cinqque5tion with Christina Castaneda
Behind-the-scenes, author Zvezdana Rashkovich and I continued to talk after our #cinqque5tion interview. We were talking about Christina Castaneda. Among other things, Christina is a writer and podcast host. She is on an adventure in LA, seeking indie authors and creative leaders who want to build positive teams. She is the host of the Savvy Creative podcast and creator of Be Brilliant Journal. Christina Castaneda and I talked over social media and email and had a quick interview about writing, blogging, podcasting, dancing, living in L.A., and more.
1. Can you describe the process you use when you are writing?
Big fan of the process of writing a novel, blogs, and even audio scripts for my podcasts. When I get the idea, it’s like seeing a scene from a movie flash in my mind (I’ve heard other writers describe this moment as a download too). Once I see the scene, I try to write it out and let it be imperfect. I use whatever character name I can think of and write it impulsively because I know it may not be something I’ll use later. The scenes tend to be climactic scenes: fights, moments of clarity for the main character, or love scenes. Once I have these initial scenes written, I start to plot; how will the characters meet, what’s their back story, and what world do they live in, I outline all of it. From there, I start writing and though I don’t always stick with my original outline, when I get to the end, I’m happy that I completed the first draft.
2. What sort of advice would you give to a new writer?
Be patient with yourself! Start with that one scene in your head, that moment that flashed in your mind like a movie and follow your instincts. You don’t have to put yourself in a genre box or be technical and rigid, let the editors help you with that! Start with the characters and their world and let THEM tell you the story when you show up to write every day.
The writing process doesn’t have to be lonely either! Find a healthy balance of alone writing time, critique groups, meeting other writers, and learning the skills you need to sell your books.
3. How would you compare your career as a copywriter and content producer vs starting a creative media company?
When I worked professionally, every story we shot, and every piece I wrote was meant to make a sale for the company and measured by corporate metrics. The customers’ stories needed to spin back to products and company standards; for me, I felt like the emotional essence was missing and the emptiness, anxiety, and lack of fulfillment blocked my creativity and soon I was popping anti-anxiety meds to function.
When I started freelancing before I built Savvy Creative, I noticed people had trouble talking to the camera or on the microphone. They didn’t know much about storytelling, felt imposter syndrome and even though they had something to share, they had trouble expressing it in a clear way that was also compelling. I wanted to help more people learn the skill and feel confident when they’re doing a podcast guest appearance or creating videos.
This was the start of my Creative Media Company and now The Savvy Creative Academy. Since many people will need to produce art and media from home, it soon became a fulfilling adventure when I learned I could help people use their voice in a meaningful way.
4. Christina, can you tell us about your podcast and also tell us how it all started?
I did 100+ podcasts with my corporate job working behind the scenes. I studied the producers and the crew, asking them questions when I could because I secretly wanted my own show. I started dabbling with a YouTube channel in 2017 but hated editing videos (I was terrible at doing the editing myself, I was better at storyboarding). I finally did my first set of interviews in October of 2011 and realized how much I learned from working on set and that I was better at long-form interviews.
In March of 2018, I was laid off from my corporate job, and decided it was time to start The Savvy Creative podcast and build a platform for female indie writers to share their creative writing process.
There’s something wonderful about the energy you get after interviewing a guest. You give them a space to shine and they open up about their life, sharing something that helps the listeners make changes in their lives.
I wanted to focus on female indie authors and give them a chance to be featured and also learn their secrets of success. Getting through the gatekeepers of traditional publishing felt like a hollow pursuit. After my first year of entrepreneurship, I learned audience building and sales. I felt liberated once I knew that I could have full creative control over my own stories and I want to help other writers know that you don’t have to be published or a big name to make a difference.
5. Just for fun. Can you tell us about your dance background?
Dancing was my first love! I dreamed of being a ballerina but started on pointe late and wasn’t as good as other dancers. Even though I was classically trained, I still wasn’t picked for lead roles. I was a teen mom and gave up dancing once I got pregnant at 19. I never pursued ballet in NYC as I dreamed; instead I raised my kids and started my corporate career.
I went back into dancing again as an adult, but it was hard to find ballet classes because most adult classes were for professionals or labeled as dance fitness. I decided to take something different, so I started with Burlesque, then Contemporary, and went back into Hip Hop. I felt stronger, younger, and that I can take on anything!
The sexier dance styles helped me become comfortable with my body, and I felt stronger since we have to roll around on the floor. Doing these difficult moves helped me feel confident enough to take more risks in my life. Now I dance in at least one show every year and I love it because I have to stay disciplined with my training, work with a team and face the fear of being on stage in a sparkly and revealing costume, all worth it!
6. How is life in Los Angeles? Christina Castaneda, tell us about some of your favorite topics to discuss?
Los Angeles is the best place to live! There are beaches, mountains for hiking, and downtown nightlife, all within an hour’s drive from each other. You can get any food you want here, and there’s always something cool to see without being bored.
As a writer, you can collaborate with people in different fields: comedians, screenwriters, Instagram Influencers, actors, directors, dancers, podcasters, fashionistas, bloggers, anyone! It’s not unusual to see people filming, whether it’s large production trucks with cameras and lighting or YouTubers vlogging, there’s creativity everywhere and you feel inspired!
Go out to different places; the high-end lounge, the funky shops, the artsy meetups; there are so many people to share ideas with! Even if you go someplace where you’re not skilled, you can still network and learn. I’ve gone to spoken word poetry and live storytelling to learn some speaking skills even though I’m not a poet. And they’ve come to my podcasting events to learn audio storytelling skills; the artists who are eager to learn will find and help each other–it’s a beautiful thing!
LA gets a bad wrap for being a town of superficial, plastic, cutthroat people who look like Barbie dolls–we don’t all want to look like Kim Kardashian. For me, it’s been the opposite. I’m actually more secure with my body and looks living here. I had more insecurities about my body and looks living in other cities, but not LA. I have to be unique to stand out, not look like a Kim Kardashian because there are millions who already do. Having my own style and doing my own favorite things makes me feel more secure and helps me build partnerships because people I’ve built the best relationships with like authentic, raw artistry, and ideas.
I love the dance scene! I find ways to challenge myself and take master classes from top choreographers and professionals. And if you can go with a positive attitude, you will meet people who will encourage you and even introduce you to other artists or teach you a new style.
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