Hey, guys! I did the below interview with Leilani Clark a few months back, just before leaving San Francisco for Berlin. Somehow, I never got around to sharing it with everybody. A staff writer for the North Bay Bohemian in California, Leilani is also the co-founder of the kick-ass online publication called Petals & Bones. Every Friday, they feature an interview with a writer or public figure, and I was lucky enough that she chose me to participate! xx, abs
I first met Abigail Wick when we were students together in the MFA Writing and Consciousness Program at California Institute of Integral Studies. Impressed by her ability to string together an impeccable sentence, as well as her singular voice, I’ve followed Abigail’s writing adventures since we graduated in 2008. Over the past few months, her fantastic food blog “Eating With Abs” has been taking off! It’s no wonder since she writes about food with an ecstatic appreciation that would make anyone want to fill their plate with kale and local delicious cheese instead of a hamburger.
1) Can you give some background on your writing life? How did you become a writer? What kinds of projects have you completed? Did you get a degree in writing or English?
For many years, I told myself I was a writer and I wrote. Now, I don’t have to tell myself I’m a writer anymore, I just write. My current passion project is Eating with Abs. What began as a wee food-writing blog about whole-earth ecology and plant-based nutrition has bloomed into a series of cooking shows, contributing columnists, an unbelievable readership, interviews with some of the most influential visionaries in agricultural sustainability, and expansive dreams to help foment a radical re-imagining of food culture in the US. I come from a working-class family in small-town America, and everything I do stems from the desire to bring my folks the news of real food. By developing a set of practical suggestions for people living on a budget, I want to make fresh, whole, local foods not only a possibility, but a preference. And I want to do it with elegance, glamour, 100-percent accessibility, and endorsement of healthy lifestyle choices that maximize quality of life, and minimize wasteful consumerism. It’s about fracturing the narrative of edible, food-like substances—the packaged, processed imitation food that dominates shelves in grocery stores. However, I would never say something as crass as “Don’t eat that nasty stuff.” People don’t want to feel attacked or judged. Nobody wants to be criticized. Instead, I say, “Here is some freaking amazing stuff that makes me feel good, and maybe it will make you feel good, too. I don’t want anything but to be a messenger from the margins to the mainstream, to empower people through food, and to have a direct and positive influence that changes lives from the inside out.
2) How do you stay motivated to be creative? Where do your ideas come from?
Creativity isn’t some precious attribute that distinguishes the artist as special or eccentric. I hate that attitude. That’s bullshit. Art is a choice. Art is the dignity of perspective. Life has absolutely no meaning; you assign meaning to it. How you choose to exist directly and particularly shapes what it means to be human. Everything that you do is a radical act of art because of how you choose to engage and understand the world. By sheer dint of your existence, your life is a work of art unfolding. That’s all the motivation I need.
3) What advice would you give to somebody who wants to be more creative or bring more creativity into their work?
Through the simple fact of being alive, you are infinitely powerful and creative. There’s nothing interesting or unique about creating excuses for yourself, being riddled with a sense of inadequacy or self-created “issues.” You’re not special because of your insecurities. You’re special because of how you banish that pain, get over yourself, and start being exactly the person you are capable of being. So, you want to be creative? Then wake up every morning and tell yourself you are creative, and behave like you are. That’s it. Anything else is just a tired, dull excuse obscuring the truth of your own inherent gifts. If you want to be something, be it
4) How important is discipline to your creative output? How important is idle time and relaxation?
All of my experiences and activities feel so harmonized and integrated right now. I am hurtling toward life at the same rate it’s hurtling toward me. Every setback is an opportunity. My work and play feed one another to the point that they’re indistinguishable. I just make, synthesize, and do. Whatever it is—practicing yoga, grieving, writing marketing copy, cleaning the bathroom, comforting a friend, crafting a magazine article, riding my bike for miles and miles—I just want to do it with a sense of joy, purpose, and commitment. If not that, then what else?
5) What does a typical day look like for you?
A farmer rises before the sun and immediately sets to work. If a farmer doesn’t tend to the alfalfa fields or cherry groves, relieve the udders of the goats or cows, and weed the family vegetable garden, the farmer is defying the fact that if he strays, crops will fail and animals will die. On a day-to-day basis, not only the farmer’s livelihood, but also that of the land and all its inhabitants, depends on that farmer to wake up, whether he wills it or not, and take care of the farm that he has ushered into existence. He works long, tiring hours with gains that are measurable only over the course of time, with the changing of seasons.
It’s this same sense of duty, responsibility, and patience with which I strive to approach my writing. I never live up to this ideal, not wholly, but what’s the sense of courting mediocrity? As a freelance writer, everything is on the line—like paying rent or medical insurance. It’s very real and a little scary. Still, what’s most at stake, for me, is a sense of self-worth and that I’m giving my best to the world.
So, every morning, I wake up and I write.