Our interview with April BEYOND speaker essayist, Carley Barton.
PKX: When did you take the leap from ad agency work to being a writer for a living?
Carley: I am a “cliche creative” and writer. I’m very into English & history. I always knew writing was going to be part of my life. But how to make it profitable? How to survive being a creative writer?
Right out of college being a writer didn’t feel tangible. I was so afraid - afraid that I would wake up and hate writing. I’ve been a writer my whole life. It was my desire to protect this thing I hold so dear, and a I was afraid if I did it for a living it would take away the magic. I have a knack for speaking very openly and honestly with people about difficult topics. So I started working that into my blog and it just took off. I got a non-writing ad agency job offer and I made the move from California to NYC overnight and it was total culture shock. But that’s kind of how I’ve done everything since then. It’s going to make you uncomfortable, and it’s all going to be a big mess. But the only way to figure it out, is to do it. I moved back to NH for another ad agency job I realized I wasn’t happy. I got an opportunity do a freelance job back in California - it was just writing an entire magazine cover to cover. I realized “oh! this is why it feels like to love what you are do” - AND be compensated for it.
PKX: What inspires your work?Carley: Human parts of life. My goal is to interact on a deeply human level.
Those everyday human truths and sparks are my greatest inspiration.PKX: Talk to us about your Creative Process.
Carley: I’m not a morning person…or a night person. But I find my brain wakes up from 9pm to 2am. Part of the blessing and the curse of being inspired by personal human connection is that I can’t just take a walk and be inspired. That organic conversation I have with a person: someone will have said something and I record it instantly.
I approach life like it’s one big brainstorm. Everything is fair game.
PKX: Anything you are excited about that is new in your industry?
Carley: Social media is becoming a lot more about open and honest and vulnerable. Even if you look at the Super Bowl ads on social media: brands aren’t afraid to address things that are sensitive or taboo or off topic. To take these realities that maybe aren’t “instagram” worthy and make them something. That’s what excites me about my industry right now. More and more real humanity incorporated into everything from cereal to car commercials. We want less “smoke and mirrors” now. We don’t want it all feel like a motion picture.
We want the grit and the rawness. That’s what life is.PKX: If you could open a door an go anywhere…where would you go?
Carley: Wow. I really wish I could back to my mom being my age and be friends with her. Just journey back, time travel style. I’m obsessed with my mom. I’m constantly asking her for pictures of herself when she was my age, and pictures of her friends. I wish I could go back to that time. There was so much happening and so many of the causes I believe in - and to see who my mom became now and who am I going to become some day.
PKX: How does the BEYOND topic speak to you?
Carley: It was an easy choice. I’ve really found myself pushing beyond, even what I thought I was humanly capable of.
The only way I’ve been able to push beyond, has been to embrace the scariest parts of being human.
The fear, the judgement, and the unknown…and really just leaning into those uncomfortable places. And refusing to let the hard parts of life make me hard. Because life is hard. It’s messy, it’s complicated. We often times, knowing that things can be hard - we stop ourselves. We get to a certain place where we are approaching our comfort zone, and we dig our heals in and we resist.
BEYOND really spoke to me because I’m obsessed with this idea of going beyond what we thing we are capable of. The human spirit is so resilient. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for how strong we really are. The things that are difficult that you go through are the things that make you different, the things that turn you into what you are. The only way to get to it being better or easier is just to go through it.
PKX: If we could invite anyone to speak at PKX, who would you want to see? Carley: I’m enamored with Brene Brown. She’s so beautiful as a person, and her approach to writing and sharing inspires me. I try in my own writing to blend real life experiences and anecdotes and with universal truths of life. Brene Brown does this a lot. She’ll tell a story about a fight she got into with her husband, and she’ll use that as a way to talk about how, if we talk openly and honestly with the people we love, it will help us.
PKX: What advice would you give a person just beginning in your industry?
Carley: That it’s gonna to be ok. Shit might hit the fan, but then it will be ok again. It will always be ok.