Nurturing Craft in an Age of Content: An Interview with Hayley Morgan
This is the eleventh in our series of interviews with creatives who stay craft-focused in an era of easy-to-consume, shareable internet content. Our aim is to explore the tension of art versus entertainment, empowering readers to find, nurture, and stay true to the stories inside of them. Enjoy!
Hayley Morgan is the kind of girl you think you'd envy, but can't. Because she's just so dang nice. Mom of four boys, entrepreneur, and most recently, best-selling author, Hayley wields a gracious but powerful internet presence we can all learn from. In this interview, we chat about the confluence of her creative endeavors and how she uses her head, heart, and hands to contribute to each one. Talk about nurturing craft, am I right?
Upwrite Magazine: Your book Wild and Free, which you co-authored with your friend Jess Connolly, came out earlier this year--congrats! What was the book-writing process like with two people, and how did you keep a consistent tone through the book with two distinct voices?
Hayley Morgan: This was something we had to contend with from the very start of the idea of Wild and Free being a book. We knew it would be very unbalanced if just one of us wrote it, so we believed it would be better with both voices. However, we felt strongly that it not be gimmicky or annoying to the reader. Before Wild and Free found a publishing home at Zondervan, we were working on the proposal and started out trying to write it in one melded, consistent voice. That was a terrible idea. We couldn't claim any story as our own without making some chintzy parenthetical statement about who was doing the talking.
Ultimately, we alternated chapters. Jess pretty much ran with Wild, and I owned the concept of Free. We have distinct enough writing voices that there was differentiation, but we're good enough friends to play off one another. Plus, our editor Stephanie Smith is as good as they come. She really protected the book's integrity as far as writing voice goes.
Upwrite: You've also got a few other projects, like Wildly Co., The Tiny Twig, The Influence Network, and most recently, selling your paintings! Each business seems incredibly unique, but I'm sure for you there's a common thread. What's the heart behind all your endeavors and how does it come out in your various projects?
HM: The common thread in all these disparate businesses is that I'm just a very curious person, and I learn best by really getting my head, heart, and hands into a project. I like learning, tinkering, connecting ideas. I've tried to be very buttoned up and strategic. However, I've come to terms with the fact that my soul practically won't let my mind and body carry out a plan if it isn't consistent with the core of who I am. I wish I were different. I make certain "career limiting decisions" by really staying true to myself, but I'm infinitely more at peace when I'm not forcing things or striving to make it all work perfectly.
Upwrite: When you shared with the world that you'll be selling your artwork, you said something really poignant: "Painting for me is getting back to the place I imagine 12-year-old Hayley waiting for 31-year-old Hayley." Can you explain what you mean by that?
HM: I was going through a really confusing time as I wrapped up writing Wild and Free. I'm sure that was just my spirit wrestling with these central concepts of identity and freedom. It was almost as though I was so deep into the ideas that I couldn't buoy up to the surface to live them confidently. I'm one of those people who has to be sure that I'm sure that I'm sure that what I'm putting out into the world is going to be true and life-giving for other people. In that, though, I kind of lost my way a little bit.
In that time, I sent an SOS out to my friend Susie who lives in Austin. I put myself out there and actually took her up on the offer to come down for a visit. She asked me at the time what 12-year-old Hayley was like. What did I beg my mom to let me do when I was 12? What was I doing when I lost track of time? What made me feel like life was all possibility and no hardship?
It was through those questions that I was able to start walking back to a more unaffected Hayley. It sounds woo-woo, but I was having a hard time hearing myself through all the noise of the world. Painting helps me quiet it all down.
Upwrite: From what I've gathered, even though your life must be so busy, you're a big fan of slow, no-fuss living--for example, pursuing minimalism through capsule wardrobes and choosing to purchase ethical, well-made clothing. Does this value find its way into your creative work? How do you incorporate this sense of wholesome simplicity in your art and writing, if at all?
HM: I am really easily overstimulated, and because of that I make deliberate choices about keeping a lot of life quiet, small, and slow. I think I keep the rest of life a little no-fuss so that I can pursue a lot of different ideas and interests. I try to stay nimble so that I can change directions or abandon things if they aren't working.
As far as writing goes, I'm always way too far under my word limits. It's the worst. I've always taken to heart the idea of writing about hard things simply. I like to write clearly. I like to write to be understood. I feel like non-fiction books could be half as long and doubly useful. However, I like the fiction I read to be unending, so give me the fattest fiction possible.
Upwrite: How do you stay inspired as a mom of four who runs multiple businesses? What resources or tools keep the creative fire alive in you? And what role does Diet Mt. Dew play? ;)
Upwrite: I do know this (and it sounds trite and overdone): scrolling the Internet does not inspire me. I always THINK it will, but the Internet never delivers on that. I am a knowledge hound, and I'm always seeking to satiate my curiosity. That means that I always have 472 tabs open in my browser, and 97 articles I'm meaning to read from Twitter. Having a constant and vast river of information will eventually deaden my senses. I won't realize it until I feel ill from the consumption. The way I know that I've overdone it is noticing a few things:
1. I feel like there is nothing new to say.
2. I feel like everyone else is doing such AMAZING things.
3. I feel like I can't process my feelings.
So, when I really want to get excited about life again, I ground myself in the fleshy, infinitely satisfying reality of my life. I'll head to the art store. I'll take my boys over to my grandparent's house and pick veggies from their garden while the boys play basketball. I'll read words on paper under the warm glow of a lamp instead of scrolling the icy glow of a screen.
And I'm always drinking Diet Mt. Dew. It's my one vice. My husband hates it, but he's resigned to the fact that I'm not ready to give up my constant and steady stream of synthetic energy.