Chels and I have a long history together. We’ve danced to "Sweet Caroline" at our high school Homecoming (as teens) AND in a sweaty summertime Brooklyn bar wearing bras and skirts (as 30-somethings). We've delivered emergency supplies to Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy and coached one another through heartbreak.
We met on the first day of high school in Mrs. Morehouse’s Freshman English class at Huntington Beach High. We were 14, and I’d say we were both in the “kinda nerdy, but maybe in a cool way?” high school camp.
The first thing I noticed about Chelsea was her effortless, chic style. She rocked long skirts and vintage OP shorts like nobody else. For many years following, I’d try to emulate Chelsea’s boho-chic fashion. I only stopped trying when Madewell opened its doors in 2006, and I realized denim collared shirts were my thing.
Oozing a nonchalant confidence, she'd skate up to suburban high school house parties like Roller Girl. Back then (and still) Chelsea prefers to transport herself and explore places with the power of her own body -- be it running the streets of Sydney to explore the city while studying abroad (she has also run eight marathons), biking two hours each way to get to a NY beach on summer Saturdays (you can take the gal out of Cali, but you can't take the Cali out of the gal), or roller-skating newly paved streets (why drive when you can skate?). This is important to note, because early on, I knew that Chels didn't always follow the recipe. I liked that.
I also clearly remember that Chelsea actually read the books assigned to us in English class (vs. my CliffsNotes skimming). She loved books and always had a great recommendation of the next I should read. So, it made sense when Chelsea moved to New York City in 2007 to jump-start her career in the literary scene.
Chelsea started as an editor at Europa Editions. She wanted to work more closely with the writers, so she found a job with an agent (as his assistant). There, she had the chance to start representing her own clients right away. Less than a year later, she sold her first project. Eventually she moved from Assistant to Director of Foreign Rights then on to a Full-Time Agent.
Lit is not a fast-moving biz. Books take years to write, the editing process is long, and once those things happen, pub date (publish date) is about a year later! So...this is not a business of immediate gratification. People do it because they love stories and believe in the power of storytellers.
Today, Chelsea's roster of talented authors relies on her to make their author
dreams come true. I get it, because one of those writers is my adoring girlfriend,
Georgia (total coincidence. More on this later). Georgia's career as a novelist hinges on Chelsea's ability to market and sell her work. Talent management work is dualistic: you're building someone else's career, while simultaneously striving to build your own. Management of this kind is incredibly personal and intimate. The types of books and authors you choose to represent defines who you are in a way.
Chelsea delights in surrounding herself with creative weirdos. She’s my non-judgmental friend who I can talk to about credit card debt and unusual crushes. She’s also the first person I called when I got a job offer from charity: water in NYC. My big question was about living expenses in New York City and if I could live off of my offer. She said, "Totally." I said, "Great, see you in three weeks." When she picked up my call, Chelsea was hosting Lady Book Club at her apartment and she enthusiastically announced to the group that they were getting a new member!
Chels recently got married to coffee #4's older brother, Ryan (shout out to RyBoNewman!). The lovebirds met when Chels and Ryan were both crashing at coffee #12 and my Brooklyn apartment (are you following?). Chelsea needed a place to sleep while AirBnB'ing her East Village apartment for some extra cash (#NYLIFE). Ryan was in from Chicago visiting his little brother. It was a full house. That weekend, Chelsea and Ryan watched a Lakers game together, ate artisanal granola, and fell in love. Now they live in California with their rescue dog, Moose.
This is a true story.
During my toast at their intimate NorCal wedding, I took the liberty of inviting
myself to all future Lindman/Newman/Sullivan Thanksgivings. They agreed : )
Chels is coming to New York next week. She’s crashing on my couch. And I predict we’ll keep up this bi-coastal-couch-crashing until we can afford to live in homes that have guest rooms -- and then we'll crash there. She's part of my life-long spirit squad, and I know we'll be adventuring together for as long as our bodies will allow.
1. Sometimes you have to go far away before coming back together again.
I've known Chelsea for more than half of my life. After high school, we did our own thing for a handful of years. But we kept in touch and would typically connect over the holidays, in downtown Huntington Beach at a terrible bar. While most of our friends from childhood began new phases of their lives (marriage and babies), she and I were still solidly in the “I only have hummus and champagne in my fridge" phase. It was comforting to not be the only one. When I moved across the country four years ago, we became better friends than ever. Stay in touch with the people you vibe with. You never know when they'll swoop in and change your life.
2. Think about the life you want. Then werq your career to fit your life mold.
Chelsea asked herself, Can I see myself living the life of a NY literary type five years from now? Nope. She knew she wanted to be closer to her family on the west coast with more access to nature. After much consideration, she took a big chance moving to San Francisco, away from the hub of the lit world. She knew she'd be more disconnected from people in her industry on a personal level, but she didn’t want the NY lifestyle long-term.
Success in the lit agent biz is based mostly on taste and personal relationships. So stepping away from NY and changing how she approached relationship development was scary. But Chelsea wasn't the sort of person who could just find another 9-5 -- that'd be like finding another identity. She's also not the sort of person to rest on the ole status quo. She and I made a list one night on a napkin - the good ol' PROS/CONS list. The PROS won out. And so far, it's working.
HEY LINDS! How are you thinking about your career path and life path working together?! This is a question I ask myself all the time -- usually in the context of where I want lay down long-term roots, raise babies and grow old. I've never been to Portland, and I still think that might be my spirit city. TBD. But the idea of location independence is super appealing to me right now.
3. ATTN FREELANCERS/REMOTE EMPLOYEES: Dedicated work space is muy importante.
Chelsea has been working from home for two years. She has a set morning routine, is diligent about using her calendar to book out her day, and makes a point to only work from her desk.
Also important: taking mental breaks and getting out of the house. When working from home, you don't have to commute - which is a good and bad thing. She really loves the uninterrupted work space (and sharing her office with her dog, Moose). But there are challenges as well. Most people are outside and around other humans at least twice a day (commuting to and from work). If you're not intentional about engaging with the world outside of your home office, you might not leave for days. It's necessary to shift your focus away from the computer screen and activate your brain in different ways throughout the day.
When working from home, you don’t have as many organic distractions like you do in an office. Being remote, you aren't just going to have spontaneous conversations with people in the office kitchen or in Union Square on your lunch hour. So, what can you do during typical office hours to proactively be present with others? How can you actively manufacture those additional connections?
Personally, I know I'm not typically productive between 3pm - 5pm. I zone out and accomplish nothing. I can make the most of the afternoons by scheduling meetings out at a coffee shop, or take exercise breaks, instead of staring at my computer screen. Pay attention to your own flow.
4. Business Journaling. Just do it.
Chels told me that she's started business journaling. At end of day, M-F, she jots down what she did THAT DAY to help her clients generate income.. Super short -- nothing involved other than one or two lines. This helps her keep on track for the short term, and also helps her to take a moment to reflect and celebrate since she doesn't get the in-office/community feedback on the day-to-day.