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Olivia Gatwood on Creating for a Living


Writer and Poet Olivia Gatwood is the author of best-selling book, "Life of the Party."

I first discovered Olivia through a Facebook video a couple of years ago where she performed her poem, “Ode to the Women on Long Island.” If you’re at all familiar with the great force of nature that is the women on Long Island, Olivia’s poem will resonate with you. The rest of her poetry packs an equal, emotionally charged yet well-grounded, punch.

The first question I asked Olivia when we met in true 2020 fashion over Zoom was what she thought it meant to be a creator. Olivia has been a writer for most of her life, but being a creator changed for her when it became a full-time job.

“It is my job, and it’s a job I have to show up to,” Olivia said. “Versus before when I would just sort of wait until inspiration struck. Now it feels like more of a responsibility before it felt like just a part of who I was.”

Turning your creativity into a living is the dream, but when your craft becomes what puts food on the table, certain challenges arise. To breathe life into her words, Olivia turns to the stories around her. She observes and pulls out those stories, both from her life and that of others, to illuminate the most interesting aspects of being human.

“I’m always walking through the world with my palms up and thinking critically about not just things I’m experiencing, but the patterns I’m experiencing,” she said.

Olivia grew up hanging out around abandoned cars in New Mexico and has since lived in the Caribbean, New York, Boston, and California. She often incorporates the individuality of each place and its inhabitants into her writing.

“I started to think a lot about how place affects the way we entertain ourselves. I sort of always feel like I’m a sociologist when I’m interacting with space…I think if it’s done right, writing about people can really honor people.”

This year has proved the importance of establishing a routine to get shit done. Olivia practices this when she’s manifesting her creativity and has even found ways to use the solitude she found herself in this year to better her writing.