By Jessica Johnson
Although Kaia Roman wasn’t born in California, she is the quintessential Santa Cruz writer. She teaches mindfulness to school children when she is not working on final edits for her book, The Joy Plan (coming out next summer), writing regularly for mindbodygreen.com, or traveling the world with her family of four. In fact, although we tried to connect in person, we communicated via email since her family recently extended to a year what was originally a six-month trip to Costa Rica.
I approached Kaia for an interview because I had seen several of her articles and, having taught mindfulness to kids myself, was curious to know more about her. What I discovered was a successful freelance writer and author and I found myself wanting to know more about her journey as a creative entrepreneur. It turns out she is warm, interesting and open and I hope you find her story as inspiring as I have.
How long have you lived in Santa Cruz?
I moved to San Francisco in 2000 and started coming down to Santa Cruz on the weekends to learn how to surf. That’s when I met my husband Dan, who was living here. I really fell in love with Dan and Santa Cruz at the same time.
How has living here influenced your creativity?
The natural surroundings in Santa Cruz inspire me to write. I go on hikes in the redwoods and emerge from the forest with entire novels swimming in my head.
Why is being creative important to you?
I write to make sense of my world. Often I can’t truly process a feeling, experience, or thought until I’ve written about it. I think through my fingers.
Are there other creatives in your family?
My parents are both writers. My mom was the editor of her town’s newspaper and then started her own magazine. My dad is a therapist who wrote a book called Deep Feeling, Deep Healing. They’re both highly creative, and are still always working on one project or another.
What is the first thing you remember making/writing/creating?
Even before I could write, I remember telling my parents the words I wanted them to write down for me. When the stories were complete, I would draw pictures to go along with them and then my dad would record me reading the books on a tape recorder, ringing a bell when it was time to turn the page. I’d recorded dozens of audio books by the time I was seven or eight.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished my first book, which I’m so excited about! It’s a memoir about a 30-day science experiment I did after facing a devastating setback in my life. A friend suggested that making joy my top priority for 30 days would turn my life around, and since I didn’t have any better ideas at the time, that’s what I did. It worked, amazingly, and The Joy Plan is my story.
What is your daily routine?
I start every day with a short gratitude meditation. This sets the tone for my whole day. Throughout the day, I consciously look for things to appreciate and be grateful for. Thoughts of gratitude release dopamine in the brain, which feels good and lowers stress. Mostly, I spend my days writing and my evenings with my husband and two kids.
How do ideas come to you? Are you a flasher or a percolator?
Ideas always come to me in a flash. It’s a challenge actually, because they often come so fast I can’t keep up, and if I don’t write them down, I’ll sometimes lose them. I frequently get new creative ideas when I’m exercising, taking a bath, or just about to fall asleep.
Who are your creative idols? Why?
I’m a science geek and Einstein is definitely one of my idols. Aside from being brilliant, he followed his intuition, and had incredible insights into the way our world works that we still haven’t collectively caught up with.
Do you have a Muse? What never fails to inspire you?
Santa Cruz is my muse, as cheesy at that sounds. My favorite place on earth is Land of the Medicine Buddha in Soquel. I go there to walk and always leave feeling more alive, more grateful, and absolutely inspired.
Do you have dry spells? What do you if you do?
I just wait it out, knowing the inspiration will come again, and hoping that I’ll have a pad of paper or a keyboard nearby when it does.
What is the best advice you have been given about being a writer?
Writers I admire like Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Lamott talk about planting your butt in the seat and writing, every day, no matter what. Whether it’s good or bad, whether anyone else ever sees it or not, just keep writing.
What do you say when people say they are not creative?
I say they haven’t found their creative groove yet. Inspiration is a highly personal experience, it’s different for everyone, but I believe it’s worth finding your individual creative outlet because it feels so good when you do.
What is your definition of a CREATIVE LIFE?
Living a creative life isn’t about taking particular actions or keeping a certain schedule, but rather, living life in a way that prioritizes inspiration. A creative life is lived in the small moments each day when you notice what excites you, interests you, and delights you, and you follow those impulses as if they are clues on a treasure map. The treasure to be found is your own joy, and the map to it is your creative life.
To learn more about Kaia Roman and the upcoming release of her book The Joy Plan, go to TheJoyPlan.com or follow her on Facebook (Facebook.com/KaiaRomanAuthor) or Twitter (@KaiaRoman).
This interview has been edited for space and clarity
Raised in Aptos, Jessica Johnson is a freelance journalist, blogger, and poet who writes for and about passionate people following their dreams. Learn more about her at www.JessicaJanisJohnson.com. Email your questions, comments and creative suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.