HB has been an inspiration to me for quite some time. A kind, passionate lady with a love of writing and people (see also: coffee, travel and good food,) she's a woman after my own heart. Her journey as a writer and communicator has been really cool to witness (as a writer myself who enjoys a good love letter every once in a while.) She's running full-force after her dreams and is changing the world while doing it. Don't believe me? Check out her books, TED talk, and blog (at the end of this interview, of course.) Thank you for taking the time to be here, Hannah!
Hometown: North Haven, CT Current city: Atlanta, GA Alma mater: Assumption College Degree: English (Concentration in Writing/Mass Communications, Sociology) Hustle: Author, TED Speaker, Founder of More Love Letters
Babe you admire and why? Lara Casey. She is constantly a source of inspiration and light to me. I admire how much she is tuned into her faith, and how much she lets it guide her.
How do you spend your free time? I love strength training and doing tough workouts, reading fiction, and trying out new recipes.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? Exactly where I am right now—on a flight home to Atlanta, Georgia.
Who would be your Amazing Race partner be? My assistant, Claire Taylor. She’s one of my favorite people and she’s watched all 33 seasons of Survivor so I feel like she would be just as good at the Amazing Race!
What does your typical workday look like? It starts at 8am, after I’ve gotten a workout and some quiet time in. I have a rule of not opening up emails until 11am, so I usually write in the morning for a few hours. I'll normally work until around 2 or 2:30 before taking a break. In that downtime, I’ll usually go home and make some food, grab some groceries or decompress with a walk. I plug back in around 4:30-5 at my favorite coffee shop or on the couch. I love my nighttime hours. For some reason, my brain kicks into overhaul from 5-7 at night. I spent so many years thinking I had to be in my office from 9-5 and then I realized that being somewhere for more hours isn’t necessarily better. Now I get in, do what I have to do, and make sure I enjoy myself. I have no problem leaving (guilt-free) to do something fun when I'm done!
When and how did your love of writing begin? Did you ever consider a different career? Since I was a little girl, probably the age of 7. My grandmother always told me I was going to be a writer. I never doubted it. I started writing books when I was 8. Today, I never consider a different career. This is exactly what I want to be doing. I am so lucky to be living this dream career every single day.
Tell us about More Love Letters. When and how did you start the process? I’ll keep it short. I grappled with depression in 2010. That led to me leaving love letters around New York City and mailing love letters to strangers. That expanded to an organization I created in 2011 which has since spread to all 50 states, over 70 countries and is established on over 100 college campuses. Not a life I ever anticipated. Not a job I thought I could have. But hey, I love it!
Tell us about your TED experience: Well, TED was my first speaking engagement ever, if it could be more ironic than that. I had no experience, and didn’t know I was capable, but I fell in love with the people at TED. They coached me and made me better. They believed in me and cheered for me. For me, the night I gave my TED Talk wasn't even about the talk itself. It was this surreal experience where, for once, I no longer felt like the oddball in the room. I was surrounded by like-minded people who wanted to believe in similar, innovative ideas.
For me, writing is much easier than speaking. Have you always wanted to be a speaker? I never wanted to be a speaker, but some might say I am better at it than I am at writing. I have no professional training but I like to tell stories. Speaking is challenging for me though because I deal with a lot of anxiety leading up to it. However, I am never one to shy away from a challenge. I keep speaking because it keeps me challenged and needing to lean on God.
What motivates/inspires you? People who are dedicated to what they do. I love people who have a goal and don’t let anything distract them from making it happen.
What was the process of your first book publishing like? It was definitely a long, challenging process. Everything in the world of traditional publishing takes time! It took a long time to pitch the book, and then I was given 4 months to write it. That whole editing process made me a much better writer, though.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in your career? How'd you overcome it? Self-employment is really hard for me, but I’ve gotten so much better at it. I have been self-employed for 4 years now and the hard thing is never having a predictable. I always know jobs will come, speaking engagements will get booked, and I will keep writing books, but most people know their salary, work hours, and have a supervisor to report to. Self-employment keeps me on my toes and allows me to be flexible, but I am a very disciplined person so being my own boss isn't so bad!
How long after you started your brand did you begin to bring others onto your team? For More Love Letters, it was almost immediate. I just recently started bringing people into the folds of my other company, HB. Creative, last year!
How do you manage stress? Cooking and working out! Especially being someone who deals with depression, my first priority is to get in 45-minute workouts, 5 times per week!
How do you find a work-life balance? Shutting off email after 7pm and not re-checking until 11am. Establishing boundaries like that sends a signal to people—loud and clear— that I am not always accessible. I used to not be good at balance but after going through a second round of depression, I knew I needed to stop working so much. Today, I am not drained by my work or what is on my plate. I know it is all manageable and that it will all get done!
Is there a time of day or week when you prefer to write? Always in the morning, before other people start their day!
How do you kick writer’s block? I don’t believe it really exists. If I am feeling stalled, I pick up someone else’s book and spend a few minutes reading. I usually find a line that inspires me pretty quickly, and I start writing from there.
What does success look like to you? Doing what I love, having a healthy balance of work and life, feeling healthy, putting God first, and remembering to be there for my friends and family.
What do you hope for your future? To keep writing books, keep creating, and keep inspiring people to live their best life.
Career and/or life advice for other babes? Enjoy the beginnings of things. The butterflies won’t stay. You won’t always stay in love with the things you create. Remember to soak up those first late nights where the energy is buzzing off your skin. It’s the best feeling in the whole world, really.
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