On Balancing Work + Art: Inspired by Allison Ranieri

Writing while you have a full-time or part time job that has nothing to do with it?

Well, I know about that! And so does the talented Allison Ranieri.

Recently I got PhD funding but because I’m studying in England without being English – how do I dare! – it doesn´t come with a monthly payment to help me eat and sleep in a sheltered place and things like that.

I must confess I was very annoyed by this – even when many would tell me I’m lucky enough because if I was not from the EU I could have never applied for this money in the first place!

I don´t understand these rules – I’m leaving my mother togue to write in English, are they not impressed by my sacrifice?

But then I wathed Allison Raineri’s YouTube series ‘A Week in the Life of an Illustrator (Working 9-5 Day Job) Challenge. And that was very inspiring and made me think about all the positive aspects that come from (trying to) balance a daily job and your true passion.

So let’s get started!

1. It brings experiences.


Even Emily Dickinson – who was said not to leave her house in years – surely did many other things apart from writing such as taking care of the home, her siblings’ children, her elder parents, the garden and so on… Unless you’re St Kevin (and you decide to hide yourself in a little cave in Glendalough to meditate/write for years and years) you need to do other things in order to keep getting ideas for writing. In fact, I see the writing/artistic process as something that includes at least three parts:

  1. Compost. You need to go out there and get both shitty and wonderful experiences. Meeting new people, travelling, experiencing new things… but also suffering disgraces and all sort of scary events (like my Cumbrian spiders) open your mind to new worlds of ideas.
  2. The craft. Getting your hands directly into your creation.
  3. The response. Unless you’re St Kevin, your art will get out there and you’ll recieve a response. This will shape new projects and can be scary, drainning but also immensly inspiring.


2. Time becomes meaningful.


If you have all day to write chances are that laziness and procratination are going to get in your way. The daily grind is something feared by many (I include myself). At the end of the day, combining writing with other activities you must do means that whenever you have that single hour to write you’re going to take the most of it (instead of checking out Facebook). I think that´s why people like Kathleen Jones – an amazing poet – managed to launch a great writing career even when she had to take care of four children and provide for them!

3. It Makes you more productive.


You take every chance yo go out to research, to interview/ask someone who you admire, to try new productivity techniques… Whenever you’ve all time in front of you to spend is very easy to accomodate to the routine and think you’d do that great thing tomorrow. When it’s not the case, you’ll probably try to grasp the first opportunity you get – because it might be the last one!

4. We’re all humans.


Last but not least: perfection doesn’t exist. Allison always starts her day in these videos doing a lot of to-do lists because she wants to get the most of her day. However, most of the times she struggles completing them. I could feel so related to it. It’s good to make plans to stay focused, but oh, life happens. And sometimes things just get crazy.

Being organised is fundamental to balance work and art, but what is even more important is to acknowledge from the very beginning that we’re all humans. We’re going to miss points in our to-do lists, we’re going to lack inspiration in the most important moments, we’re going to break down at some point in the way… And then, when that happens, it’s important to take a breath, rise and keep walking. Having the motivation clear helps us to advance the path, even if it’s tiny step after tiny step. But never stopping or leaving.

5. Get it all done and then enjoy!


Working, doing art, getting inspired… sometimes you might feel restless (I do, at least). So I also like to stop and do nothing for a while, because otherwise I know I’d just burn myself out (it has happened before). For instance, at least once or twice a week I like to take my evenings free and lazy around reading, playing games, meeting friends, watching movies… Something that I don’t need to take very seriously – because art is, at the end of the day, my most serious occupation, and that can feel a bit like a huge rucksack at my back.

I think that when we’re starting our artistic path is very easy to feel discouraged. We could see around us people already making a living of it and feel like it’s a question of pure luck (and we’re not the chosen ones) or that we’re not talented enough (as these people are). But the truth is, the ones who make it are the ones who are (above all) persistant. Everyone has stories of endurance and dark moments behind – a famous example is J K Rolwing, or you can also listen to this inspiring interview from the Being Boss podcast with the writer Tommy Walker – who at some point thought about living with his family in a tent in the woods.

What I love about Allison Raineri’s series (and all her videos in general) is how she manages to offer honest advice for people like her, who might not make a living just in illustration but are willing to try – and succeed! It’s a pleasure to see how talented and passionated she’s, and definitely I can translate her feelings and aspirations into my writing journey.

Thanks Allison, and thanks to you all for reading this post.

Anyone else out there balancing work and art? I’d love to hear your experiences. Let’s share tips!


Escritora Errante 17: Se Abre Una Puerta.

Las puertas del infinito

Este año no está siendo fácil. Decidí quedarme en el norte de inglaterra por mi sueño de vivir de la escritura, pero la verdad es que desde que empecé el doctorado escribir no ha sido tan divertido como siempre. ¿Qué anda por mi cabeza?

¿Cómo ganar dinero mientras escribo?

¿Cómo encontrar lo más parecido a un hogar en la Pérfida Albión?

¿Es el doctorado en inglés el camino adecuado?

Tras haber conseguido un trabajo me pasé la Semana Santa currando (y recordando por qué quiero ser escritora y no tener un trabajo de oficina para mantener mi salud mental). Luego me fui de vacaciones a España, pero esos días empezaron teñidos de angustia. Primero porque, como buena escritora, me gustan los dramas (e interpretarlos). Mi dos principales preocupaciones:

  1. Solo dan 10 días de vacaciones al año en el trabajo. (Osea… condiciones dickensianas).
  2. La beca del doctorado. No me la dieron el año pasado y me la jugué invirtiendo mis ahorros para pagarme el primer año, cruzando los dedos para que me la dieran los dos años siguientes.


En esos días agridulces en los que me planteaba qué camino tomar si se me cerraban las puertas del doctorado (y la verdad, no se me ocurría nada, porque no me veo trabajando de nueve a cinco en una oficina y escribiendo por las tardes) llegó a mis manos un libro qué precísamente hablaba de puertas: la nueva publicación de José Antonio Cotrina con Víctor Conde.

Cotrina es mi escritor favorito en lengua castellana. Sus palabras me transportan a lugares imposibles y me hacen ver cosas que probablemente solo podría alcanzar bajo los efectos de algún hongo alucinógeno. Su manera de escribir es detallada sin ser barroca (como a mí me gusta) y sus argumentos tienen siempre ese giro oscuro e inesperado que logra afianzarlos en mi memoria. Todos sus libros y personajes (el Conde Sagrada, el Demiurgo, Rocavarancolia…) siguen conmigo aun meses (y años) después de haberlos leído.

Así que en estos días en los que no escribí ni una palabra ni pensaba que iba a leer, su nuevo libro fue como un soplo de aire fresco. Empecé con la primera página y ya no lo pude dejar hasta terminarlo. La historia es una locura: hay magia, acertijos, monjas, números, sueños, paranoias, crueldad, putas, dragones, el Londres victoriano, morsas verdes, ciudades imposibles, dioses e ídolos de la fertilidad…

Fue leerlo y recordad por qué quiero ser escritora. Por qué estoy dispuesta a sacrificar tantas cosas solon por el placer de crear algo parecido.

Las Puertas del Infinito tiene mucho de Cotrina. Una protagonista femenina que no me da arcadas (para variar), sino con la que me siento indentificada. Unas descripciones que podrían ser cuadros de El Bosco. Un final que quiero discutir con los demás lectores (y con el propio autor, ¡ojalá!) Pero quizás, lo más importante es la manera en que te atrapa. Sus frases son como virus malévolos que te devoran el cerebro para controlarte y que sigas leyendo hasta la última página. Y eso, he de decir, es la maestría en el arte de contar historias. Te pueden convencer más o menos ciertos aspectos, pero si al final te quedaste escuchando hasta el final entonces ese barco ha llegado a un puerto.

Hace tiempo que no escribo por diversión. Últimamente todo son fechas de entrega y un número máximo de palabras a cumplir. Pero gracias a Cotrina y a Conde (que no he leído nada suyo pero con ganas estoy después de esto) vuelvo a mirar el arte con otros ojos. Y estoy dispuesta a comer un poco menos y a ser un pelín más pobre solo por seguir creando.

Por cierto, que al final sí terminaré esa trilogía de novelas cortas en la que estoy trabajando. Porque algunas personas en la Pérfida Albión piensan que merecen la pena y han decidido pagarme la matrícula del doctorado los dos años que me quedan. Si hubiera sido inglesa, la gran noticia habría venido con un dinero mensual para mantenerme, pero como nací en un país con sol me toca seguir haciendo malabares para comer/contar con un refugio. Pero… ¡qué importa! Cómo los aperimantes del libro de Cotrina y Conde, he descifrado la clave de esta puerta y estoy más que dispuesta a cruzar el umbral.

¿Qué puertas habéis abierto vosotros?

¡Nos seguimos leyendo! 








You are not alone: Write in the language you want!


Some people ask me why I write in English, when I know it’s going to be twice as difficult to have a writing career in a language that – I don’t have a problem to admit this – I’m still learning and ‘conquering’.

Well… There are many reasons and none at all, but summarising:

  1. I love travelling and I wanted to get out of my country (and English is a lingua franca).
  2. Publishing/getting a writing career in Spain was getting too complicated and depressing.

Truth is, sometimes I feel alone, as if I was a painter using some colours that just I can see – so for other people they are invisible, and artists have to live for their audience as well, so that’s a problem.

Thousands of times I’ve been told that my setences are awckward or that I’m not using grammar in the conventional way. Those are the moments when I feel that writing in another language has challenges I won´t ever overcome because I cannot see these kind of things unless someone (a native, usually) points them out for me.

But… I’m happy, because I’m not alone. When I was doing a Creative Writing MA I used to feel I was the only one struggling in this second tongue to tell stories, and it was pretty frustrating. Thank God, I met other people along the way who were in my same position and inspired me. I seem to be the only one who feels so apologetic (and even an impostor sometimes) because I write in a second language. Whenever I meet other ‘wandering writers’ they seem to be proud of choosing this path and – what is more – usually they maintain they feel more confident writing in English than in their mother togue, something that doesn’t happen to me (so far).

For those of you struggling (or enjoying) writing in English even if it’s not the first language you learned I wanted to bring a compilation of all the interviews we made so far in our radio programme to wandering writers from all over the world. There are tons of valuable advice… Enjoy!

Yamuna photo.jpg

Yamuna Venugopal

She’s a very intense writer who always manages to reach your heart with her simple – yet powerful – prose. She was born in India but came to Lancaster to study Creative Writing. She was my writing pal there and taught me a lot of things about writing. People liked a lot the way she blended Indian English with her writing – in dialogues and descriptions – as well as words from different Indian languages. Reading her stories was like having a free plane ticket for one of the most fascinating countries in the world. I think from her I learned to bring things from my own culture into my writing.


Leonor Macedo.jpg

Leonor Macedo

She’s a Portuguese writer who likes fantasy and YA. She grew up reading English writers such as Neil Gaiman, so that´s why she finds natural to write her dystopian novel in this language. Also, she points out the publishing sector in Portugal is very small. If English is going to give you more chances to write and live doing what you love, go for it!



Monica Guerrasio

What I loved about Monica it’s how easily she talked about writing in both languages, English and Italian (her mother tongue). Since I started writing in English (almost two years ago now) I had felt the need to surround myslef with English books, English cinema, English friends… you could almost say I’m afraid of Spanish as if it was going to ‘pollute’ my English! But sometimes I feel sad about it (hey, Spanish is also cool…) Monica made me think that perhaps switching between different languages just depending the country you’re in can be done. She was also very convinced about translating her own stuff from English to Italian and vice versa. Definitely, something that inspired me a lot, because I can stop seeing languages as ‘enemies’ and start using them in a more complementary way in my art, just as I (try to) do in this blog.


Oscar Delgado Chinchilla.

Oscar was my other writing pal from the MA. What can I see? He’s an amazing Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Steam-punk writer. Check out his stuff there and you’ll get what I mean. He said that writing in English he felt he could be more honest. I also feel I approach writing in different ways depending on the language I write in. Perhaps in English I can be more distant from what I write so I can see the picture and its mechanics better so the final result it’s better (or I feel so). Oscar is also a model to follow because he’s a uni professor (my current goal) and he has this easy way to explain and transmit things in a way that is useful but honest, so you can trust each piece of advice he gives.

We are not alone! These four people really inspired me to continue this journey. They might be the next big name out there, but in any case I’d say that someone who’s so brave as to try writing in another language and sometimes travelling thousand of miles leaving families and friends behind just for the sake of a dream it’s pretty serious about it… Go you!

Have you ever tried to write in a second language? Can you be creative in English? Let’s share experiences!