Creative Careers Interviews : 2009 : Rita Farin Interview
Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews
Writer and Creative Coach
By Molly Anderson-Childers
This month I am interviewing Rita Farin, a writer with quite a story! After spending twenty years in the field of global marketing, she took a leap of faith and landed right on her creative feet! She mustered the courage to take her first writing class, a creative nonfiction course at Stanford University, and began to write and paint, launching a second career and living her creative dream! For more details, read on, and be sure to check out her fabulous blog and website, www.ritafarin.com.
Q: What made you decide to shift gears, quit your day job, and follow your creative dreams?
A: The decision was probably 40 years in the making. I've loved writing since I was a kid, but I came from one of those homes where a practical, money-making career defined success. My marketing career really took off when I lived in Israel. I was able to start my own business and really loved what I was doing. The intensity of living in that country stirred up emotions that I could only release through writing. I also developed a huge desire to paint, which I'd never done before.
When I left Israel, I settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I finally had the courage to take my first writing class. I also took some expressive painting classes and began working with a writing coach. Working in Silicon Valley after the dot com bust was challenging. I survived ten rounds of layoffs, and found the work environment increasingly unfulfilling and frustrating. One day, I walked into my boss' office and asked for a sabbatical. He said he'd give it to me, but only if I agreed to come back and he had a feeling I didn't intend to come back. He was right. I asked him to make me a consultant instead, which allowed me the freedom to explore my options further. That year, while consulting for a few clients, I worked with a career coach, wrote, painted, and interned with a documentary filmmaker.
I wanted to write books and help people change their lives
but when another business opportunity came around, I took it. I had this notion that if I could create a business around some of the things I loved, it would eventually afford me the luxury of writing. I started an online community of artists who sold handcrafts from around the world. After two years, it wasn't getting me where I wanted to go, so I decided to do something drastic. I cut back on my marketing freelance work by 90% and went back to school for an MFA. By the time I did this, I had no savings left. I was terrified that this road would lead me to financial destitution, but I knew I had a story to share with others and it was time to face my biggest fears.
Q: What are some of the challenges you've faced in making this transition to a new career path?
A: In a few words: beginning as a beginner at all levels. When I started this new adventure, I felt completely disoriented. Some of the working patterns from my business life no longer worked for me. Rigid project timelines and to-do lists, or too much structure and discipline, can actually cause creative blocks. Working for hours on a piece of writing felt amazing, but the solitude of being a full-time writer was making me a little crazy. I was doing a low-residency program through Lesley University in Boston and I was living in a new city, Atlanta, so I had a very limited support network locally. In my marketing career, I was used to working on multiple projects and interacting with people, and now I was alone. Fear of not having enough money also caused a lot of anxiety at the beginning, which I eventually came to terms with.
I had not only embarked on a new career, I had to create a new lifestyle to support it, learning new ways of working, living and thinking that accommodated the nature of the creative process. Building a business around a new creative career came a little later. When I started my other businesses, I was well known in my field, or at least I knew what I was doing. It was so easy. Now, I had to create a name and following for myself and my work in a totally different realm, at the age of 41!
Q: How did you deal with these challenges, and what have you learned from this journey?
A: It was funny. When I finally went back to school for an MFA, I realized that I didn't need it. I had been working with a writing coach for three years and had an amazing writing group in Atlanta, so after one semester, I dropped the program. Instead, I found a creativity coaching program, Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching developed by Jill Badonsky.
I had thought about coaching others, and I needed coaching myself so I enrolled in the program. I learned that everything I was experiencing was not only normal, but that there are very effective, simple tools that can support you through transition and the creative process. By that time, I looked at my life as an experiment of sorts, observing everyday challenges carefully, trying new approaches to overcome them, and writing about the process.
Continue to Rita Farin interview page 2 »