Describe your path up to what you’re doing now.
It’s been a wild ride. Ups and downs. Thrills and crashes. Self-confidence and self-doubt. Starting and abandoning.
As a child, I immersed myself in worlds that were created by other authors and by myself. As I grew up, however, I became insecure: about my place in the world, about my talent (or lack thereof), about money, and so I stopped writing and daring.
I found plenty of distractions and excuses to avoid committing to writing. I traveled around the world. I’ve worn many hats—marketer, translator, brand consultant, video game designer, educator, and entrepreneur. Recently, however, I realized that this train only goes in one direction, and nothing I did could compare to the importance of writing. So now I make a decision to devote myself to this tedious, but highly rewarding endeavor and see where this path will take me.
How did your childhood influence your ideas and what you do now?
In my childhood, I was relatively free to do what I wanted since my parents weren’t strictly supervising me. For unknown reasons, (personality traits, I guess), I chose to spend more time reading books than hitting the playground with other kids. That pastime nourished my imagination and I started creating stories, sometimes entire worlds.
Later in my teens, after cultivating my ability to create characters, situations, and settings, I wrote a 60K word YA fantasy novel to express unfulfilled dreams of being popular in school and dating the right guy.
So yes, as trivial as it is, it was reading at my tender age that sparked my interest in writing. I understood there was more to the world than what our eyes can see and our ears can hear.
Did you or do you have a mentor? Who was it and how did they inspire you?
I never had a mentor, nor did I put anyone on a pedestal. But, of course, I had my heroes. After all, I’m a member of the Harry Potter generation. In spite of JK Rowling’s current controversy, I cannot deny the fact that she, her biography, and her books inspired me to write and be resilient.
I have a question. Where were you born?
I was born and raised in an industrial city in Ukraine which is literally translated as ‘Crooked Horn’ 🙂
Where do you live now? If there is a change of location what caused it. Can you share?
At present, I spend most of the year in Canada and I’m looking for a warmer place to stay during the winter. I traveled quite a bit in my early and mid-20s. I lived in Spain, Georgia, and Ecuador. During one of my trips to Costa Rica, I met my current boyfriend who lives in Canada. So now we reside there.
Was there a point in your life when you decided to take a big risk to move forward?
There were several points/decisions that could be considered risks, conventionally.
Despite receiving scholarships, I decided not to pursue a master’s degree. Instead, I moved to Europe, with no money. I found a 9-5 job there and had my career development, but after three years, I turned it down and started traveling.
Many of my decisions would seem reckless and rightfully so. As of now, my biggest risk is choosing entrepreneurship and writing over corporate stability.
Do you feel a responsibility to contribute to something bigger than yourself and what do you hope to contribute?
I do. This responsibility I sense is the main driving force for me as a writer.
Writing is a tool to ajar the door to the mysteries of my psyche. In practicing this craft, I explore not only my conscious mind, the ego, but also the personal unconscious, and, I dare to think, the collective unconscious.
I hope the insights I gain could be beneficial/interesting/thought-provoking for other people, contemporary and future alike.
Are you satisfied creatively? Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
Considering how little I have created, I can’t say I’m satisfied. I blame myself for the wasted years and current laziness; they’ve dulled my creativity. Still, I’m hopeful to see that I’m on the right path. I write every day and that commitment makes the juices flow.
Within five to ten years I hope to publish a couple of essay collections and a fiction novel. Dreaming big, I’d like to establish a school where hungry minds could learn about the journey of life so that they’d have little to no regrets in the end.
If you could go back and do one thing differently, what would it be?
I wish I made notes during my travels. I had so many wild adventures—living in the jungles of Costa Rica with a black partner in my backyard, milking cows and making artisan cheese in a distant mountain village in Georgia, being detained by Russian customs for drug trafficking (and released)—but now I can only vaguely recall these experiences.
Are your friends and family supportive of what you do? And why?
Yes, I’m lucky like that. From the answer I gave to question #6, you can see that I’ve made some reckless decisions in my life, but I gained more than I lost. Witnessing that, my parents and close ones learned to trust me when it comes to my, a bit crazy, ideas on how to live. Besides, they think I have a gift for writing, and although I don’t share their opinion, it doesn’t hurt to have their support and faith that stems from it.
How does where you live impact your creativity?
Ambivalently. On the one hand, I live by a forest, and the proximity to nature has a positive effect on me: I become calmer, more appreciative, and more mindful. On the other hand, I live in a suburb with little social life. The lack of story-sparkling interactions, adventure, and fun dulls my storytelling, I’m afraid.
I wish I had more balance when it comes to the natural versus the urban scenes, or rather solitude versus socializing. I’m working on improving the situation.
If you could give one piece of advice to another creative starting out what would it be?
Approach creativity in a playful manner like kids do—to learn more about yourself and the world. Don’t let comparisons, high-stakes attitudes, and self-doubts hold you back. Play, explore, and see where it takes you.
How do you keep learning new things?
I’m curious about pretty much everything and haven’t outgrown the ‘why’ phase. I always have something I don’t understand about the world, and the Internet usually gives me the answers. There are so many articles, lectures, and books out there that you can’t help but learn something new every day.
Also, when I write, I tend to fact-check even remotely questionable detail to make sure my writing is accurate and logical. This leads to hours of reading and learning.
All right, what does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up with no alarm clock, a privilege I can’t stop appreciating. I do my morning exercises (I’ve been doing them for 14 years now), take a shower, have breakfast, and start working–either in my room or at the library/cafe. When I get too distracted or my productivity is low, I use the Pomodoro technique. Sometimes I succumb to distractions and don’t get anything done and then work until 10-11 pm because I have a to-do list for the day. In the afternoons or evenings, I like to go for a walk or a run, and if I don’t procrastinate too much during the day, I have time to watch a show or read a book. I’ve also developed a couple of habits–gratitude journaling and meditation before bed–that have had a positive impact on my well-being.
Avocado. I hated it when I first tried it. Now I love to eat it on its own, in savory, and sweet dishes.
Dark chocolate. I used to like milk chocolate, now I fancy 85% cacao.
These two foods I eat every day.
Do you have a favorite book?
It’s tricky to pick my favorite because tastes change over time, and so do I. My recent favorite book is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It’s possible I’ll read something soon that speaks to me even more.
Do you have any favorite movies?
I can countlessly rewatch Gloomy Sunday (for the music and the main actress) and Gone With the Wind (as it’s based on the book I loved in my teens for its character development and love story).
Current album on repeat?
“Blue Banisters” by Lana Del Rey.
Last question. What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?
My writing. I hope that by groping my way through life and questioning dogmas, and by sharing my experience of living and my understanding of what it’s like to be a human here and now, I can help others improve/enhance/deepen their own living experience; help others to have fulfilling lives.
Anastasia Petrenko is an author and video creator. Her content covers topics of deep interest to her: essentialism, freedom, languages, and travel.
Originally from Ukraine, she has lived in four countries and now resides in Canada. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org