DCF: Who Are You?
Cara Peterson, Badass Creative/The Effortless Perfection Myth, I am an artist and aspiring author. My art is mainly linoleum printmaking and collage, and my book is about the gender issues millennial women face while in college.
DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
CP: I love to write and I love to create art! Finding time to do both is hard when navigating different areas of work (I’ve been a waitress, I worked at a law firm that lobbies for rehabilitation and disability issues, and now I am a part-time substitute teacher). But I find I am really able to enter into a flow state where my creativity peeks and my sense of purpose and self is strongest on days where I get to wake up in the morning and write and write until my focus feels used up, and then work on my art to use a different part of my brain, and then go back to writing, and maybe back to art again haha. Both my art and writing have forced me into taking entrepreneurial risks that I never really felt fully suited for, but am proud to have taken. With writing a book especially, sometimes I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing because getting published is really challenging and I don’t really know anybody closely who has ever taken on the same feat. But I just have to take whatever step feels right to be taking and trust my gut.
DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
CP: I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a handful of wonderful mentors: My parents; high school teachers Mr. Chanania, Ms. Peterson, and Mrs. Krug; college mentor Gary Glass; and many women my own age I’ve become close with who just seem to be getting out and grabbing life by the horns.
DCF: What’s your happy place?
CP: When I’m in the middle of writing out a feeling and I can tell I’m expressing it the way I really mean it, in a way that’s persuasive, honest, and personable.
DCF: Where do you get your energy?
CP: A lot of my energy comes from a sense of injustice, to be honest. With my writing, I’m trying to confront a lot of social justice issues I think are present in the collegiate world (and issues that exist at all stages of life, really). The cathartic nature of writing adds much fuel to my fire. With my art, I can’t help but constantly craft and imagine in my head, so my energy probably comes from the joy of feeling like I actually have time to turn that concept into a reality. It’s like “Let’s get down to business!”
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
CP: Balance to me is finding outlets that effectively deal with anxiety and other negative stressful feelings. It’s feeling out what your body and brain are ready to commit to and do in the moment and going with that creative urge. If it says write, you write. If it says read, you read. If it says do art, do art. I started printmaking originally because, when I was working a 9-5, I felt like I needed there to be more to my day then going to work and coming home and maybe watching tv and going to bed. I needed something else creative that allowed me to use a different part of my brain in a productive way. That’s what my “Badass Quotes by Badass Women” series that showed at Baked & Wired in Georgetown, and raised just under $5,000 for N Street Village (a local shelter for homeless and low income women in DC), was born out of.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
CP: I’ve been lucky enough to have supportive friends and family cheering me on as I pursue my dreams. Navigating the publishing world has been really challenging at times, particularly on stress levels. My brain is like a swinging pendulum at times where sometimes I’m like “THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER” and other times I’m like “WHY DID I THINK I COULD DO THIS?” But the addition of art in the mix has been helpful at evening out those fluctuations a good bit.
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
CP: Having studied Women & Gender Studies has allowed me to feel more aware and more prepared to take on gender-specific struggles, though there is always more to learn and overcome. I also feel really lucky to have been a part of the latest Super Fierce Exhibit (with superstar Maggie O’Neill at the helm). The month-long exhibit up in the Blind Whino was designed to support and celebrate female artists.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
CP: “Be gentle with yourself” — I like to push myself pretty hard sometimes, but it’s not always the best for my stress levels. I’ve had to learn to listen to my body and my brain better and actually react to the messages they are sending me.
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
CP: I worked myself up too much when trying to finish my book proposal, to the point I had to take some time away from the book. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get an agent/published, and was generally spending a lot of time alone in my house and needed more day-to-day structure. I ended up putting the book away for a year and working a job focused on healthcare policy. Now that I’m back working on it, I feel like I can be much more objective in my writing and editing moving forward.
DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
CP: My proudest moment is going to be when my book is finally finished, but for now I’d say my first show in Baked & Wired was pretty great. It felt good to raised money for a good cause, and it was relatively soon after Hillary lost the election. I loved having images and quotes from 50 badass women covering the walls of the bakery/coffee shop to remind people that we have had and continue to have many many amazing women fighting for gender equality and a whole range of other social justice issues.
DCF: Bonus. Currently Conquering: Here’s your chance for some shameless self promotion, tell me all about what you are working on!!
CP: I’m currently working toward another show at Baked & Wired that will be January 17th – February 12th, 2018 . The show is to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March. Two new collections will be exhibited! 25% of all proceeds will be donated to charity (the buyer can choose for the money to go to one of three organizations– Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and Save the Children.