Creative Careerist: Ivy Hughes

Photo taken by Kara Pearson Gwinn with Kara Pearson Photography.
Photo taken by Kara Pearson Gwinn with Kara Pearson Photography.

Meet the Creative
Ivy Hughes is a full time Colorado-based freelancer. She manages a Denver-based business publication called Confluence and has written for a variety of publications including Success, Entrepreneur, Next American City and the Boston Globe. She's editing her third but as of yet unpublished novel, "Children."

What does an average day look like for you in your creative career?
I get up around six and read for an hour without looking at my phone or computer. This is to maintain my sanity. I may or may not get dressed depending on the day’s meeting schedule. Phone meetings call for yoga pants. In person, I go for something more socially amenable.

While I don’t have a typical day, a typical week involves reading and assigning articles, arranging and conducting interviews, schmoozing with funding brass, engaging with the community (in person or via social media), managing story budgets, researching articles, working with photographers, reading and analyzing books (yes, this is for pay) and pitching other editors.

When I’m working on a novel or short story, a typical day involves two-to-four hours of writing and editing. No exceptions. My current novel is in the editing phase, so I have a little break creatively, which means I’m not as intensively involved in writing and editing fiction. This kills me.

How did you get to where you are now in your career? What key moments, decisions or circumstances brought you here?
Well, I started my career as a bit of a hard ass. I worked all the time, forced creativity and let personal relationships fall by the wayside. While this allowed me to jump into a freelance career, it flattened fiction writing and had a detrimental impact on other aspects of my life.

Deciding to smell rather than stomp on the roses was instrumental to the successes I’ve since had. My pitches got better and as a result, I started getting national gigs. I started writing what I wanted to write and ended up travel writing for about two years. I became more focused on a few things rather than 100 things.

I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do – write fiction and get paid for it. While I’m not there yet, I get closer every day. Someday it will happen. This intrinsic faith in self, passion and the power of a dream is what keeps me moving. In terms of paid gigs, I feel incredibly lucky that I get to do what I love – write – for a living even if it’s not 100 percent the kind of writing I want to do.

I also try to look at whatever I’m doing as a learning experience. Writing a blog about Justin Bieber? The gig may suck, but you’re still learning to write for a specific audience. If you upload the blog, you’re learning about content management system. If you promote the thing, you’re learning about social media. All lessons, even ones that feel like failure (hello rejection letters), are invaluable.

I’ve also learned to say no to projects, which is something I couldn’t do when I was just getting into freelance. This allows me to really focus on the things I want to do instead of doing a bunch of things I don’t want to do just because I can.

What excites you most about your work?
Non-fiction stuff is exciting because people are fascinating. Fiction stuff is exciting because people are fascinating. The only difference is, non-fiction requires some semblance of accountability.

What is its greatest challenge for you?
Patience. Patience. Patience. I’ve never had trouble coming up with ideas, fiction or otherwise. The freelance life, especially when you’re just getting started, requires a saint’s level of patience. It also requires persistence, but any creative interviewed on this blog already has that.

How do you get your best ideas?
I open my eyes, tune my ears and clear my head. This means no Twitter, Facebook, phone, or Internet.

What do you do when you get stuck?
I’ve never had writer’s block. Not once. But when I reach a frustration level with a piece, I go for a run, go to yoga or, in the case of a novel, put the thing down for a few days. Forcing productivity – creative or otherwise – is like forcing sleep on an insomniac. It just doesn’t work. I set all personal deadlines at least three days before editors so I have plenty of time to roll with my state of mind.

If I want to be creative but know my brain has reached its boiling point, I name paint colors, handwrite story ideas (I love the physical act of writing), play “That’s my job,” in which I guess what those passing by do for a living, or “This is what my lover looks like.” Same concept as “That’s my job,” only hairier.

How do you make sure you make time for creativity in your life?
I don’t make time for creativity. I make time for work. When I was younger and my priorities were a bit skewed, it was the other way around. But being creative makes me happy. I love seeing where my mind can go. I’ve always hated science fiction, but I’m working on a piece that would be considered sci-fi. No aliens, but sci-fi. Why? I want to see what I can do. I wrote a piece from the perspective of an uneducated woman who had a child in prison. Why? Why not? My novel takes place in England and Spain and is written from the perspective of four Brits. I feel like my mind is a huge rubber band. As soon as I stop stretching, it will tighten like my hamstrings and that will be a travesty.

What advice do you have for other aspiring creatives who want to follow in your footsteps?
Understand the difference between ambition and passion. Ambition will kill passion, but passion will never kill ambition.

Emily Wenstrom
Creative Juicer
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