Let’s be honest. Most of us, at one point or another, have dreamed about quitting our day jobs to follow our dreams. But few of us ever really do. Well, today’s Dream Chaser, Kristan Hoffman, is one of the rare exceptions. A couple weeks ago, Kristan put her money where her mouth is when she resigned from her job and plunged into the great unknown…otherwise known as the literary world. And today, Kristan is sharing her exciting (and slightly scary) journey with us…
Beyond the Gray: Tell us about yourself. What is your dream? How are you working towards it?
Kristan Hoffman: I’m Kristan, a 25-year-old fiction writer. That’s all I’ve wanted to be since I was 9. Well, not the 25 part. I never really pictured myself past 21. I also never pictured myself living in Cincinnati, OH, but, well, that’s where I find myself.
BTG: Tell us about a time you found yourself in “the gray”.
KH: Since I’ve spent most of my life working towards my dream, I think my experiences with “the gray” are relatively minimal. That said, I’ve definitely fallen into it a couple times. Being in the gray wasn’t scary, exactly… But to see where I wanted to be and know I was going in the wrong direction? It was frustrating! What was scary was deciding to make the change, to go in a new direction, to try and leave the gray.
For example, in college I originally planned to double major in creative writing and computer science. I loved them both, and I was doing well, but in my sophomore year I was already spending 5-6 hours a night coding. That didn’t leave much time for writing. (Or sleeping.) Three days before the Course Add/Drop date, I realized I had to make a choice. After a teary conversation with my (wonderfully supportive) parents, I dropped my compsci classes and just barely cobbled together enough credits to still be a full-time student.
The rest of my college experience was amazing, because I could focus on the things I really loved (writing, dancing, being a Resident Assistant) and I saw myself grow tremendously.
BTG: You recently resigned from your job to pursue writing full-time. Tell us about that decision. What fears did you face? How did you prepare for it financially? How did everyone react? And how did you ultimately find the courage to take the leap?
KH: The long answer can be found here: http://kristanhoffman.com/2011/01/07/all-in/.
The short answer is that I had fallen into the gray once again. After college, all my friends were either going to grad/law/med school, or working, so I thought I had to too. I got lucky and landed at a design firm — a fun, creative environment with a wonderful staff. But just like with my compsci classes, I would get home at the end of the day too mentally drained to write.
After the first year, I voluntarily “downgraded” from client relations manager to receptionist. And for two and a half years, that was perfect. I had some income, I had a supportive work environment, and I had time/energy to write, even during the workday! (I really do recommend a situation like that for developing writers.) But I think I’ve reached a point now where, given more time, I could really “make things happen.” And I wanted to give myself that time.
Fortunately my parents, boyfriend, and friends all understand and agree. I’ll be honest: it’s terrifying to eat through my savings, to imagine failure and how embarrassing that would be. But I have faith in myself, so even if things don’t go exactly as planned (and really, what ever does?) I know I’ll be okay.
BTG: In your essay “Dreams” you admit that sometimes you would rather be “sleeping, or going out with friends, or eating a pint of ice cream on the sofa while watching Grey’s Anatomy.” How do you stay disciplined as a writer?
KH: Disciplined? HAHAHAHAHA.
Oh sorry, you were serious.
There are times when I want to write so badly it hurts. Times where the story is itching me, and I desperately need to scratch. But usually I’m driving, or in a meeting, or falling asleep, or in some other terribly inconvenient situation.
If I could, I would bottle up that itchy feeling and drink some whenever I sat down to write. But I can’t, so instead I do my best to make steady progress each week. My 2011 “resolution” is to bring new pages to my crit group every Monday. Basically I believe in a combination of “butt in chair” and “you can’t fix a blank page.”
BTG: What is your favorite topic to write about? Genre?
KH: I don’t really have a favorite topic, per se, but my favorite stories feature believable characters in compelling situations. Like JOY LUCK CLUB by Amy Tan, HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, or MERCY by Jodi Picoult. And if you couldn’t tell from those examples, I love me some Strong Female Characters — I think it’s important (and fun!) to show girls and women doing brave/adventurous things just like boys and men.
BTG: Tell us about your biggest writing success to date. How did it feel?
KH: I suppose my biggest writing success to date would be winning the St. Martin’s Press “New Adult” contest at the end of 2008, which led to the opportunity to be published in 2009. It didn’t pan out, but the SMP team was highly complimentary of my work, and I learned a lot from my experience with them. Emotionally it was a rollercoaster — exhilaration, fear, exhaustion, impatience, hope, disappointment — but that’s pretty much a normal day for any writer.
(If anyone’s interested, my web series TWENTY-SOMEWHERE is what I entered into the contest, and what SMP was considering for publication. Now it’s available as an eBook at Amazon, Smashwords, and the iTunes bookstore. For more information, please visit http://kristanhoffman.com/writing/.)
BTG: On your blog, you mention that you also dabble in design and photography. Do you find that these other creative outlets impact your writing or make you a better writer? If so, how?
KH: Hmm, I don’t know if they make me a better writer, so much as they are other extensions of my creative side. I dance and play piano too (although neither very well, haha). I just like art in all its forms, and it has always seemed natural to me to try and create my own.
KH: Do it! Trust me, it’s both that simple and that complicated.
(But really, it’s your life, and you only get one, so you may as well try and make your own happiness.)
To cheer on Kristan as she turns her writing dreams into reality, head over to www.kristanhoffman.com.
Are you chasing a dream? If so, I’d love to hear from you!
E-mail me at: Erika (dot) Liodice (at sign) hotmail (dot) com