If you haven’t heard of Thought Catalog, then you’ve been missing out on the true meaning (and future) of online journalism at its best. Thought Catalog is a collection of the most clever, well-written, witty, thoughtful, poignant, positive, and fun prose — especially relevant to those of us in our twenties and thirties.
I had the pleasure of chatting with my new friend Chelsea Fagan, who is my favorite author on the site. This 23-year-old has more wisdom in her fingertips than most people her age. I’m so grateful for our conversation.
I’ll be honest: I would have written a full profile piece about Ms. Fagan, but I think our interview in its raw form is much more charming! Here’s our fabulous Q&A (via Facebook). I hope you find it as inspiring and beautiful as I did!
Holly Pinafore (HP): So, you must be so stoked. You’ve got thousandsssss of people reading your stuff. And a lot of fans.
Chelsea Fagan (CF): It’s wonderful, though still pretty strange. I don’t think I consider my readers as ‘fans,’ it seems too pretentious.
HP: You’re so down-to-earth. Usually the best ones are. So, when did you know you were a writer? Some people discover their talents at a super young age. Did you?
CF: I mean, I always loved writing. I kept a blog in high school that made me pretty infamous among the student body, and I used to write a fake soap opera about my social group that I would email once weekly to all of my friends. So I knew it was something I enjoyed, but I didn’t think it was possible to make a career from until I actually started doing it professionally.
HP: OMG – fake soap opera? Like, you created characters? LOL
CF: Yeah, it was called “As Time Fades Away” and it starred a melodramatic version of all of my friends. I think my friends all have a copy or two printed out somewhere. But it was never online — I sent it out in private emails.
HP: So, I take it you get a lot of writing ideas from real life. And the topics you blog about are super relevant to my life and the lives of Holly Pinafore readers, since we’re all in the same age group (give or take a few years). Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?
CF: As lame as it sounds, I just talk about daily life. Life provides pretty much limitless writing topics, and I have no limits as far as subject matter. I try to never let myself get “writer’s block,” because there is always something to think about.
HP: Do you ever feel the need to restrict yourself, or do you think you pretty much let it all out without regret?
CF: I feel that it’s important to respect not so much my own privacy, but the privacy of people in my life who trust me. I think there’s a big premium put on “full disclosure” in writing right now, and I think that can be very unhealthy in a lot of ways. I think it should be about respect, above all, because these are real human beings, and not just fodder for pageviews.
HP. Beautifully put. And by the way, when writing about less serious topics, where in hell do you get your fabulous witticisms and sense of humor from?
CF: Heh. Thank you. My dad is a political cartoonist and my mother was a theater director for many years, and they’re both hilarious. If I’m ever witty, you can credit them.
HP: There. You. Go! What sorts of advice have your parents given you throughout the years? How have they inspired you creatively?
CF: My parents mostly instilled in me the idea that I would have to work very hard if I wanted a job I love, as they have. Watching my father create a business and reputation as an illustrator when he had to start by bringing a portfolio door-to-door in the summer heat is pretty inspiring. I feel really lucky to have such easy access to communication, and I don’t want to take it for granted. A huge part of “creativity” is being creative in the business sense, being adaptable — and I think they really drove that home.
HP: And on your way to having the job you love, have you had to do any other jobs on the side? I find that so many writers are complaining that they can’t make a living out of the job they love – they have to wait tables on the side and do things they’re not so happy doing. But you’ve risen above that challenge. I would love for you to give some advice to our readers in this area.
CF: Well, when I started writing, it was just for fun. I didn’t anticipate that it would be something that could actually support me, I was still a student and I was working as an au pair here in Paris. But I eventually started making more and more money doing it, so I stopped school and quit my job as an au pair. It’s really thrilling to be able to do what you love for a living, but it’s definitely still a job. I know that it can be frustrating to have to work another job while writing — I did it for some time — but becoming a full-time writer is often something that happens piece-by-piece today. You have to slowly build your name, your client list, your byline. It’s something that demands patience, but each milestone is very much worth it, if writing is what you want to do with your life.
HP: What do you like to do when you’re not working so hard? What relaxes you and keeps you in your “zone”?
CF: Well, I really enjoy dancing. I’ve been dancing swing for some years, and actually used to teach it back in the states for a while. I have been getting into salsa as well lately. I have a pretty stationary job (where I work alone), so it’s nice to do something that gets me out and social and moving. I, of course, enjoy great food and wine and being with friends. Perhaps my biggest “in the zone” moment each day is cooking dinner. If I weren’t a writer, I’d probably want to be a chef of some kind.
HP: Do you ever stress out? How do you deal with the stress of being a writer? Maybe you could give ME a few pointers!
CF: I guess I stress sometimes like everyone does, but I write upwards of 2,000 words a day, so I don’t really give myself time to think about it, I just keep moving. This week is actually my first full week of vacation this year, and I’m looking forward to being outside and offline as much as possible — that always puts things in perspective.
HP: Excellent. Ok. Final questions: 1) favorite authors? 2) favorite films? 3) favorite quote?
CF: Favorite author would be Bill Bryson, Norton Juster, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, of course. Films would be Moonstruck, A Fish Called Wanda, The Social Network, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Welcome To The Dollhouse, and Defending Your Life. Then quote would probably be a french one, don’t know the author, credited to anonymous as far as I can find:
“Offrir l’amitié a qui veut l’amour, c’est donner du pain a qui meurt de soif.” Which means, offering friendship to someone who wants love is giving bread to someone dying of thirst.
Chelsea Fagan currently lives in Paris, France. She’ll be moving to New York in early 2013, as the TC headquarters are based in Brooklyn. Yahoo! Check out her page on Thought Catalog, and follow her on Twitter!
Correction made on 9/17/12: We originally said that the TC headquarters will soon be based in Brooklyn, but they’ve actually been there for some time. Whoops! Sorry about that error
Photo credit: Chelsea Fagan