Women in Business: Give yourself time and space

TREK: Local author and hiking enthusiast Amber Niven treks the Grayson Highlands in Virginia with her daughter, Indie. Photo by Joshua Niven

Editor’s note: For our Women in Business issue, we invited women in our local business communities to share insights they’ve gained through their work in Western North Carolina. 

Amber Niven is the co-author of Discovering the Appalachian Trail: A Guide to the Trail’s Greatest Hikes.

Xpress: What is the best advice you were given about launching your business?

Niven: “Give yourself enough runway to soar.” This is the advice I think about the most. Soul work is slow work. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it requires steady devotion. For me, writing is like painting a canvas. There are layers involved: research, storyboarding, editing and more editing. Sometimes I feel myself rushing to complete a piece, and like an airplane with an insufficient runway, it just doesn’t get off the ground. Giving myself space and time to focus on my goal of becoming a published author allowed me to focus on my craft, cultivate resilience and ultimately create a book I am incredibly proud of.

What is the best advice you’d share with someone just starting out today?

If someone were passionate about writing and wanted to complete a manuscript, I would encourage them to fight every day to keep that dream alive. I would tell them to touch their project daily, even if it meant writing one badly formed sentence. Our modern world is full of distractions and messages saying we should be doing anything and everything we are not. When starting out, we often don’t have the luxury of holing up in an artist cave for an extended amount of time so that we can focus, free from distractions. The reality for many of us is that we must write in the stolen moments, the early mornings before a job, lunch breaks and nap times. So I say, find a way to keep hope alive, and remember, if you want to soar, give yourself the time and space your art asks of you.

As a woman, what unique challenges have you experienced within your industry, and how have you overcome these obstacles?

Being a woman strongly connected to my emotional body and intuition serves me well in my creative endeavors; however, paradoxically, it has also proved to be my greatest challenge. Living a disciplined life with boundaries does not come easy to me. However, in the business of writing, one must be able to sit down and write even when feelings suggest otherwise. Over time, I’ve learned how to value a disciplined life. On days I feel sluggish, full of self-doubt or mom-guilt has the best of me, those are the days I feel like floating in the sea of emotions, not writing. But each time I sit in my chair and write anyway, I am saying that my art matters, that I matter. As a woman and mother, this radical act means everything.



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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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