Sometimes in life we can get stuck in the valley; life gives us one hurdle after the next and we can’t seem to find the mountain top again. I was definitely stuck in the valley last month while attempting to switch the Inspired By series to video interviews. I encountered technical issues and then folks that scheduled, rescheduled, and then canceled. It was a frustrating month and a half, to say the least, but it also taught me to stick to my strengths and vision. Visual stories are definitely compelling, however, if they take me two to three months to produce, then I’d rather stick to my original format and add video here and there. Thankfully, life helped show me the way out of my funk, by an unexpected encounter with author Nicole Blades.
Nicole Blades is a novelist and freelance journalist who has been putting her stories on paper since the third grade. Born and raised in Montreal, Nicole moved to New York City and launched her journalism career working at Essence magazine. She later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks, and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health.
I am deeply grateful and humbled that Nicole agreed to be interviewed for our Inspired By series. What I love about Nicole is her down to earth personality, her tenacity, and her drive to tell stories that are often silenced in today’s world. I hope you enjoy Nicole’s insight half as much as I did.
It’s when you’re quiet that you can hear the small voice telling you what it really wants, what would make your heart sing.
When did you know you were a writer?
It took me a minute to grab that title and run with it. I had been writing stories (just for myself) all my life, but didn’t have the confidence to say it with my chest: “I’m a writer.” To be honest with you, it’s when I wrote my first piece for a national magazine (Essence) that I said “I’m a writer,” without taking a beat or breath. Having that affirmation from a magazine editor whom I admired and then having the piece printed in the magazine finally forced me to see that I was very much a writer. I do wish I had the confidence to see it and say it earlier, because I had always felt that I was a storyteller in my heart.
What inspires you?
So many things inspire me! Other writers, music, artists, my young son, cleverness, and listening to someone raise the volume on their voice and tell their story—those are just some of what inspires me on a daily basis.
What are you most proud of?
My 8-year-old son, and the fact that he’s so impressed and wowed by the fact that I’m a writer with books he can see in the bookstore.
Name a book that changed your life?
This may sound strange, but reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats when I was around 7 or 8 really left an indelible mark on me. I can even see myself sitting in the carpeted corner with my legs bundled under at the public library in my hometown Montreal and reading this book. I didn’t have the language then to attach to the moment and why it was significant, but seeing this brown boy in a red winter coat stomping and playing around in the white snow was important. It was one of the first times in my young memory where I was seeing someone with brown skin like me in the centre of the a story.
What advice/insight do you have for someone who is trying to figure out their passion?
Get quiet and listen. Tune out all the noise from outside and within telling you what you should be doing and let your mind and gut team up to lead you off the usual path. It’s when you’re quiet that you can hear the small voice telling you what it really wants, what would make your heart sing. And don’t be afraid of messy answers. Often finding your vocation or passion won’t be a neat and tidy affair. It’s not always a smooth road. There will be stops and starts and restarts, but you need to not be deterred by the transition being a little tangled and uncomfortable.
What helps you keep going on days you want to quit?
My kid. It’s really important to me that he sees me trying, that he sees me modelling what persistent and commitment looks like. I want him to know what it means to work at something even on the days where your confidence lags or you face setbacks or stumble.
What’s been your most important lesson in business/life?
Bet on yourself. If you don’t believe, no one else truly will. Take the chance on you and what you’re committed to doing. In business, this doesn’t mean quitting your job tomorrow without knowing what you’re going to do next. It’s not about being rash or reckless. Betting on yourself—whether in life or business—means that you are putting all the chips on your capabilities, your potential to put in the work and succeed.
What advice do you have for someone who may be thinking of leaving the corporate world to pursue their passion?
Do your research. Find mentors who can offer guidance and real-world advice. And take your time with the transition. Plan it out. Moving from a corporate job that is paying you well to pursue your passion does not have to mean taking a wild leap and hoping there’s a net beneath you. Sometimes it means taking small steps before the bigger leap.
How do you balance life and your creative work?
It’s always a challenge; I’ve had to accept that. As a working mom, it so often feels like a juggling act. But a big thing for me was shifting my expectations because I’ve come to see that “having it all” isn’t a real thing. Striving for it is a waste of time, energy and emotion, so I let go of that ideal a while ago. Getting it done is far better than getting it perfect.
What do you know for sure?
Storytelling is crucial. It’s the thing that makes humans human. It’s through telling stories (real or imagined) that we connect and (we hope) find a deeper sense of compassion for each other.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes, pre-order my book! Support for artists is like air, we need it survive. Thank you!
Nicole’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, WashingtonPost.com
, SELF, Health, and BuzzFeed. Her next book, HAVE YOU MET NORA?
, will be released November 2017, and her latest novel, THE THUNDER BENEATH US
, is available now. Listen to her new podcast, Hey, Sis!
, about women finding their focus and place in business, art, culture, and life.
You can find Nicole’s work at the following links