“Your Challenge – Dream big. Everything starts as someone’s daydream. Fuel your verve—pursue the vision that sparkles. Become audaciously obsessed. Dream big but plan small. Baby steps will lead to bigger success. Anchor your dreams within your heart and feel as though they are already achieved.” – Cassandra Gaisford
I discovered author Cassandra Gaisford when I read her Career Rescue books. She writes inspiring non-fiction about how to live a creative life, pursue your passion, and make meaningful change in your life. A number one bestselling Amazon author, she also writes romance and historical fiction and is a coach and speaker.
Cassandra is inspiring because she leads by example—she follows her passion for writing and art, and she helps others find their creativity through her entrepreneurial writing business which includes coaching and speaking.
She is a fellow 9-to-5 job escapee. Read on to learn about Cassandra. You’ll find that she’s an inspiring example of a person who found space in her life to create.
Finding the place
Q: Where do you work on your business?
Cassandra: I run my business from home in a beautiful office overlooking the picturesque Bay of Islands, in Northland, New Zealand. I feel very fortunate to live and work in such an inspiring place. I also know fortune favors the bold! I’ve worked hard and made courageous and audacious decisions to get here.
I love variety. Sometimes I wander down to The Shed – an old building on the edge of our ten-acre property. Recently I’ve renamed it “the engagement room” – it’s where I work on the things I love.
Q: Did you have to clean up/clear clutter first?
Cassandra: I’m a collector. Recently I heard my partner tell someone that I collect anything related to positivity. In many of my books, I share that my deepest obsession is my passion for passion. My desk is often strewn with articles about passionate people, interesting things I have found and inspirational ideas that I’d like to work on later. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed at times, so I tend to favor clearing away distractions before working.
To stay inspired, and ignite motivation I love to place an inspiring book on my desk or an inspiring quote on my wall.
Currently, I have an open page from The Art of Success: How Extraordinary Artists Can Help You Succeed in Business and Life which is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. I choose a new page daily to guide me and help set the tone for the day.
While responding to your questions, I’ve closed the book and reopened it intuitively at the section, “Empower Your Spirit.” I opened the page on the chapter Worship The God Within. This chapter reminds me how important spirituality and faith is to my creative practice—as it was to Leonardo, and is to so many other creative people, too.
One of my daily practices is to ensure I clear my desk at the end of the day, and write a few notes regarding the focus for the next day, celebrate my successes by writing them in my journal and acknowledging the things I’m grateful for.
This creates joy, and space in my mind, and enables me to approach the new day feeling inspired and focused—assuming I’ve also cleared my mind by meditating, completing my morning pages and walking in the morning too.
Q: How do you get inspired? Do you go anywhere to “fill your creative well?”
Cassandra: Inspiration is everywhere. Movies, music, magazines, bookshops, on-line, in the garden. I can’t think of anywhere or anything that can’t be a source of inspiration. Even discordant things and situations can ignite a spark. One of my wise writing friends once encouraged me to channel upsetting personal situations into my books—some of the scenes in my upcoming historical novel are my favorite because the emotion I poured into them is so intense. Nothing is wasted.
Recently I began thinking deeply about the notion of duty as a writer, as a woman, as a person in this world at this time. And I decided how thankful I am to people who have shared their creative journey—the heartaches and the joys. I am tremendously inspired by people who have to battle to be true to themselves. And I decided I wanted to ‘pay it forward’ by helping myself and others who dream of creative success.
And I wanted to do this by writing more self-empowerment books. Books in which I’ll share my journey to prosperity and the significant challenges I’ve had to overcome to be true to my art.
I’ve done this in part in my The Art of Success series of books. The Prosperous Author: How to Make a Living With Your Writing takes a more intimate look into my creative process and contains the success secrets that have helped me leave a job I hated to become a full-time author and creative entrepreneur, follow my passion and make a great living with my writing.
I also reveal dozens of insights based on survey research, my professional achievements and the success secrets of extraordinary artists, authors and creative entrepreneurs like James Patterson, Paulo Coelho, Nora Roberts, Arianna Huffington, Oprah, Isabel Allende, and other prosperous creatives.
It’s only recently I valued my writing as my gift, and it’s something I’ve struggled for over fifty years to prioritize.
Helping others also fills my creative well—I’ve heard this referred to as ‘the helpers high.’ It’s a lovely addiction to have.
I’m a woman of pristine intuition, and I work to keep it that way. Regular spiritual practice, looking after my well-being, spending time in nature, meditating, and a fascination and deep respect for the nuances of other people lives’—including their hobbies interests and obsessions and yearly overseas trips are some of the many ways I get and stay inspired.
Doing ‘a combo’ is fabulous, as I did recently when my partner and I went to Fiji for two weeks, combining many wellness strategies. We completely disconnected from social media, gave up alcohol, and absorbed ourselves in local life and nurtured our relationship.
Living a passionate life committed to creativity naturally feeds my inspiration.
My creative well was replenished when I moved away from my home of close to fifty years, Wellington to The Bay of Islands. The climate, people, and pace of life here are a wonder tonic. I truly believe everyone has their soul space—the place that most feels like their spiritual home. Never give up searching for it.
I also love beautiful magazines—Urbis, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Mindfood and anything committed to beauty and stories of people living inspiring lives feeds my creativity.
Other inspirational people are like vitamins for my soul. Sometimes I’ll attend workshops like the one I did in Puglia, Italy with photographer Carla Coulson. It was fabulous. You can see some of my photos here >> I’ll also chat on social media or engage their services. I guess you could say that these people are my mentors in some way.
In 2016 I invested a significant amount of time and money forging my new career direction as a creative entrepreneur. This included downscaling my coaching business and corporate work, signing up for courses and attending conferences to learn from experts in their field.
A real highlight in 2016 was meeting Michael Hauge, a top Hollywood story expert, author, and lecturer who consults with writers, filmmakers, marketers, attorneys and public speakers throughout the world. My goal was to have him sign one of my books, but I ended up building a very special friendship.
I’m also going to consult Michael again—especially for my big (secret) project which has already been suggested by a top literary agent could become a movie. I know paying for these services will fast-track my success and feed my goal to be the best writer I can. I consulted with him when writing one of my romance novels The Italian Billionaire’s Christmas Bride, and the feedback was invaluable.
Plus, I’ve signed up for a class with my guru Tim Ferris to boost my success and productivity further, How Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers Master Productivity.
One of the investments I’ve also made is taking a fiction writing class with James Patterson. As of January 2016, James has sold over 350 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. I’d love to achieve that kind of success!
Creating the time
Q: How did you find the time for working on your business?
Cassandra: When I started my coaching business, I was a single mother with a mortgage, but I didn’t let that stop me from chasing my dream. Being a single mom also fueled the desire, and the need, because I could never get enough leave to keep up with all my daughter’s school holidays!
I worked nights and weekends at first. Then when the money started to flow, I negotiated a four-day workweek. Not long after, as I began to feel more confident in my abilities to be self-employed AND pay my bills, I quit. It was a terrific day!
I, and other creatives, share more about our journey to self-employment and include a chapter about how to finance your career on a shoe-string in my book, Mid-Life Career Rescue (Employ Yourself): How to Confidently Leave a Job You Hate, and Start Living a Life You Love, Before It’s Too Late.
Q: A theme of my book is giving up something else to live a creative life and go after what you want. Did you give up anything else to spend more time on the life you want to live?
Cassandra: I’m not a heavy drinker, but I was drinking more than I wanted. I decided to take a break from alcohol in the lead up to Christmas 2016. I felt so great that in 2017 I decided to experiment with my commitment to be alcohol-free for the whole year. My partner decided to also. Many people want to quit but struggle, as we did. I will share what I learned and what really works, in my new book, Your Beautiful Mind: Control Alcohol, Discover Freedom, Find Happiness and Change Your Life.
Alcohol addiction remains a hidden and stigmatic problem marked by denial and fear. It’s also an incredible time-waster and damaging to your long-term creativity.
Other things that I quit to allow more creativity in my life includes:
-Selling my television
-Downsizing my coaching business
-Less socializing. ‘No’ is a beautiful word, plus it helps that I’m no longer drinking and so much socializing is built around alcohol.
-Procrastinating and making excuses
-Checking emails and social media incessantly; I only check in at 12 pm and 4 pm with emails, and then for only 15-30 minutes, scanning for priorities.
-Hiding my spirituality and fearing that people might think I was spooky when I talked about my love and use of tarot, oracles, Reiki, energy work, and mediums. A turning point was when a client accused me of witchcraft when I suggested she try lavender essential oil to alleviate some of her stress.
These techniques and others were good enough for Coco Chanel and good enough for me! And I’ve been rewarded—so many people have sought me out because of the spiritual and creative side I bring, combined with strong business skills.
I also gave up doing projects that are easy and neglecting passion projects which sometimes are beyond my current level of expertise, but which would challenge me and enable me to grow, and which would provide greater fulfillment.
I quit short working days and two or three-day weekends. I want to work longer— but I still am mindful of balance, which is why I am careful to take time out during the day to reconnect with those around me, even if I chose to make up the hours on the other end. I gave up saying, “I have to.” I replaced this with “I choose to” – for this is a greater truth.
I gave up the comfort rut of certainty. I bought myself three months to finish my historical art-related novel. This is the novel I pitched to a top literary agent and also to Penguin Publishing over seven years ago. It’s the book I told myself I could never write. Both expressed an eagerness to see the finished book.
There is no certainty of a contract. There is no certainty that my book will sell, or in any way repay my investment. There is only the certainty that I shall not die with regret, wondering what if.
I have given up waiting for the timing to be right, I have given up waiting for excess money. I’ve given up living without discomfort and taking on work that pays well but that I don’t enjoy in the hope that I will make money I can store away for that ‘rainy day’ when the conditions are ‘perfect to write my book.
The greatest comfort of all is being true to yourself, to the passionate stirrings of your soul. For that reason, I decided to invest in myself this year. I have given myself the luxury of time. I decided to bankroll three months out of the world. You could say I bankrolled the space to complete what many people have told me will be my greatest work. We’ll see.
Q: How much time do you spend on your business? What habits did you need to put in place?
Cassandra: I love what I do, so like the author James Patterson, working seven days doesn’t feel like a slog to me. It’s a joy, a privilege; it’s playing. I also like his comment, “Do NOT sit there like ‘Oh I don’t feel like it today. I don’t feel like it tomorrow’. Feel like it! Do it! Force yourself.”
But keeping balance and knowing as I do that without a commitment to health and well-being it’s easy to burn out and be inefficient; I’ll be keeping an eye on outcomes versus hours spent. And I’ll be investing in smart daily habits like meditation, yoga, eating well, etc.
New habits also included greater discipline to maintain focus and eliminate all distractions when I write. I’ve developed a new habit which I love—writing in thirty-minute cycles. Using the timer helps keep me honest.
Right now, one of my favorite tools for this is focusatwill.com. The developers say this will work magic because it’s “scientifically optimized music to help you focus.” I’m a big fan. I love the music and love what it’s doing for my productivity. It is incredible how much you can achieve in thirty-minute bursts when you are focused.
I gave up watching TV over five years ago. This has been life changing. It’s such a time-zapper, and most times depressing.
Health is a priority. I’m half way to my next life—I want to make sure I arrive in good shape. Alcohol is gone, coffee too, sugar—on the way out. Coming in: green and clean and raw. Meditation needs to be more regular for sure. I’ve been a meditator for over twenty years, but sometimes I forget to prioritize it.
I’m going to get up earlier at 5 am and “just do it!” This is going to be challenging, but I’m determined to make this a joyful ritual.
My writing rituals will include five, 9-hour days per week dedicated to fiction, one to non-fiction and working with coaching clients and marketing/business activities. Day seven will be a passion day—whatever I decide that will be.
Included in these commitments is prioritizing balance—relationships, health and spiritual. Meditation, romance, chilling will all factor in—including a reward trip to Japan with my partner in September to defrag and re-top up our inspiration well.
Finding the energy/mindset
Q: Did you make any changes to your lifestyle to support your new business venture?
Cassandra: Mindset and managing energy is EVERYTHING.
Meditate, eat well, exercise regularly and make room for rest to keep energy levels high. Don’t take any devices into your bedroom at night—including your phone. Only read paperback books at night (for relaxation) – not work-related research. Switch off to switch on. No working after 10 pm – it’s hard to sleep if you’re all fired up and inspired.
Move—I force myself to get out and walk every day. It helps when I remind myself how many paraplegics would love to be able to stand on their legs and go for a stroll.
Last year I purchased a standing desk, which also lowers to be a normal workstation. I love the option to stand or sit.
I purchased Dragon software to use dictation to write, and GhostReader to check errors and improve flow by using this technology to read my work back out loud. I also use Scrivener to help me structure my thoughts and writing, and have greater control over my production and outputs. It’s wonderful to be in control of my publishing success.
But this has meant dedicating time to learning new technology—but once again, you need to invest in efficient systems and processes to reap the rewards.
Other great strategies to boost a positive, focused mindset: I keep a praise file—record and look at the feedback people give you regularly. I started fifteen years ago—originally to help me overcome acute self-doubt, but now, while I need it less, it is affirming and heart-stirring to read the unsolicited feedback others have said. And sometimes when people, family included, say something hostile about my work, (like my brother who said, “Great, just what we all need – more advice from you”), knowing I have touched someone’s life, and made the world a better place, reminds me of what gives my life meaning and purpose. It makes the tougher times worthwhile.
I’m a big fan of creating a Passion Journal every year—this keeps my mind on what I do want to create and empowers my ability to manifest by leveraging off the laws of Intention, Attraction, and Desire. I have a free gift for your readers, a Passion Journal Workbook for those who subscribe to my newsletter at www.cassandraGaisford.com.
Q: Any tips for managing your time?
Cassandra: Thirty-minute bursts of activity are amazing for getting into a productive mindset.
Be strong with others who want to zap your time. Push back and check if their demands on your time are urgent. “No,” is a beautiful word.
Be a creative procrastinator – put off until tomorrow things that don’t enable you to achieve progress toward your goals today.
Combine tasks. I listen to audio books while walking, podcasts while preparing meals or doing chores or when I am at the supermarket. This helps prevent resentment when I attend to some of the more mundane things that ‘take me away’ from writing or perfecting my craft.
Delegate and outsource. In our Kiwi culture, we have a ‘do it yourself mentality.’ In the past, I tried to do it all and found it way more efficient to hand things to the pros. It didn’t always cost me more money, and when it did, I often recouped it in increased sales—like great cover design or the improved professionalism of having a passionate proofreader look over my books. I’ve been fortunate to meet many skilled people who have read my career rescue books, including a lady who was inspired to quit her job and has started an editing business. I now outsource some of my work to her.
Q: What are some of the things you tell your clients if they want to make a change and lead a more creative life?
Cassandra: Prioritize your creativity. It’s that simple—and, at times that is challenging. Isolate the barriers, blocks, whatever is standing in the way. Take an inventory and then commit to problem-solving. Intensify your desire, remind yourself of your ‘why.’ What benefits will flow? How will you feel if you never try?
Be inspired by other people who have made the leap to creativity, read their stories— people like Coco Chanel, Leonardo da Vinci, Frida Kahlo and so many others. I can’t think of one successful person who hasn’t had to fight for their dream. Conflict and overcoming obstacles in the norm – but it’s also what makes for compelling viewing and dedicated fans.
Do it scared—most of the successful creative people I know started and continued to create despite their doubts, fears, and anxieties. Follow your passion to prosperity!
Q: What is the single biggest change you had to make to support your business?
Cassandra: Invest in me. As one of my creative clients sagely said, “You have to bankroll your dreams. In the beginning, the money isn’t there.” I go into how to finance your career (on a shoestring) in a big way in my book, Mid-Life Career Rescue (Employ Yourself): How to Confidently Leave a Job You Hate and Start Living a Life You Love Before It’s Too Late.
I’ve also committed to a daily practice of feeding optimism, and aligning my thoughts with the outcome I desire, not fear. This has been a key part of my success and continues to be—it’s not something that comes naturally. This may surprise people, but I also believe it is true of many creatives.
And as I said before as I stopped waiting for inspiration, and I showed up every day to do THE Work, my muse began to take me seriously, and now she shows up too.
This is an edited excerpt from Courtney Kennedy’s book Creating Space to Thrive: Get Unstuck, Reboot Your Creativity and Change Your Life. Available from Amazon here >>