Cool People: Alexandra Franzen
After taking it away due to some insecurities, I’m reviving my interview series. Adjustments to it have been made, which I imagine you’ll see in this one featuring Alexandra Franzen, whose blog I’ve been following for I-don’t-know-how-long. The original purpose of Cool People remains: to redefine “inspiration”.
When I received the email about her new book and how she was accepting interviews from fellow bloggers, too, I squealed a little!
I asked questions about Alexandra’s latest book, You’re Going to Survive, and writing life—but also about more personal things, like criticism, online scrutiny and adversity.
1. What inspired or influenced you to create You’re Going to Survive?
Here’s the short-ish version of the story…
I fell in love with a handsome chef. He told me his dream was to start his own restaurant. I said, “Let’s do it together! I will help you!” And we did. And things went pretty great. Until (dun dun dunnnnn) we got our first really awful customer review on Yelp. It was painful. I didn’t handle it very well. To be honest, I completely freaked out.
After reading that icky review, my mind kept spinning with anxiety about the future of our fledgling restaurant. I knew I needed some support. So, I emailed a bunch of friends to tell them what had happened.
I asked my friends for advice, a pep talk, maybe just a few words of encouragement. My friends responded so generously—sharing all kinds of stories about tough experiences they’d had in the past and how they go through it, which helped me to feel calmer.
What I realized is, “Whoa. I am totally not alone.” Every single one of my friends had been through a seriously discouraging experience—a bad review, a hysterical client, not getting a promotion, getting mocked by online bullies, and worse.
I kept thinking, “My friends have survived so much. Their stories are so inspiring. Their stories should be in a book. Hmm, actually, maybe I should write that book…” And so, I started putting together a Word document and a book outline which eventually became: You’re Going to Survive.
2. I remember when you shared about how you were criticized for sharing your after-election thoughts and related on the same level, but for a different topic. How do you handle being judged with each new thing you create and send out?
I often think about that wonderful quote from Dita Von Teese where she says:
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
It’s so true! It really doesn’t matter what you’re saying, writing, or creating—there’s always going to be someone who says “I love this!” and someone who says “Ugh, no, this is the worst.”
As a writer and entrepreneur, I know it is literally impossible to create something that delights 100% of the human population. It’s never going to happen. I try to remind myself of this fact and just accept it. Also, I try to focus my attention on the people who appreciate what I’m doing—family, friends, clients who like working with me, the kind people who get my newsletters each month. I focus on them and try to tune out the rest. It’s not easy, but what else can we do?
3. How are online creators susceptible to scrutiny? How do you think it differs online, where anonymity runs wild, as opposed to offline, where identity is not to easily hidden?
The Internet is a miraculous tool that can be used to do incredible good in the world. The flip side is that, unfortunately, this tool can be misused. We see this all the time—snarky blog comments, online bullying, hysterical Yelp and Amazon reviews that leave you wondering, “Dear god, was it truly necessary for them to write such vicious things?”
People often post things online that they would never, ever say in “real life.” I’ve been guilty of this in the past, at times—which is why I recently wrote an Internet Pledge, outlining how I want to treat others and be treated, too. We can all pledge to do better.
4. What advice do you have for people who are perhaps struggling to hold their own while pushing up against adversity with all they’ve got?
Breathe. Talk to a friend. Cry if you need to. Read or listen to stories from people who’ve survived difficult things, too—because this will remind you that human beings are incredibly resilient. If they survived, then you can, too.
5. Is there anything about being a writer that you think is misunderstood by non-writers?
There are lots of myths and misconceptions about writers, for sure.
Some common ones:
- Writers don’t make any money. This is not necessarily true. There are so many ways to earn a living as a writer. You can do copywriting, content writing, technical writing, you can write for blogs and websites, you can teach writing classes, you can work as a publicist, communication strategist, social media director, or some other job that requires strong writing skills… the list goes on and on.
- Writers only write when they feel inspired. Nope! Most professional writers have to write all the time, hitting deadlines every week, whether they feel particularly “inspired” or not. It’s just like a cook at a restaurant who has to make food every day regardless of whether they’re feeling inspired or not. They just suit up and get it done.
- Writers are tortured artists with volatile emotions who smoke and drink constantly. They can be! But most of the successful writers that I know are very balanced people who take good care of themselves. They sleep eight hours a night. They eat well. They work out. They meditate. They know that a clear, calm mind = better writing and productivity.
6. What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as a writer so far?
Every single time I get an email or snail mail letter from someone who enjoys my writing, I am amazed and grateful. Many times, I start crying right at my desk. It’s the greatest feeling. It never gets old.
7. If you had a personal rider, what would be on it? (At least one thing, if it’s too personal.)
What a fun question! My rider would include:
- Wireless headphones so I can listen to music all day long. (Essential!)
- Dark roast coffee, half & half, and a cute coffee mug.
- Stroopwafel cookies because I’m obsessed with them.
- A yoga mat so I can stretch out.
- If I’m allowed to have ANYTHING I want, um, may I request a personal masseuse and maybe some fancy champagne? Haha!
8. What is your favorite quote?
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” —the Dalai Lama
How to connect with Alexandra Franzen
Alexandra Franzen is a writer, consultant, and entrepreneur based in Portland, Oregon. Her writing has been featured on websites like Time, Forbes, and Newsweek, and she’s been mentioned in places like The New York Times Small Business Blog, The Atlantic, and Inc.
You’re Going to Survive is a book about how to deal with discouraging situations in your career, and how to build more resilience and keep marching towards your goals. The book has been called “uplifting and encouraging” and “your new best friend on a bad day.” It’s available for pre-order now.