Laura Elliott’s Success Story …
About seven years ago, several personal tragedies left me unable to write. I had a side-hustle as an author of Young Adult and Middle-Grade fiction novels but lost my heart for intergalactic tales of beauty and the geek; enchanted road trips about awakening to intuition for the first time; and saving the world from a “shadow” apocalypse (oddly autobiographical, who knew).
Instead, I spent most days dealing with a world of real-life heartache and problem-solving which found me (among other things) paying rent with my jewelry and sobbing in the sand at my favorite beach asking God to, just, you know … take me away, please. After losing my home and then my health, I made one decision that would change my life forever.
I’d go back to the beginning … For me, this meant signing up for a night class my alma mater, The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, called “Finding A Meaningful Career,” part of a 3-class series intended for art professionals who find themselves at a crossroads mid-career. In the aftermath of having to walk away from a hospitality project management construction corporation I helped to build, my livelihood had also been taken away. I needed to rebuild. I could go back to my multimedia design career, but I had new dreams I needed to find. Ones that would take my writing out of the shadows and place it center stage as my career. But I’ll be honest with you, living by my pen seemed a pipe dream at the time.
My teacher Tony Luna, was the perfect Obi-Wan Kenobi (he had actually studied to be a priest at one point). His class spoke to what it means to have a career that fulfills my life’s purpose and helped me learn how to structure a business for success. Turns out, Tony’s business advice translated to great life lessons too.
First, Tony defined a good business relationship — Communication, based on respect built on a foundation of trust. He compared a good business relationship to a 3-legged stool and if any one of the three “legs” went missing — communication, respect, or trust — the business relationship will fail. Among the many exercises we did in class, one of the most important found me rolling out a huge sheet of butcher paper and drawing my business timeline over my personal timeline to try to identify patterns in my life. The black-and-white scribbles on that paper showed two powerful patterns — resilience and creativity. I’d gotten through tragedy before — including breaking my neck in a car accident. I could get through my current struggles. I had this.
For the final assignment, I created a Venn diagram to discover my professional and personal sweet spot, where my talents overlapped my passions. Mine revealed — writing, traveling, spirituality, and helping people.
I had a direction! Everything pointed to a career of travel and writing. Now what?
Enter outrageous, extravagant and playful guidance. I like to call these occurrences the Lord’s tender mercies — ideas, things, people, and situations He puts in our path to help calm the spirit, guide the heart and give clear direction. They come in so many different ways, but this time my tender mercy came through a book (I know, big surprise LOL!) You are a Bad Ass by Jen Sincero.
The book helped me understand that provision can come in ways I might never imagine and from sources I would never expect. Her bootstrap-bootcamp-vibe helped me get rid of a lot of my limiting beliefs, so I was better able to recognize old patterns I needed to break if I’d live life according to my dreams and destiny. She also helped me get clear that I have a God-given right to dream big. In fact, that became my mantra. If I had a decision to make, I would GO BIG. Meaning, I’d make the decision that would take me to the biggest place (not fear-based).
Even though I didn’t have the resources, I made a plan for a five-week journey to Indonesia on the island of Java, what I thought would be enough time to research the setting of the true story (one I’d been researching for over a decade) of what happened to my family during WWII. Of course, there’s no way to travel back in time to 1940s Java, but I needed to start where I could. After interviewing my dad off and on for over a decade to try and get to the heart of his experience, I felt traveling to Indonesia (I’d never been there before) would be the only way to understand her culture enough to properly get the story on the page. (I would discover during my travels, that a person could live five lifetimes in Indonesia and never really understand the rich culture there.)
Then I also took my friends’ suggestion. Instead of writing the story as a novel, I’d write in a new way, and create a screenplay. So, I enrolled in classes taught by Glenn Benest, a great screenwriting teacher in Los Angeles. He helped me draft a treatment before I left on the trip (I would later study with him for two years).
Whoa? What? 5 weeks? Really? All my previous vacation time in years gone by had mostly gone to taking care of sick children. I was never really able to take any more than two weeks of vacation at any one time in the past, and that’s when I worked steady gigs.
How in the world would I pull this off?
On New Year’s Eve in 2013, I bought my ticket for my five-week trip, which turned into three months. I not only researched and began to write my screenplay on Java, but I also enjoyed freediving off the island of Lombok; receiving a sacred blessing in the holy water at the Tirta Empul temple on Bali given by a holy man and his brother who had been kind enough to bestow much-needed wisdom to me; taking a cooking class with my youngest daughter on the the shores of the Andaman Sea in Phuket on Mother’s Day; working as a Global Dental Relief non-medical worker in Kathmandu; trekking the Everest Base Camp Trail; shaking Jane Goodall’s hand; and, drinking champagne as I strolled in the Australian outback while kangaroos hopped in the bush at sunset. The trip of a lifetime. Or, so I thought.
See, I didn’t realize that trip had only been a warm-up for something bigger. A journey that would encompass two years that found me selling most everything I owned to head into the world and go where the Lord took me — around the world, twice. The trip began with me teaching VBS to missionary children in Prague and ended in the jungles of Brazil at Iguazu — which brought me back to the beginning in another way. Just outside of Iguazu, I toured Itapu, one of the world’s largest dams, a project my dad worked on as a hydroelectric engineer based in Venezuela, where I traveled as a teenager.
Long story short, I fell in love with non-fiction, found a way to write again and also help people. The nuts-and-bolts of my business came with a lot of hard work. There were business plans to write (Thank you coach Lori Koop, and The Right Brain Business Plan author Jennifer Lee) and proposals to draft (I made myself propose on 3 new jobs a day, which was like a full-time job). And every day there were many questions to answer, like how do you go about pitching and selling an article?
Because it had been a long time since my first travel article published in The Los Angeles Times, a piece about Dracula’s Bran Castle in Romania (a story for another post), I had to start over writing whatever I could (yes, I wrote drapery descriptions at one point) for whatever they’d pay ($15 for a 100 word article). But that changed as I built up my clips and my expertise. I basically burned the candle at both ends and practiced a boatload of faith.
Throughout my career in writing interviews for everyone from COOs to celebrities and style makers, I discovered my passion for ghostwriting too, something born out of everything I learned while interviewing Dad — how to listen, research, and let the story go where it needs, giving it all the time it requires.
Through it all, I’ve discovered that security is an illusion. I no longer put my faith in the things I used to, like a job and a house and all the things I thought would never go away. Instead, I put my faith in God. I also learned that, for me, home is truly where my heart is and not within any particular set of four walls.
I have never been happier. I live location independently with a home base at my beach house (part of the dream) in Santa Cruz, CA ten minutes away from my adult daughters (another part of the dream). I am a partner on a vintage sailboat which I race most Tuesday nights when I’m in town during the sailing season. The reconnection with my childhood passion of sailing has given me the wonderful opportunity to write for the cruising and yachting market and also brought me and the love of my life together, a sailor who enjoys travel as much as I do.
As a ghostwriter for global thought leaders, I consider my work an honor and a privilege by helping to give a voice to people with important messages. People who don’t have time to write down and organize their important material on their own. I find this act of service much more than a livelihood, it’s a way to help people and help our world.
To keep up with Laura and her truly amazingly empowering and ever-growing #BossBabe entrepreneurial adventure, here are her online handles …
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