Welcome back to the Write Styles where today writer and filmmaker Megan Olivier Shares Her Success Story with the Write Styles!
Megan Olivier Shares Her Success Story with the Write Styles
TWS: Hello Megan and welcome to the Write Styles. I and our readers thank you for this wonderful opportunity.
Megan: Thank you so much for having me! I’m so excited to chat with you.
TWS: Megan, you left college at age 19 and I left school at age 13. So I can relate quite a bit to the feeling of sitting at a kitchen table wondering, “What now?” Megan, what advice do you have for those who genuinely don’t fit in high school nor college?
Megan: It’s so funny; when you first leave college or uni, you feel like you’re completely alone. Like you’re the only person in the history of life to find themselves in that situation. Later on you learn there are actually so many people who’ve gone through the exact same thing.
Education doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, I’m sure there a lot of people sitting in university lectures right now who really shouldn’t be there. I don’t think schools explore options like apprenticeships, jobs, starting your own business/self-employment opportunities, or distance learning for those who dislike the classroom environment (in the UK, you can study a degree with the Open University with no prior qualifications – I didn’t find out about that until years after I left education).
It’s as if college and university are the only options. If you know in your heart that education is wrong for you and you don’t need a degree to reach your goals, then accept that about yourself. Why keep pushing yourself to do something that is against your nature when that energy could be pushed into your strengths? I’d do your own research and see what options you have available. And always know that it is possible to get a degree at absolutely any age.
My husband Lewis has just started studying a Nutrition degree – an area he’s so interested in – and at twenty-two he’s nowhere near the oldest on the course. There’s a guy who’s sixty!
You don’t have to have it all figured out before you’re twenty. Take your time and allow yourself to try things. Fail. That’s what being young is all about!
TWS: What or who inspired you to begin writing?
Megan: Oh gosh, that’s a difficult one. As a child I’d always walk around doing weird, flamboyant hand gestures, telling myself stories. When I was lonely on the playground, I’d sit to the side and make up stories about my classmates. I always loved books and my mum read to me from a really young age.
I messed around with stories, songs, poems, and plays throughout my childhood. But I wrote my first serious novel after I left college. My step dad owned a copy of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and it was one of the most inspiring non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Plus, I was working at Lush at the time and one of my co-workers had just published a Young Adult novel; I had living proof that publishing was possible!
TWS: With both your YouTube channel and your career in filming, where do you find the time to write? Or should I rather ask how?
Megan: I think you’ve got to be really strict with yourself. You’ve got to decide that writing is a priority for you and respect your own decision. I hate being told what to do, even I’m the one telling myself to do something, but I hate the guilt of having not written and the feeling of being distanced from my story even more.
I don’t write heaps every day. I give myself a minimum of just 1,000 words 5 days a week because I find that to be sustainable for me, even during times when my life is busy with videography work.
If I forced myself to do 3,000 a day, I’d probably never write again! It’s a balance of trying to keep writing fun but also having enough self-discipline to keep it a part of my routine.
TWS: Which author got you interested in reading? What are your favorite books?
Megan: The first books I can remember reading on my own (I was probably about six or seven at the time) were The Glitter Girls by Caroline Plaisted. Then I found and fell in love with Jacqueline Wilson.
I guess I’ve always loved contemporary fiction and authors who aren’t kind to their characters. My favourite book of all time is Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman.
It’s a dystopian love story set in a world not too dissimilar to apartheid South Africa. I couldn’t stop thinking about for at least a month after I finished reading. If a book makes me cry, it usually ends up pretty high on my all time favorites list. So I guess my goal is to make people cry with my words too!
TWS: You explain in your YouTube channel that you write at least 1000 words a day. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome these days?
Megan: I actually have a video about this coming out in a couple of weeks! I definitely have days that are harder than others. Usually it’s on a Monday after I’ve spent the weekend away from my story.
I’ll make myself do the bare minimum and then close my computer and try again the next day. If I’m struggling, it might be a warning sign that the section I’m writing is a bit boring or filler, so I’ll try to get back to the action and to move the story forwards in some way. I also remind myself that first drafts are not supposed to be perfect.
TWS: What keeps your passion of writing alive? Can we expect another book?
Megan: I think it’s the fact that there is always another idea. I’ll be midway through my current project and my next idea will start screaming for attention. So I always know what I’m going to be working on once my current project has been tucked away.
I write about people and so, as long as I’m having new life experiences and meeting new humans, there’s always going to be something for me to say (hopefully).
TWS: What inspired you to create your YouTube channel and how do you keep that inspiration alive?
Megan: I must’ve been on YouTube for almost ten years now, in some form or another! I’ve always loved the sense of the community and the fact that you make friends all over the world, particularly if you’re introverted and sometimes find it uncomfortable to talk to real-life friends.
I find talking in front of a camera much easier than talking to someone I’ve just met! It’s a great way to express myself and get my voice and ideas out there. In terms of inspiration, I ask myself ‘what do I want to make this month?’ and try my best to avoid looking at the view count.
Hauls might be popular, but I know I’d end up wanting to shoot myself if I had to make one every week.
TWS: You mentioned in your channel that you have started going to the gym. Healthy life – healthy mind! How has gymming affected your writing career?
Megan: In order to write, you have to have some level of confidence in yourself. Taking care of how you look, what you eat, how much you exercise, all of that helps to improve your self-worth. Plus, I feel like there are lots of similarities between writing and exercise.
As far as I know, nobody recommends weight lifting for much longer than an hour a day. Any time you spend in the gym after that first hour isn’t going to benefit you. For me, writing is the same. A little bit every day is much more sustainable than pushing myself and burning out.
Similarly, if you were new to exercise, the advice would usually be don’t push yourself too hard – you don’t want to injure yourself. Start light. Start with twenty or thirty minutes a day. I think you can apply the same to writing. Don’t push yourself too hard in the beginning – you don’t want to scare yourself away before you’ve even given yourself a chance.
Start with a just a few words or stick a timer on for twenty or thirty minutes a day. Those words can really add up over time, just like the effort you put in at the gym. One day you’ll look up and you’ve got biceps! And one day you’ll look up and you’ve got a first draft of a full-length novel!
TWS: What is your favorite perk about being self employed?
Megan: Freedom! I’m crap at being told what to do. I usually plan out my day the night before and I like how each day is completely different. I can go to the gym during the quiet, off-peak time. I can slot in writing wherever I like.
TWS: One of my favorite authors said that a tidy desk is a reflection of a tidy mind. What made you become a minimalist and how do you relate to this quote?
Megan: I love that! I’m forever trying to explain that concept to my husband Lewis but he doesn’t quite get it. I don’t think he even sees mess or clutter (sometimes I wish I didn’t either!)
I think I’ve been a minimalist since I first discovered selling my old clothing and games on eBay at about thirteen. I’m still addicted to getting rid of stuff! It’s exactly like you say, a tidy and organized home makes me feel tidy and organised on the inside.
like the idea of keeping items in flow too. I don’t like holding onto things that I don’t need. Maybe that’s also somewhat to do with my love of freedom. Having lots of rubbish can make you feel heavy.
I find it very hard to work if I’m in a cluttered space. I think in order to write to the best of your ability, you need to be happy. Organisation and cleanliness make me happy!
TWS: I have watched your Vlog about touring South Africa. Fun fact – I do live in South Africa! What did you enjoy most about your visit all the way here from England? Would you ever consider returning?
Megan: Ah, that’s amazing! South Africa is such a special place to me. Every time I see the flag I get a little flutter of excitement! Both of my parents and my step dad were born and lived near Durban until their early twenties. I also lived in KwaZulu-Natal for eighteen months when I was around 5-6 years old.
I have a really strong SA accent on loads of my old family videos! I think that’s why everyone called me ‘posh’ at high school, because I still say long ‘a’s rather than short, which is a bit weird in the North West of England!
Maybe I’m looking through rose tinted glasses, but I remember my time over there as this beautiful period spent frolicking in the sun, climbing trees, drinking Creme Soda and lime milkshakes, and having this wonderful little group of smiling friends. Living in England has never felt the same and, although I’m not sure I’d ever move back to SA, I don’t plan to stay here forever! I want my children to be able to play outside and swim in their pool too.
I’m thinking of going back over next September. I’d love to make it a yearly thing as my granny and grandpa still live in Pinetown.
TWS: Thanking you so much for this amazing opportunity! Is there anything that I may not have covered, that you would care to share with aspiring writers?
Megan: Thank you for having me! Your questions were so personal and thoughtful. I’ve loved answering them! My final word for aspiring writers would be please don’t let writing become a chore. Always remind yourself that, even if you have a schedule or routine, writing is a choice. If you don’t enjoy it, just don’t do it.
Take a break for two weeks. Only come back if you feel compelled to. If you’re planning to make a career out of something, you could be doing it for the next fifty years or longer. If you don’t love it, why are you putting yourself through it? Keep it fun. If you wrote as a child, remember that joy and excitement you felt when you started something new.
If you’re interested in reading some of my writing, I’m going to have a short story available for free in October! If you’d like to receive it, just scroll down and sign up to my mailing list at www.meganolivier.com