Monday Must: Ask An Expert: Alissa Hessler
Alissa is a multimedia storyteller, photographer, educator and creative director. Her mission is to inspire people to reconnect with nature, community, creative and self.
We are fortunate enough to have Alissa answer questions from our community about photography, storytelling, making a big life transition, growing food, building community, moving to the country, finding your voice and anything related to making an idea come to life.
1. How do you navigate big changes? It seems so much easier when I was younger and had no dependents or responsibility. Now making a big change seems overwhelming.
First, you have to state your intention - what change do you want to make and why? If it is a change that involves yourself and others (family, etc.) include them in the conversations. Once you have a clear idea of what you collectively want to do you can go about working towards the goal. It can be really helpful to create a roadmap that you can look back on if you get stuck, overwhelmed or hit a brick wall. This roadmap can be words on a paper, a video/audio recording stating what your goal is and why you need to make the change or even a vision/pinterest board of images. Try to be as flexible, open-minded and patient as you can - big changes take time to work towards and to ease into. Go with the flow and trust in yourself and the process. You can go at your own speed but it can be really motivating and helpful to set a realistic deadline (even if that is several years down the line).
2. I want to get back to being "one with the earth"...but I live in a city where do I begin?
If you have a yard, balcony or sunny window I would start by growing something - herbs, a try of microgreens, a tomato in a pot - whatever space will allow. There are loads of Youtube videos that can give you pointers. If you are growing indoors you can grow any time of year but you will need a grow light on a timer for best results. If you have space to grow outside or have access to a community growing space, find out what your growing zone is so you know when to plant. Getting your hands in the soil is good for your mental, physical and spiritual health. In my humble opinion, gardening is free therapy.
If you don’t have compost available and you have a decent size space with room to grow a raised bed outside I would consider getting a worm bin to feed your food scraps and make incredible compost for your garden. If you have a backyard, and your city allows it, you might even try getting a couple of laying hens. I know a lot of people who built an urban homestead before moving so that they would feel prepared when they expanded to more land.
I would also look at your consumption - do you have a reusable mug and containers for coffee and to-go pickups? Do you shop at farmers markets for your produce? Do you buy from fast fashion brands? Do you use paper towels or reusable rags to clean? Do you buy bulk items and bring your own containers? There are small changes you can make that can help minimize your impact. You don’t have to be perfect or vigilant - it’s just good to be mindful and check in to see if there are ways you can reduce what you consume and throw away.
Lastly, I would spend as much time in nature as you can. Get out for a walk in the park every day. Sit and listen to the birds. Pay attention to the changing seasons. It is easy to feel really detached from the natural world when in the city, but if you are intentional about it you can usually find places where you can sit in nature, tune in and appreciate.
3. I feel stuck to try something new creatively - especially as a woman. Imposter syndrome is so real. How do you balance work and creative side hobbies?
Take bites of it - everyday! When I missed drawing I decided that I would do 100 days of art. I woke up early before work and gave myself 30 minutes to make a drawing. Some days it was like pulling teeth - while other days it flowed. By the end I was significantly better than when I started. It was honestly wild to see the first drawing and the last one side-by-side.
If you want to write - write! If you want to take pictures - take them! If you want to sing or play music - do it! If something turns you on - practice at it. Life is too short to not do what you love to do. It doesn’t matter if you can’t make a living from it. You are still an artist even if you don’t sell work. Don’t get hung up on labels. As someone who has made a living in the arts - I will say that it often isn’t as fun making work for others versus just creating for the sake of creating. You don’t have to turn your hobby into your career in order to be successful at it. Success, to me, is finding enjoyment and happiness from whatever it is that I am doing.
As for balancing work and creativity - I do creative projects mostly in my off-hours. That said, I’ve also started to leverage my personal creative projects to get jobs - so there has been some overlap. I used to think I had no time for personal creative pursuits but once I realized how good I felt after singing, drawing, taking pictures, etc. I decided to make time. We waste so much time on our phones, watching tv, etc. Allocate that time towards a new creative pursuit.
My advice for anyone battling imposter syndrome is: First, start a creative personal project - have a concept and follow it through to the end. This project will make you better at whatever thing it is that you are working at. Second, believe in yourself and just “fake it until you make it.” I can’t tell you how many professional creatives I’ve met who still battle with imposter syndrome. We are all on a journey, give yourself grace and keep working and getting better at it. There is that 10,000 hour rule that I think is honestly pretty helpful because it takes time to master something. Just keep making and then keep looking back at past work so you can see the progression. Creativity is a muscle that needs to be worked to stay strong. Give yourself a schedule and stick to it. You got this!