speaking of time and doing things, what about the future? Do you have specific Write more books. Have people buy my books. For me, it's just continuing to be a little more high profile. which again, I'm only going to do that in ways that are sort of real. I'm not going to be buying bots to troll social media and get me likes or something like that. I just mean real engagement. I love speaking in public. I'm toying with the idea of trying to do a TEDx talk. There's a new goal that I can set for myself. If I can get it done, I can say, wow, I climbed another mountain. Isn't that great? Things of that nature. I have this book coming out in the fall and I'm really hoping to do a fair amount of activity around that. That's a big goal for me. What's that book? It's called Wrangling the Doubt Monster, Fighting Fears, Finding Inspiration. It is a beautifully illustrated little book that every creative person should just keep by their side and dip into It's not a how-to. It is a book of inspiration. It's easy to read in little bits and bobs. It's not like a commitment that you're reading your friend's 450-page novel. It's also the kind of book that I think people are really going to want to give as a gift because it is a gift to give a creative person a source of inspiration and validation. That's really Oh, that's so lovely. Okay, with that in mind as well, we'll keep an eye out for the publication date of that. In the meantime, how Well, people can find my books, some of the teaching that I do. They can learn more about Wrangling the Doubt Monster. They can learn about my Substack newsletter. Doubt Monster, everything is on my website, which is amywrights.live. It's just A-M-Y-W-R-I-T-E-S dot Thanks so much for listening to Creativity Found. If your podcast app has the facility, please leave a rating and review to help other people find us. On Instagram and Facebook, follow at Creativity Found Podcast and on Pinterest, look for at Creativity Found. And finally, don't forget to check out creativityfound.co.uk, the website connecting adults who want to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them tap into their

Childhood Experiences with Creativity
Transitioning from College to Career
Competitive Job Market
Transition to Fiction and Playwriting
Midlife Creative Urges
Taking Creative Risks
Book Coaching
Personal Benefits of Creative Pursuits
Embracing Identity and Power in Later Life
Wrangling the Doubt Monster
How to Connect with Amy

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