Creative Girl

The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career


By Katharine Sise

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If there’s no stability in the corporate world, why not do what you love? Creative Girl shows women how to turn their talents into a money-making career — smartly. Whether readers are just tapping into their creativity and want to see where it takes them, or if they’re already making a creative living and know it’s time to grab hold of the next level of success, this book has specific advice for women at varying stages.

Author Katharine Sise has certainly “walked the walk” of a creative entrepreneur, as she created her own jewelry line that has won the praise of celebrities and the fashion world. Here she provides ideas for sparking one’s creative talent (through meditating and journaling), and narrowing down what career lifestyle is right for each reader. She also shares insider tips on the realities of navigating a creative career and handling a business — such as how to brand yourself and how to build a platform and garner publicity. Katharine debunks the myth of the “starving artist” and shows how one can turn inspiration into a profitable livelihood.


To Dad, Mom, Meghan, Jack, and Brian. Thank you for supporting my creativity always.

"You're so creative."
You've heard this over and over again throughout your life. Your grandmother enthused over your fashion-forward paper doll collection, "You're so creative. What a wonderful gift!" A few years later your second grade teacher, Mrs. Darbyshire, cooed, "These watercolors are exquisite. What a creative girl you are." Then there was that ninth grade English teacher with the glass eye who called your parents—barely able to keep the emotion out of her voice—and told them she'd never read such promising writing from a fourteen-year-old. Of course, your parents nodded knowingly. They've heard this repeatedly, from those watercolors in second grade to your fifth grade performance as Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie (and, my God, how did you capture the desperation and longing of a thirty-year-old woman at age eleven?)
Welcome to your creativity. You've always had it, but now the real world is calling and it's time to make it—or break it.
When people asked me during college what I wanted to do for a living, I answered, "I want to act and write." This made well-meaning people so nervous that they couldn't help but ask about my back-up plan, as if my career was a birth control method destined to fail. I appreciate practicality as much as the next girl, but for me, the only work I've ever wanted to do was creative. Even my back-up plans were creative. After I graduated from the University of Notre Dame, I arrived in New York City with my theater degree, $239 and incredibly high hopes. I wrote short stories in the morning, auditioned in the afternoon and bartended at Tavern on the Green on the weekends. After dropping a rare and very expensive bottle of champagne on my way to deliver it to Robert De Niro's table, I realized I needed a way to fund my creative aspirations that didn't involve balancing a tray full of cocktails. So I announced my backup plan to my family and friends at my grandfather's eightieth birthday party. It went something like this:
Aunt Posie: "Would anyone like more cake?"
Me: "Yes, please."
Grandpa: "So, what are you doing for work these days?"
Me: "I've decided to support my acting habit by designing jewelry."
The reaction to this plan was like I'd said I wanted to breed unicorns. Fair enough, really: I didn't have any design experience. But I ignored the naysayers, taught myself how to make jewelry, and launched my line in 2004. Before I knew it, major fashion magazines were covering my work and the Olsen twins were strolling around L.A. clutching Starbucks cups and wearing my jewelry. I capitalized on my previous acting training, got an agent, and started appearing on TV as a style expert, eventually co-hosting a television show on The Home Shopping Network. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was able to support myself creatively. I haven't looked back since.
Of course, I made a zillion mistakes along the way. The first time a magazine editor asked for images of my work, I put the jewelry on a photocopier and sent her color copies instead of taking digital pictures (I couldn't afford a camera). I mixed up a jewelry sample I designed for Target, and the piece that appeared on their website ended up being different from the one customers actually received. A necklace I designed broke ON AIR while I was chatting with the ladies from The View. While I was talking about my jewelry, it fell from my neck to my lap because I didn't spend enough time getting the clasp right. That glorious moment is preserved, forever, on a DVD at my parents' house.
Trust me, there are plenty more where those came from. Everything I learned from my mistakes—not only about sturdy clasps, but the actual business and career lessons—is in this book, along with the guidance I wish I'd had then. I interviewed other creative professionals about everything they wished they'd known, too. I made it my goal to write the book my creative colleagues and I needed when we embarked on our careers.
A creative career path is winding and very different from a traditional one. This book will support you from the first moments of assessing your talent to building a financially solvent livelihood. Together, we'll debunk the starving artist cliché and become successful, self-supported artists by focusing on the financial, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment attainable in a creative life. Age doesn't matter here; you'll find guidance whether you're a college student wondering what in the world to do after graduation, a thirtysomething stay-at-home mom, or a retiree who wants to launch an interior decorating empire. This guide gives you a bird's-eye view of how to achieve the happiest creative life possible.
While you're reading, keep your mind open to the myriad options for bringing home the bacon with your creativity. You may decide to work at a creative company, freelance, or open your own business. Many of you will follow the order laid out in these pages; you'll start at a creative company and transition to freelance or a small business entrepreneurship. Some of you may work in the opposite direction—you'll start off on your own and segue into an exciting creative career with the company of your dreams.
You'll get the real story from creative girls (CGs) living life in the creative trenches. Their careers range from lipstick moguls to voice-over actors, and their positions range from interns to full-blown creative superstars. You'll discover a resounding message in each anecdote and every chapter: you can do this. You can make a career with your creativity, you can turn what inspires you into what pays your bills, and you can grin like the cat that swallowed the canary every time someone asks you what you do for a living.
The book you're holding is laid out in two parts: Part One is a welcome-to-your-creativity party where we'll figure out exactly what the heck you want to do. You'll evaluate your talent and your current job situation. If your job stinks, we'll talk about strategies for making it work before taking the leap to full-time creative girl. Because as tempting as it is to storm out of your non-creative job shouting, "Next time you'll see me, I'll be holding an Oscar!" the truth is, you want to be financially savvy and strategic about your next move.
Part Two is your roadmap for getting where you want to go. Once you're there, we'll talk about finding emotional, spiritual, and financial fulfillment. To reach career nirvana, you have to take into account your day-to-day happiness and wellbeing. That means making money a priority, too. Financial freedom plus emotional freedom is freedom, and that freedom allows each creative girl the healthiest space possible to peacefully create.
You'll find numerous ideas for creating an inspired career that provides you with the ultimate in creative fulfillment. Bring your most idealistic self and approach the material with healthy curiosity. I'll discuss hundreds of practical career strategies, so the realist in you will be satisfied, but give yourself room to dream big. Resist the urge to judge your ideas. If you're not going to make great plans for yourself, then who is?
Have a pen ready for journaling exercises. If you're on the go, scrawl ideas in the blank pages at the back of the book. Any time an urge or inspiration strikes you, jot it down. Let the material marinate, and use whatever resonates with you to move forward. Remember that wherever you are on your career path, being open, aware, and mindful will serve you. I'll give you some simple tips for meditation—it's not just for enlightened yogis, and I promise not to make you wear white—so that you can sit quietly and allow your body and intuition to give you feedback. Sometimes, after you've examined all the facts, you just need to quiet down and reflect in order to make a difficult decision.
Creative success is at your fingertips. Put your intention there, allow new adventures, and see how the world opens up for you.
Let's get started.
Creative, adj.
1. Having the quality or power of creating.
2. Resulting from originality of thought, expression, etc.; imaginative.
3. Originative; productive.
Creativity, n.
1. The state or quality of being creative.
2. The ability to transcend traditional rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.
3. The process by which one utilizes creative ability.
Creative Girl, person.
1. A female of any age, ethnicity, or religion with creative urges.
2. A female with creative, imaginative thoughts.
3. A female who craves a life full of creative fulfillment.

Creative Girl

The Welcome Packet
Millions of creative careers already exist.
You're going to add to that number.
Creativity is a mindset. It's a way of living, thinking, and experiencing the world around you. Being creative manifests in your every action and decision, from who and what you love to how you want to work. Whether or not you make your living creatively, you've likely experienced an ongoing desire to create since you were a child.
When she was eight years old, actress and filmmaker Aimee Denaro thumbed through the yellow pages and dialed an advertising agency. When the receptionist picked up, she squeaked, "Hello, I was wondering if you needed any actresses?" Aimee hung up and informed her mother that she had a meeting that week at the agency. Reluctantly, her mom drove her to the meeting, where Aimee and her talent impressed the producers. She worked for the agency as a voiceover actress from eight until she graduated from high school, earning a bundle of money along the way for college.
Some CGs, like Aimee, start right away on their creative careers. Others wake up at forty-five and realize they want to make a change. This was the case for Rhonda Kave and Julie Couch. Rhonda made chocolate as a hobby for twenty years before opening her shop, Roni-Sue's Chocolates. Now, Rhonda entertains rabid media attention and a cult-like following. Julie, an interior decorator, says, "In my mid-forties, a lightbulb went off. After all of those years, I finally realized I was good enough at my hobby to turn it into a career."
Many women graduate from college and take a job they're not crazy about because it's practical. Year after year they stay in that job because it's easier than forging a new path, and because it's terrifying to walk away from a steady paycheck and benefits. They start feeling stuck and apathetic. They brush off their lingering creative dreams as impractical and idealistic, something they wanted to do when they were too young to know any better. In the course of researching for this book, I spoke with many women who claimed they hadn't yet figured out what they wanted to be when they "grew up." Others said they knew exactly what they wanted to be, but they didn't know how to get there or didn't think it was possible to pay the bills with their creativity.
I've got news for you: it is possible to make your living creatively. It takes talent, but above all, an unfailing work ethic and strategic planning.

Stifling Yourself is Exhausting: Let it Roar

Stifling your creativity takes a lot of energy. If you've been trying to convince yourself that career girls with Ivy League educations don't quit their hedge fund jobs to write a screenplay, think again. Just before turning thirty, Christine Hawes packed her bags and left her cushy corporate gig in Burlington, Vermont, for Los Angeles to pursue a career in costume design. Fast forward six years, and Christine is thriving as one of the industry's go-to costume stylists. Danielle Gregan left her job as an accountant at one of New York City's Big Four to work for herself as a yoga teacher. Danielle says, "At my firm, I was being promoted and making more and more money. But every day I went to work, I felt like an impostor. I walked through my office and thought, 'Is this really my life?' So I thought about how I could live a more authentic life. I'd loved yoga for years. I loved going to classes and listening to what my teacher had to say. I realized that I wanted to give that to someone else."
These CGs are everywhere. Fed up with a work life that didn't fit who they were, they decided to explore the places their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit could take them. They realized a shot at career happiness was worth it. They realized they were worth it.
Because what's the point of playing by someone else's rules if you're walking around feeling like Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic? As Kate Winslet told Leonardo DiCaprio on the deck of the ship, "All the while I feel like I'm screaming in the middle of a crowded room and no one even looks up." Pretending to like your non-creative life is exhausting; it drains your energy to fake it, so cut it out. Besides, your discontent will manifest in other ways, like stress, insomnia, or depression, so even if you're not quite ready to make the leap, acknowledge where you'd like to be headed. (And, if you're not sure where that is, see Chapter 3 to get a jump-start on pinpointing your creativity.) Just vocalizing that you want something different, what you think it might be, and how you plan to achieve it will free parts of you that you've been ignoring or feeding lines like, "You can't pay the bills as an artist, so you'll have to stay in this job unless you hit the lottery."
Because that's just baloney. Creative jobs are plentiful. A screenwriter wrote the movie you saw last night. A casting director cast it. A furniture designer designed the chair you're sitting in. In his book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink reports, "In the United States, the number of graphic designers has increased tenfold in a decade; graphic designers outnumber chemical engineers four to one. Since 1970, the United States has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of people earning a living as writers; 50 percent more are earning a living by composing or performing music. . . . More Americans today work in arts, entertainment, and design than work as lawyers, accountants, and auditors."
Recent trends confirm that a creative movement is underway. Women are opening businesses at a rate twice as fast as their male counterparts. Whether they've been laid off from their office jobs, chosen to leave them for work they're passionate about, or want more flexible careers while raising families, women are getting creative about obtaining their ideal careers. If there isn't stability in the corporate world, why not do what you love?
This isn't your grandparents' job market, where steadfast devotion was rewarded with a job for life. In this climate, we've collectively realized there isn't job security anywhere. It just may be that your best chance at a lifetime of financial security—and career satisfaction—comes from developing your own unique talents and skills and parlaying them into a self-driven career.
Start the journey by honoring the creative part of you. Write letters, write poetry, redecorate your bedroom, paint pictures, roll down the car windows, and crank up the music. Go to a new restaurant or see a movie. Paint your toenails a bright shade of fuchsia. Get lost in a book. Allow yourself to reconnect with and release that inner creative force. And listen. Listen to that nagging feeling that creeps in and tells you there's more out there for you. Listen to any idea that pops up and inspires you. Jot it down. Do whatever you must to quiet down and listen to what your inner creative voice is saying. Gather clues. Gain clarity about your next step.
And get ready to work it, creative girl.

From Creative Wannabe to Creative Convert

CG-in-action Kim Hoggatt works in medical device sales. I've known Kim since college, where, though she was a business major, she secretly wished she was the lead singer in her own rock band. Kim claims she can't hold a tune, but she paid attention to that inner creative voice and figured out her biggest strengths: the marketing and business sides of creativity. She brainstormed ideas for a creative venture and is currently planning the launch of Glass Slippers—not a band but a stemware accessories company.
Just because you don't paint watercolors or sing Phantom of the Opera at a cabaret on the weekends doesn't mean you're not cut out for a creative life. If you're feeling disgruntled with your present work and are itching to release your inner CG, take the skills you've learned elsewhere and apply them to your next career step. You're not a job title, you're a person with an amalgam of qualities and skills. So you held a manager title at your last job? Managerial skills come in handy all over the creative career map. Entrepreneurial ventures demand both creativity and business savvy. So brainstorm ideas for your own company or partner with a designer, pastry chef, or screenwriter and get that creative business going.
Some of you may not even need to make a drastic career change; you may be able to take your unique, non-creative knowledge and apply it creatively, like CG-in-action Corey Binns. Corey was a science major in college. She says, "After I graduated, I quickly realized the science lab wasn't for me. Something was missing. I needed to find a way to use my creativity in my work." Corey took her in-depth knowledge of science and launched a successful freelance writing career. Now she writes health and science related articles for magazines like Popular Science and Scientific American Mind. She's currently at work on her first book.
These creative converts are everywhere. Take Lanesha Russell, an optician and one of the most creative girls I know. Lanesha took her training and landed a gig at Artsee, a visionary shop that sells both paintings and eyeglasses. Her job became part art dealer and part optician. Lanesha says, "Surrounded by art, my creative urge was satisfied day in and day out."
Most people on this planet don't have the luxury of choosing their work. So let's honor the choices we do have by choosing wisely, in ways that honor the creative people we truly are.

Minds Wide Open

Keep your mind open to every option this book presents you. We'll discuss options like working 9 to 5 in a creative capacity at a company, freelancing, or opening a small business. One thing is certain; creative careers have a way of surprising you. Mine did. I came to New York City to be an actress. I was such a terrible waitress that I decided to try to support my acting habit by designing a few pieces of jewelry for a local boutique. It sounded like fun. A few months later, an entire career was literally at my fingertips. I had to learn how to be a business owner on the spot.
While reading, consider this: if you happen to have a particular talent that hasn't started paying the bills yet, why not support that talent with another creative endeavor? You can waitress or work in a non-creative day job while waiting for your creative talent to financially support you . . . or you can explore other creative options for bringing home the bacon. You want to be a tap dancer? Great. But I'll bet you have a bunch of other creative talents up your sleeve. Creativity breeds creativity and your success is like a snowball; almost always, achievement in one creative field feeds into another.
Don't misunderstand me: this doesn't mean you focus any less on your original pursuit. It means you think in an expansive (instead of restrictive) way about your creative ability. Instead of getting attached to yourself as only one thing—I'm a sculptor —challenge the perimeters that define your talent. When you embrace this concept, you'll be shocked at how completely boundless you are. Each creative talent is a continually evolving business and it's exciting to push your artistic limits and find unlikely avenues that stem from your original pursuit. When you're strategic about your achievements, you'll cohesively build a career.
I met CG-in-action Kimberly Rae Miller when she played Cecily to my Gwendolen in a New York City performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. A few years later, she began blogging about food, dieting, and lifestyle, and a Condé Nast website picked up her blog. Because of her acting training, she was comfortable on camera, so she turned her blog into a web show. That show was a hit and scored a Webby Award within a year of airing. Kim landed a topnotch TV agent and came full circle to her original pursuit: acting and on-camera work.
Most of the CGs I interviewed had multiple creative strengths, like Sarah Kuhn, an accessories editor at Teen Vogue who moonlights as a member of the band Left Coast. Meredith Zinner holds her own in movies like Erin Brockovich, but enjoys being behind the camera as a professional photographer, too. Comedienne Molly Reisner wrote a laugh-out-loud-funny novel about a sixteen-year-old aspiring comic. Arielle Fierman, a jewelry designer and holistic health counselor said, "Why not make a living with two services I love to do and strongly believe in? Having both creative outlets is ideal. And often, my client base overlaps."
The point is that you're creative. We've established that. If you want to focus all your creative energy on one goal and keep plugging away until you achieve it, that's great too. But if you're like the aforementioned CGs and me, exploring multiple creative avenues keeps life interesting. Often, when one aspect of your career is lagging, the other is flying high. This keeps you feeling productive and successful.
Your original career doesn't have to be stilted for you to pursue other goals. CG-in-action Rashida Jones is a bonafide Hollywood movie and television star. But she also loves design and genuinely understands the work involved in constructing a garment. So Rashida launched Laloo, a clothing line made with organic cotton. She put a t-shirt on me that was so comfortable I didn't take it off for days.
Movie star and CG Michelle Monaghan has starred in films like Mission Impossible 3, The Heartbreak Kid, and Eagle Eye. After nearly a decade of acting, she decided to try her hand at producing on the film Trucker. On a walk along a quiet street in New York City, Michelle told me she was ready to stretch herself by trying something that required an entirely different set of skills.
How do you get to where the CGs in this chapter are? Start by understanding that this is an outlook. Start seeing yourself just as you are: unlimited, boundless, and expansive. That's the truth of our creativity.
Be open to the unlikely opportunities that stem from your original pursuit. Observe how other CGs in your field have parlayed their unique skills into additional employment opportunities. The ability to shift gears and expand will serve you, so experiment and push yourself farther than you thought you could go. You never know what you might discover.

You Are Here
Take a breath, understand the value of the present, and create daily.

The Present Perfect

Wherever you are on your creative path, be very, very present. Be mindful, aware, and open to the fact that you are exactly where you're meant to be in this moment. I know you're reading this book to learn how to translate creativity into a flourishing career. But always remember that your desire comes from a very pure place, a creative center within you that you've likely felt since you were a child. So while we'll discuss multiple career strategies, begin your journey by honoring that part of yourself. The true value in a creative life is the fulfillment of creating just for the sake of expression. I'll ask you to put your business hat on many times. But even as you're reading about garnering press or branding yourself, we'll both know that your original desire to create is at the center of every pursuit. And here's why that's so important: the truth of your creativity means there's nothing sincere or productive in the thought, "I'll be happy when I get there, or when I accomplish this."
It took me a long time to figure this out, so if you can get your mind around this concept, you're going to save yourself a lot of hassle and find the clarity you need to proceed. My entire life I've felt an overwhelming urge to imagine and produce creative work, and somewhere around age seventeen, this urge evolved into a desire to get there. I defined there as a blissful state of achievement where I'd earn an enviable living with my creative prowess. In my mind, there was being a fulltime writer/actress/designer who penned novels and drank champagne during Fashion Week in a swanky wine bar in Paris.
So I became restless when I felt the details of my life weren't leading me to this romanticized place. During my freshman year in college, math class was time for scrawling a short story in my notebook while everyone else was doing logarithms. I spent my senior year theology class copying down lines I had to learn for a production of Romeo and Juliet. It's a small miracle the swimmers survived in the small town where I was lifeguarding each summer. I spent the afternoons slathering on sunscreen and daydreaming about my soon-to-be fabulous adult life as a creative girl conquering New York City.
Instead of thinking you'll be satisfied with The Next Big Thing, think:
The present is already perfect.
There is an innate value in creating every day.


On Sale
Aug 24, 2010
Page Count
320 pages
Running Press

Katharine Sise

About the Author

Katharine Sise created her eponymous jewelry line in 2004, and was soon after called a “designer to watch” by Lucky magazine. A favorite among Hollywood celebrities, her jewelry has been featured in major fashion magazines such as Vogue, W, Elle, InStyle, and Glamour, and she co-hosts her own show on the Home Shopping Network, which maintains millions of viewers. Katharine lives in New York, NY.

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