Monday, October 30, 2017

Indie Artists Week Feature #3 - Aimee Meester (WRITER)

  We're back again today with yet another totally awesome indie artist for you to learn about! On this fine Monday morning I am featuring fellow writer and blogger, Aimee Meester!


  Learn more about Aimee through her personal bio...

Introductions are lame and I'm not very good at them.

Which is a great way for me to introduce myself to you, isn't it? "Hi, nice to meet you, I really hate doing this." But I've always felt that it's impossibly difficult to sum yourself up in a few nice paragraphs on the internet in a way that interests people. You might have already clicked away from this page. I don't really blame you. I have some more interesting things in other corners of this blog. Unless you just clicked away from this blog entirely, in which case I still don't blame you, I just think you're missing out, because occasionally I have things to say.

Anyway. This is me. I write lots of words. I read lots of stories. I consume even more stories, because Netflix is a thing, which is unfortunate for the writing lots of words part of me. My favorite genre is "weird" or just flat-out sci-fi. I have Opinions about probably everything. I'm running out of things to say. I like cats. Also, chocolate.

Hi.


You can find Aimee on...

  Her website.
  Her blog.
  Her Twitter.

Aimee is the writer and producer of the Bright Eyes podcast, which you can learn more about and listen to by following this link.

"For nearly fifty years, the Athena Institute has remained faithful in its mission to expand the boundaries of the known universe and better the human race. State-of-the-art programming and rigorous training combined with a unique application process result in a generation of humanity's finest pilots, military leaders, and researchers devoted to excellence. Graduates remain highly esteemed and highly successful. 
The final test of this education finds itself in THE BRIGHT EYES PROJECT. 
Painstakingly created to challenge our students, this year-long final project revolutionizes the concept of teaching through experience. Aspiring-graduates will live out a carefully-simulated version of the life they can expect among the stars, ranging from mock assignments to curated emergencies.* This high-pressure experience offers a chance to apply training and take risks within the confines of Institute-controlled space, before they step out into the real world beyond. Successful graduates find themselves confident, prepared, and eager to step out into a future career, serving both the public and the Institute in our quest for higher learning." 

  I highly recommend you check out and support this independent project! It's fantastic!

  Keep reading for my interview with Aimee below...


Q: When did you first start writing and when did you first start taking it seriously as a career?

A: It sounds cliche, but I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember! I remember working away on never-finished novels at around age 10, and I know I did little stories before that. As for considering it as a career... I’ve always played with the idea of wanting to be an author when I grow up, but it’s only in the past year or so that I’ve realized I could actually realistically make it happen and that I have lots of options for that. It’s been a wild ride.

Q: What do you consider your epiphany moment, where you decided this was what you wanted to do?

A: Wow, I’m not sure I could pinpoint it to one moment! But it was definitely significant for me when I started to receive feedback from some professional people on my work, and I realized that I maybe had what it took to make this thing work. That gave me a lot of confidence and the ability to visualize some professional next-steps I could take toward achieving what I wanted.

Q: Do you have a process when it comes to writing? How do you usually begin a project?

A: My process mostly leans toward “get the darned thing on the page already” more than anything else, honestly. I almost always begin by sitting down with something I’m excited about and slapping a first draft onto the page. It’s never really good, but I have to get all the junky aspects of the idea out before I can start fleshing out the good ones, and I love  that first-draft rush of creation without worrying about editing yet. I’ll let myself get an unfiltered draft out there, and then I’ll come back to the beginning and usually re-write all of it with a more specific vision in mind this time.

Q: What kind of tools do you use as a writer (computer programs, notebooks, reference books, etc)? How do you use them? Do you recommend any of them for other writers?

A: Most of the time it’s just my computer and Google Docs! I’ve always felt that fancy writing programs or tools can be fun, up until they start to get in your way and distract more than they help. The only tool you need for writing is something to write on, whether that’s Google Docs, Word, Scrivener, whatever else you want to use. I do all of my planning and drafts and such on Docs, but for random scribblings I like to use notebooks. When I do novel planning or outlines, it’s almost always on white printer paper, not notebooks or lined paper or anything, oddly enough.

I’d recommend something to write on more than anything else. Specific, I know.

Q: What would you say is the key to the success you’ve seen in your growth as a writer over the years?

A: FINISH THINGS. Sorry to use all caps, but it feels necessary here. So often I see writers my age or younger bouncing from one project to another, getting way ahead of themselves, posting early drafts online as they write them, and so on, and I sort of cringe internally a little bit. It’s hard to persevere and finish, especially if you’ve been at it for a while and the project isn’t fresh and thrilling anymore, but you’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t learn how to sit down and pound something out until it’s done. You can’t work with or improve on a work if you don’t have it in the first place. Learn how to finish things, learn how to push aside distracting new ideas, learn how to focus on what you’re doing in the moment.

Also, don’t post early drafts of things online. Just… don’t, guys. Save yourselves the self-loathing later on. It’s easy to get sucked into needing validation to want to continue what you’re doing, but it’s not worth not putting your best work forward first.

Q: Though you have mainly written novels, you have recently taken to writing scripts, specifically for your podcast “Bright Eyes”. What got you interested in script-writing?

A: I love scripts! I’ve always been inspired by movies and TV a little more than novels (as much as I love reading books) and it’s something I’ve wanted to delve into for a while now. I’m fascinated in original ways of creating stories and formats different than just words on a page. Scripts come with their own challenges and perks, and require a different part of your brain, and I love that challenge. With podcasts specifically, I started listening to a lot of fiction ones and realized that this kind of audio format allows for a totally new kind of storytelling. I wanted to see what it would be like to bring a story to life using only audio.

Q: What are some of the challenges in writing scripts vs. writing novels?

A: It really does use a different part of your brain and creativity! You don’t want to bore your audience to tears by writing down ALL THE DESCRIPTIVE THINGS, and with something like a podcast, you’re not going to have visuals, so the challenge lies in giving people a coherent picture of what’s happening and where you are while still letting it sound natural. You’re also working with people who aren’t you, and writing dialogue that someone else is going to say out loud, so it’s important to know who you’re writing for and how they talk so you can adjust. Audio dialogue reads much differently than dialogue that’s meant to be read.

Q: What is one thing (or several!) you would like to see change about how the creative community is treated when it comes to working as an artist, especially an independent one?

A: It would be great if we could recognize the importance of paying people for the things they’re creating, you know? Creating anything — art, music, stories, podcasts — takes an incredible amount of time and effort, even if it seems like we’re just pumping it out effortlessly (I wish), but so often people expect us to be able to churn out content that we’ll provide for free. Art is for people to enjoy, yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to hand it out for free. It’s a job like any other and a service like any other and as such, it has value. By all means freely admire the art we put out there for everyone to see, but if you want something specific from us, you’d better be prepared to compensate us for it.

Q: Do you have any degrees/certificates in your artistic field? Or are you pursuing any?

A: I do not! And it’s not a popular thing to say, but I don’t intend to even go to college, so pursuing any sort of English/writing/etc degree isn’t something I think about. Lots of people have done that, and it works for them, but all artists are different and we all learn in different ways, so I don’t believe that a college class is what’s going to work for everyone. I’ll be pursuing writing all the things and learning that way, for the most part.

Q: Have you taken any writing courses or classes in the past? Were you self-taught?

A: I’ve attended courses and conferences in the past that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed! For the most part, though, I’ve learned by consuming art and making art and consuming art and making art and getting art critiqued and learning from that and consuming art and so on and so forth, in that infinite cycle. (It sounds boring when I type it out, but oh well.)

Q: What are some things you did to develop your skills as a writer over the years?

A: I sort of said this earlier, but I’ve persisted! I’ve forced myself to slog through things I didn’t want to finish and come out stronger for it, even if that particular work didn’t go anywhere after that or turn out to be a masterpiece. I’ve been working at teaching myself self-discipline and the value of doing things even when you don’t want to, and that’s improved my writing incredibly.

I’m also big on the value of trying new things! That could be a different medium, a new format of storytelling, a different writing style, a genre you wouldn’t usually attack. Do something you’re not comfortable with doing and try to get fairly good at it. Practice. Push yourself.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young writers? What is the best advice you’ve received?

A: Consume ALL the art. There’s this Stephen King quote that essentially goes “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time to write” and I believe that’s true. Don’t just write, READ. Watch movies. Watch shows. Go to plays. Listen to music. Whatever field you’re in, consume a lot of it. Not just the good, but the mediocre and the really bad, too! Don’t spend all your time on Netflix and say you’re writing, but learn how to recognize stories and devices and tropes. Learn what works and what doesn’t, and why it does or doesn’t. The more I consume other content, the better I am at my own, I’ve discovered.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of writing?

A: My favorite and my least favorite are both everything about writing. Not gonna lie.

Q: Who is someone who inspires your writing career?

A: I don’t know that I can name a specific person, somehow. There are lots of authors and creators that I admire, and there isn’t a specific one who’s inspired me in a special way.

Q: Do you have a favorite book/books/author that has really influenced your own writing?

A: Again, I don’t think there’s just one or two things that I could point out… I’ve been a huge reader for as long as I can remember, and I think it’s that kind of habit that’s influenced me more than anything else. (That being said, the works of Neal Shusterman, Pierce Brown, and a lot of classic literature have inspired and influenced my writing style lately.)

Q: Where do you see/want to see your writing career in five years?

A: I would love to be working in some capacity in TV — I don’t know if that will happen in five years, since it’s a tricky business to get into, but that’s a career I’m working towards at the moment and I would like to see myself at least closer to that goal. Obviously I want to be a better writer, and someone who’s still persisting and writing lots of things even when it’s hard. I’d like to be better at discipline, too. That’s a struggle at the moment.

Q: Aside from writing, what are some of your other hobbies/talents?

A: I do martial arts! I can’t say I’m the best at it but it’s something I enjoy quite a lot. As of late I’ve dabbled in boxing, too.

Q: Do you have a particular story you consider your best work? Why?

A: My Bright Eyes podcast is something I’m proud of story-wise, though I can’t take all the credit for that one. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever put together. Novel-wise, I have a steampunk mystery novel I’ve been working through for a few years now that I think is genuinely good at this point.

Q: Do you have an absolute favorite comic book villain? Why are they your favorite?

A: You really can’t get any better than Magneto, can you? He has so many fascinating moral layers and grey areas, and I’m always interested in characters that aren’t so much black and white villains as they are sometimes-antagonists-sometimes-almost-heroes. (His powers are also objectively the BEST MUTANT POWERS EVER, don’t @ me on this.)

Q: How have you managed your time to effectively create while still being able to do other things you love/hold a job/go to school/etc?

A: I’ll let you know when I figure that out.

Right now I’m juggling my senior year of high school and a part-time job along with all of this creative nonsense, so I’ve had to learn how to prioritize and use my time wisely. I don’t watch as much Netflix as I used to. (A bummer that no one wants to hear, but there you have it.) I don’t spend a lot of time on Pinterest. I give myself breaks so I don’t burn out. I break things up into manageable chunks instead of trying to fit ALLL the things into one day. Cramming and hustling constantly isn’t cool, it’s unhealthy, and it’ll burn you out a lot faster than giving yourself some grace to get things done at a slower pace.

Q: What is something you would like to see change in the creative community?

A: We like to have this attitude of intellectual superiority over others, like our art is important and world-changing and we have the responsibility to educate all these non-artist-people who don’t know what beautiful things really are. I think we need to step down from that and realize that we’re not going to save the world, and when it comes down to it, it’s a job, isn’t it? That job is to entertain. To write good stories. It’s NOT to preach and tell people what the right thing to think is.

You’re not important. You’re just someone with a talent.

Q: Do you ever have times of self-doubt and worry that you find hard to get through concerning your creative career? Do you mind sharing about them?

A: I mean, this is probably true for every single artist ever, isn’t it? (If you don’t worry about this, I’m a little worried for you.) For me, however, I spend a lot of time worrying that I’m not pretty enough - I don’t have that #aesthetic, y’all. I don’t have a nice desk space where I sit down and write. I don’t write poetry. My writing style is more blunt and to the point than it is lyrical. And that’s okay, even though most of the time, it doesn’t feel like it. But it’s hard to push through the idea that it’s all right to have my own style, and people are going to like it even if that doesn’t seem like that’s what popular now. I can’t force myself to do someone else’s thing just to get attention. It’ll come across as fake (and rightly so), which is the opposite of helpful.

Q: Where/how do you gather the most inspiration for writing?

A: TV shows! I’m a huge reader, but I also love TV quite a lot, and I’ve seen a good amount of it in a wide variety of genres. It’s easier to find shows in the genres I enjoy for whatever reason, and something about getting visuals helps my brain work in a way that reading words doesn’t. If I need inspiration, I’ll find myself going to a show I love (Firefly, Star Trek, LOST, etc.) and binging for a little bit, to get my brain jump-started again.

Q: What is your biggest dream relating to your creative career?

A: It’s been a goal of mine for a while now to be able to write/direct a movie. (Hopefully both at once but I’d take one or the other, too.) Filmmaking intrigues me in so many ways and it would be just the coolest to try my hand at it.

Q: What do you feel has been a defining moment in your career so far?

A: Launching this podcast of mine! It’s the first thing I’ve done that has been really professional and promoted and put-out-there, and the first project I’ve pursued further than just writing it. I’ve collaborated, managed something, and turned it into a real thing I can be proud of, and that’s sort of made it click that I can do these things for real.

Q: What do you feel is the hardest part of being an independent artist?

A: Not worrying about what other people think. We want validation — I want validation constantly — and we want people to love our stuff right here and right now, so it’s a challenge to step back and realize that you’re not in a rush and you should focus on your work. Not getting sucked up into that takes time and I still have yet to perfect it.

Q: And what is the most rewarding?

A: Getting to create! I don’t know if there’s anything that feels better than the simple act of playing around with stories.

Q: Finally, where do you see your career heading in the near future? Any big changes or excitement ahead that you’re looking forward to?

A: Obviously the podcast is getting exciting results, and that’s the big thing right now. We have some *coughcough* exciting developments coming on that front…


  Thanks for being with us today, Aimee, and thank you all for checking out this third installment of indie artists week! Be here tomorrow for #4!

  How are you enjoying the series so far? Did you check out Aimee's podcast? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

2 comments:

  1. GO Aimee!!!! Your bio is awesome xD And I reallllyyyy need to catch up on the Bright Eyes Project. You're doing amazing things! <3

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  2. "FINISH THINGS" is definitely advice I need to/am trying to take to heart. I think skipping around between ideas is the reason I haven't finished a first draft yet, but I'm hoping to make my WIP the one.

    Thanks, Aimee and Emily, for the excellent long interview! Aimee, you raised some interesting thoughts. :)
    - Jem Jones

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