When I first started writing, I remember researching everything I could about other writer's processes. How did they develop a story? Did they know on page 100 what they'd write on page 275? And why hadn't I developed that ability? It fascinates me to learn about what drives people. What makes them go. How they tackle their day to day and how their big dreams land in the mix.
It's no different with art or scrapbooking or business. I love to find out what makes people tick. Especially people I admire. And today, I get to share half of my interview with one of those people.
The always lovely Ali Edwards.
Photo by Tracey Clark
I had the joy of meeting Ali at a CKU many years ago. In person, she is just as you'd imagine her to be...kind, humble and a lot of fun. She's an author, designer and teacher and you can check out more of her work HERE.
Ali is so down to earth and laid back...a big part of why we all love her so much! Read on to discover even more reasons to love her...
[Ali] I first started having a word of the year for myself in 2006. I love lists and have made lots of resolutions lists in the past but something about having a single word/concept to focus on really resonated with me. If I remember right the idea grew out of/was inspired by Andrea Scher’s Mondo Beyondo list (now an online class: http://www.mondobeyondo.org/). (Original link to Andrea’s Mondo Beyondo in 2004:)
Having One Little Word for myself helps me focus – I usually have something I’d like to have come into my life related to my word. It also always, without fail, makes itself visible to me in ways I never would have imagined. I love that about the journey and the process.
I never expected it to take off, but I so love reading all the words each year and I really love the community that has developed around it (especially through my year-long class at Big Picture Classes).
Over the last few years of doing One Little Word I’ve found other people online who have similar ideas they’ve shared with their own communities – I’m definitely not alone in the idea and would never want to take credit for “inventing” it. It was something that made sense to me so I shared it.
[Ali] Leading by example. Offering choices. Having things on hand and available (paints, pens, crayons, sidewalk chalk, etc). Teaching them that there’s not always a right or a wrong way to do things. Also teaching that creativity does not only mean you make art projects – creativity can be in how you see the world, in how you approach problems, etc.
[Courtney] It's such a part of your day-to-day lives. You've turned capturing the everyday into an artform. Why is this important to you?
[Ali] It’s really everything to me. Focusing on being thankful for and documenting our everyday has made a major difference in how I approach life. I notice things that I never saw before. I’m more patient overall. My pace is slower and the choices I make are often grounded in a fundamental appreciation for how I want to live our everyday lives.
To me there is so much beauty in the monotony – really, it makes up the bulk of our lives. I think a lot about how this is our one life and how do I want my time to be spent here. I want my time to be spent enjoying more days than not – enjoying the basic simple things (like a hot cup of tea, the sound of one of my kids reading books, walking barefoot in our backyard, etc).
For me, a lot of this celebrating the everyday came about during the process of my son being diagnosed with autism. The way I thought my life was going to go was changing significantly and it was through that initial tumoil/grieving that I began to really watch how Simon was experiencing the world. He’s the best at celebrating all the little things. His delight at being served his favorite breakfast is so awesome.
He’s really the one that taught me how important it is to celebrate the wonderful little things in life.
[Ali] I’d like to write another book or a series of smaller e-books. I’m also planning to do more online classes both through Big Picture and on my own site. I’ve always got something on my list.
[Courtney] What’s your favorite part of your job?
[Ali] Being my own boss. Working from home. Getting to do something that I really, really love. Having a job that has a lot of different parts: designing, creating pages, writing, photography, etc. If I don’t feel like doing one thing there’s usually something else that’s waiting to be done that will use an entirely different part of my brain.
[Courtney] Do you feel pressured to constantly be innovative and unique?
[Ali] To be honest I don’t very often. I was recently interviewed and I mentioned how I have no problem repeating designs I’ve done in the past. If it worked for me once – had room for photos and the story – then why not use it again? Constantly re-inventing the wheel takes energy away from my main focus - the words and the photos.
For the last couple of years I’ve used mainly white cardstock – why? Because I love it. Maybe I’ll move away from it again in the future but for now it’s my favorite.
[Courtney] I love what you said about reinventing the wheel taking energy from your main focus. What a great point. You know, looking at you, it’s easy for the rest of us to assume you have everything together and never deal with a shred of self-doubt. Is that the case? If not, how do you deal with it?
[Ali] Ah, assumptions. I definitely don’t have it all together and I definitely live with self-doubt.
Everyone has self-doubt in his or her lives in one form or another. I don’t work with a lot of doubt related to creating scrapbook layouts or telling stories, but I face it in other areas of my life.
One of my perspectives related to creating pages is that’s really no right or wrong way to put a layout together. Once you really own that idea it’s a lot tougher to doubt the choices you are making.
The main way I deal with self-doubt is by attacking it head on – making new choices, taking things one step at a time, taking action.
[Ali] My kids and they way they see the world. Magazines. Enlarged photos. Travel. Antique stores. I’m inspired by so many things – I’m always open to finding inspiration because I never know where it will come from next.
[Courtney] Where do you get your ideas and how do they evolve from a little spark to a reality?
[Ali] Ideas come to me often when I’m exercising. At first I thought it was a fluke, but it’s been fairly consistent recently.
Ideas pop up for me all the time. Often it’s when I just going about the regular routines of my day (reading the newspaper, driving the car, cooking breakfast). I’m also inspired by all kinds of things I find online – visual stuff that I want to incorporate into something I’ve got working on or a spark for something different completely.
Right now I’m using a spiral notebook to keep track of ideas. I’ve tried lots of different methods but good old-fashioned handwritten lists seem to work the best. I do use a program called Things to keep track of more long-term projects.
[Ali] Sure. Over the years I’ve learned to have a pretty good filter – a filter that allows me to disregard the things that are completely untrue and/or come from a mean/anonymous place but also allows me to take constructive criticism and see if there’s some truth to it that will help me to grow as a creative business person. There’s such a difference between people who simply spew hate because of the anonymous nature of the Internet and those who are genuinely giving constructive criticism.
[Courtney] Describe a typical day.
[Ali] I wrote a post on that recently that details a working day for me called Daily Work At Home Rhythms And Things I Have Learned.
[Ali] I think my perfect day would begin by waking up on vacation (either tropical or European), having a leisurely local breakfast with something hot to drink and something to read, happy kids eager for adventure, embarking on some sort of adventure (swimming, hiking, biking, walking, etc) with lunch along the way. Our adventure would be followed by an afternoon nap/downtime and then getting dressed up for dinner. Dinner would be outdoors, followed by a walk through the town or along the beach.
If we weren’t lucky enough to be on vacation, I love days here at home where we have a morning adventure with a leisurely rest in the afternoon and then have friends over for dinner.
[Courtney] Do you have a “life motto” or something you strive towards on a continuous basis?
[Ali] I’ve had a few over the years – they are continually evolving based on what’s happening in my life at the time. Simplicity is always something on my mind – how can I not make things more complicated than they need to be? Having less and living more. Life is for living.
I also really strive towards creating a calm, loving environment in my home where my kids can grow and flourish.
[Ali] I think I’m constantly surprised. I’m still surprised that it has become what it is today. It’s been a combination of right place/right time and a good dose of very consistent hard work.
At times I’m surprised at how much I love what I do and that I still, after nine years, love scrapbooking/memory keeping/storytelling so very much.
[Courtney] Why is it important to you to tell your stories? What drives you to do that?
[Ali] To me, it helps me make sense of our lives. Through my layouts I reflect, I celebrate, I document, and I make my memories visible.
Photo By Tracey Clark
[Courtney] And my favorite question...Describe yourself in three words.
[Ali] Practical. Optimistic. Evolving.