First Creative Dollar Interview: Writer, Editor, and Creative Coach Heidi Fiedler

Please give us a little background along with where we can track you down on the web.

I'm Heidi Fiedler. I'm a writer, editor, and creative coach. 

I make picture books, chapter books, and nonfiction for kids with curious minds and kind hearts. It's been my pleasure to work on more than 300 titles for clients ranging from Chronicle to Scholastic. I also teach workshops, offer manuscript critiques and creative coaching, and I’m a proud contributing editor at Bravery Magazine.

@heidifiedler on Instagram

Can you share the story of the first time you made money related to your current creative endeavor? Do you mind sharing how much you made?

I worked in house for several years, so it didn’t feel so strange to be paid for my writing and editing. I was salaried and did whatever seemed to be needed. When I went freelance, I kept working with the publishers I had been in house at, so even then it didn’t feel quite like being paid to create my own personal vision. The first time someone I didn’t know hired me to do a critique, I probably charged $100, and that felt pretty exciting. 

What happened when you realized you could make money from your creativity? Were you inspired? Were you concerned about what it would do to the originality of your ideas?

I’m 41 now, but I didn’t really think of myself as being creative until the last 10 years or so. I worked in creative fields, but I was always trained to be strategic and business oriented, and it felt like creativity got lost in the process. When I went freelance, it took a long time, maybe 5 years or more, to shake off that pressure to anticipate problems, be profitable, and meet intense deadlines, so I could actually experiment, play, and be truly creative. 

Did you ever decide to pursue the creative activity full-time? Why or why not?

At this stage in life, my “full time” looks different than it used to. When I was in house, I worked long hours, and I didn’t really mind. But these days I’m more protective of my energy. And once I became a mother, I cut back my hours, and most days I only work 2-3 hours, because I’m busy parenting, tidying, or resting during the other hours. 

Are there times when you feel pulled between traditional success and creative ideas that won’t leave you alone?

For sure! I think it’s really hard to create something that’s truly original and personal but somehow feels familiar enough that people understand how to position it in the market. The book market is saturated, and it’s easy to come up with ideas that have already been done. But I often get feedback that my ideas are “too creative.” Or I find a book that’s similar to an idea I had a few years ago but couldn’t get anyone interested in, because there wasn’t already something like it on the market. That’s super annoying too!

The creative process is way more enjoyable and meaningful when I’m working on something that feels personal and exciting. I love when a project feels full of possibility and I can brainstorm different ways to make it feel fresh. Uncertainty is inherent in the process, and that’s the fun part. At least if you’re an artist! But publishers prefer zero certainty. And I’m human, like everyone else. I want praise and financial success, so of course, I’m always thinking of ideas that are marketable. But those usually aren’t the most personal or creative ideas that I have. I’m not sure I’ve found the right balance yet or if there is one!

Do you have any advice for people making money or wanting to earn money with their passion?

If you can, I think it’s smart to keep creative passions separate from the pressure to be financially successful, but I also totally understand wanting to be paid for your art, and we live in a culture that makes it difficult to do anything that doesn’t eventually lead to getting paid. My best advice is to recognize creativity and money are already tangled, but that doesn’t mean you have to let your self-worth get tangled in it too. Don’t bother trying to judge the value of your ideas or your work. It doesn’t take long before that idea doesn’t make much sense. 

Make art because you love the process. Make art because you have a vision and you want to share it. Make art because you want to understand yourself and your ideas better. Just don’t let whether you get paid or not for your art determine whether you keep going or not. 

Thank you for sharing your story!