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Conversations with the Inspiring Melanie Gable

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Gable.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest with my mom, step-dad, and younger brother and spent a lot of time reading, drawing, writing stories, watching Disney movies, cheerleading, performing in community and summer stock theatre, and trying to avoid doing homework. Every two to four years, my family would take a road trip down to Disneyland, so I grew up associating southern California with fun, happiness, and Disney magic. As a kid, I wanted whatever I did in my free time to involve creativity, performance, movies, art, books, Disney or being out in nature. Those impulses haven’t changed over the years.

At the University of Idaho, after 5 years of barely maintaining a G.P.A. acceptable enough to act in my college’s theatrical productions, I finally earned a B.F.A. in Theatre Arts Performance. My family moved down to California while I was still in school, so I joined them shortly after graduating. After working odd jobs at a 50s diner gift shop, a public library, and a federal government agency, I found a niche of sorts in the Development/Special Events department at a non-profit theatre company in Orange County.

I tried to go on auditions in L.A. during this time and even had an agent for a hot minute, but I couldn’t audition during the day and hold down my full-time job, so I chose financial security over pursuing an acting career. I focused instead on acting in local storefront theatre productions, which I loved. I had the opportunity to play a few of my dream roles and became close friends with several of the performers I met throughout the years. During this time, I occasionally wrote scripts for performance projects and even created a burlesque troupe with some of my actor friends that performed for several years in Orange County.

Now, I’m a stay-at-home parent and live in O.C. with my sweet husband and our toddler daughter. I also work from home as an Independent Designer for KEEP Collective (a keepsake jewelry company led by CEO Jessica Herrin) and I just started freelance reporting for Attractions.com. I’m currently building my blog – coming soon to keepquirky.com! In the future, I plan to return to the stage, and I’m especially interested in getting some voice acting training, so I can (hopefully) work on animated projects. That would be a dream come true!

Has it been a smooth road?
I was fortunate to grow up with a family who believed in me and encouraged my talents and interests. They have supported me so much over the years, and I don’t think I would have accomplished the little that I have in my life without them cheering me on.

That being said, I’ve struggled with clinical depression and anxiety off and on since I was a teenager, and at the worst times in my life, I believed I was entirely worthless and not good enough to even be alive. I had trouble bouncing back from rejection or criticism because I didn’t have any positive feelings about myself to balance out the negative feedback. These were times when even leaving my bedroom felt like a herculean task, and I didn’t feel strong enough to face the world. Thanks to a combination of medication, therapy, supportive friends, finding a loving partner, becoming a mom, and simply maturing a bit, I’m much more confident and in control of my negativity than I used to be. But there are still times I have to remind myself that it’s okay to be imperfect, it’s okay if someone doesn’t like me, it’s okay if I make mistakes and it’s okay if someone doesn’t think I’m good at what I do. I’ve had to learn how to balance being honest with myself about my faults and weaknesses with acknowledging my strengths and accomplishments. But unnecessary or destructive criticism still stings, and it takes a lot of time for me to get over it.

As far as advice goes, I don’t see myself as successful, and many would argue that I’m not, so I don’t necessarily think I’m in a position to give advice. However, I have spent most of my life observing, admiring, and reading about successful people (mostly in artistic fields) and I’ve learned from my own successes and mistakes, so here’s a bit of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years:

The best piece of advice I have for creative people is that you shouldn’t wait for some authority figure to give you permission to try something new or start a project or career path you’re passionate about. It may take you longer to achieve your goals if you have to go around the traditional channels, but it’s so much more satisfying to know you created something or achieved a goal on your own terms, rather than just doing what the gatekeepers told you to do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make connections with people who are successful or influential in your career field or that you shouldn’t use the tried and true methods of getting work, but if you keep hearing that you’re not going to make it in your career because you don’t fit a certain mold or don’t have the “right” background, don’t let that stop you from pursuing what you love. Instead, focus on learning, reading, practicing, looking around you for inspiration, and finding mentors and friends who DO believe in you. Be aware of what makes you unique and what’s special about your background, perspective, talents, and style. Try to be aware of the latest trends in technology and social media so you can stay a step ahead of the mainstream and know how to promote yourself and your work in new ways. Then work each day to take practical steps toward getting your projects off the ground or forging your own path in your chosen career.

You should also spend time thinking about your values, what makes you happiest, and what makes you unique, independent of what anyone else says about you or what you “should” be doing with your life. Your goals and values might change over time, and that’s okay. I believe it’s an ongoing, lifelong process to truly get to know yourself and where you fit. Some people discover their passions early in life, and some much later, so try not to compare your path to anyone else’s. I personally have a hard time with this, and often feel like a failure when I see others’ successes. But that way of thinking has often stifled me, and I thrive much more when I’m focused on my own tasks and goals. We rarely know what’s going on behind the scenes of other’s lives, and they may have had help you didn’t or made choices you ultimately wouldn’t want to make for yourself.

Another thing to remember is that people will criticize you when you put yourself or your work out into the world. Whether they’re jealous, frustrated that you’re different from they are or what they idealize, or just trolling, some people can’t stand to see others have the courage to make an effort or succeed at what they do. Try not to lose heart when people go out of their way to be unkind. The world is still full of generous, loving people, and try as hard as you can to focus on your support system, rather than your detractors. It’s easier said than done, I know! But don’t dim your light because it’s too bright for those who like to live in darkness.

And some random, square bits of advice? Pay your bills on time. Visit art museums. Stay away from addictive substances, personalities, and activities, whatever those are for you. Take classes and keep learning about the things that interest you. Try to stay out of debt. Make things with your own hands, even if they suck at first. Take responsibility for your mistakes AND your successes. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if it feels wrong. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” if it feels right. Don’t take your friendships or the people you love for granted. Speak up if you feel YOU are being taken for granted. Go for walks outdoors. Check out books from the library, and return them by their due date. Learn to enjoy your own company. Be a dork sometimes (or all the time). Laugh. Be kind to everyone, no matter what their station in life. Do what you love. And when you’re feeling low, remember that there is only one of you in all of existence and you are absolutely irreplaceable.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into KEEP Quirky story. Tell us more about the business.
Something I recently realized about myself is that storytelling is connected to all of my favorite things, talents, and what I love to do, so essentially I like to consider myself a storyteller.

I started writing for Attractions.com and building my Keep Quirky blog because I love to write, take pictures, and have new experiences, and I’m excited to share my perspective on the events I attend and the things I love, like family, Disney, entertainment, the arts, and all of the weird and wonderful things that SoCal has to offer. I tend to be a long-winded writer (as I’m sure you’ve noticed!), but I work hard to communicate in a clear, genuine, and interesting way, and writing well is extremely important to me. I won’t reveal everything about myself or my life, but I do try to be relatively open in what I write and share with people. I think I’m relatable and definitely imperfect, and I want to inspire people (especially women) to try new things, find the fun in their surroundings, to be themselves, and to enjoy their own quirks and eccentricities.

As a salesperson, I’m not “salesy” at ALL. I genuinely love KEEP Collective jewelry because it’s very personal and tells a story about the person wearing it. (Again, it comes back to storytelling.) The leaders of the company are almost exclusively women, and the women on my team are extremely supportive and nice. I absolutely love designing special pieces for my customers, most of whom I know personally, and I never try to upsell because I’m on a budget myself and I know that we all have limitations to what we can spend. As a designer, I want to help my customers treat themselves and the people they love something unique and special. KEEP Collective has given me the opportunity to stay creative, make new friends, continue to stay home with my daughter, and earn a little extra income for myself doing something I sincerely enjoy.

Except for the occasional short-term project, I’ve taken a long break from acting because I don’t want to spend multiple days and nights away from my little daughter to rehearse and perform in a play, but I’m still absolutely passionate about acting. I’ve had years of training and practice to hone my skills, and I think what makes me unique as a performer is that I love to do research and I work to connect the character’s emotions to my own and create a well-rounded, believable character. I love to “live” in the circumstances of the play and find ways to respond genuinely to the actors I work with. Basically, I just adore being on stage and using my imagination, and I think it shows. I’ve had both positive and negative reviews, but I know deep down that I belong on stage, and when something like that stirs your soul, no one can take it from you, no matter how much they may criticize or reject you.

It would be great to hear about any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve used and would recommend to others.
My friend Jessica McDonald is a blogger – TheHealthyMouse.com – and she is definitely an inspiration to me. I’ve known her since she was a teenager and even though she’s a decade younger than me, I look up to her so much. I’ve seen her grow up, find her niche, and build a name for herself all through hard work and her own talents. She didn’t have any special connections or help along the way, she just hustled like crazy, tried new things, reached out to people, and taught herself what she needed to know. There are a few people who work as she does on her blog, and I seriously don’t know how she has the energy to accomplish everything she does, especially being the mom of a toddler! She is a wealth of information to me about blogging and social media, and she’s given me so many opportunities along the way.

I also find a lot of inspiration on Instagram! There are so, so many women on that platform expressing themselves, running businesses, and being creative, and it’s fun to be a witness to all of it.

The apps I use most often in my work are for photo editing, mainly Over and Afterlight. KEEP Collective also has apps and resources for all of their designers, which is extremely helpful. I actually do most of my work on my iPhone.

I love the feminist magazines Bitch and Bust, which highlight women doing great work in the world, inform me about current feminist issues, and inspire me to explore intersectional perspectives.

Recently, I’ve found inspiration in these books:
“It’s Your Universe” by Ashley Eckstein
“In the Company of Women” by Grace Bonney
“Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures” by Jennifer Romolini
“Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire and Beauty” by Nikita Gill
“Find Your Extraordinary: Dream Bigger, Live Happier, and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms” by Jessica DiLullo Herrin

And it may sound corny, but going to Disneyland just inspires me to have fun and find the magic in my everyday life.

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