How Taking a Detour May Get You to Your Dream

jordan-johnstone-the-mirror-stageTalents, passions, and making your dreams a reality. This is often a long road with lots of twists and turns. Today, we are talking to one of our own team members, Jordan Johnstone, the mastermind behind Friday Faves and other copywriting endeavors here at 4word, about her newly released book, The Mirror Stage. Jordan gives us some insight to her career goals and how she is achieving them through any means possible.

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4word: How have you developed your passion and talent for writing?

Jordan: I’ve always loved stories in general. I know this comes from the fact that my mother surrounded me with reading and books from toddlerhood on. Actually, my first memory is from when I was about 18 months old and my mom and I would climb underneath my crib and listen to a book on tape.

I started writing when I was around eleven or twelve. It wasn’t anything official, just me putting a series of scenes down on paper. But I think that was when I caught the writing fever. I loved coming up with characters and locations, thinking up storylines and plot twists. I would sneak my mom’s catalogs up to my room and scour them, looking for the perfect faces for the fictitious people in my stories.

Fast-forward to end of high school, and I had to pick a degree to pursue. More than anything, I wanted to do something with writing. All of the aptitude tests I had taken during high school had indicated that a career in writing or English was where I should go. However, I couldn’t really find a major that I liked, and I was afraid that creative writing was a career that would never allow me to make much of an income. So I deviated from what I really wanted to do and decided to go after an Advertising and Public Relations degree. I quickly learned that writing is very much a part of marketing, and I developed an understanding and appreciation for copywriting, which is what I do now.

4word: What has the journey to the publication of The Mirror Stage been like?

Jordan: The Mirror Stage began during my work on my Masters degree in Creative Writing. Full Sail University (where I got my degree) is an entertainment-focused school, so the thesis project for the degree was to write a script. I chose a One-Hour TV script, mainly because that’s the type of show I watch the most, so I felt like I had a good grasp on the amount of content needed to fulfill the assignment.

For my thesis project, I wrote The Mirror Stage as a script. My thesis also included writing a show bible, which featured detailed character bios, location information and ideas for all thirteen episodes of season one, among other things. I spent almost a full year researching and tweaking and manifesting the characters featured in The Mirror Stage.

After I turned in my thesis, I was hit with a kind of let-down feeling. I was sad that the story was over and that I was no longer going to be able to live in that world. One Saturday, I spent hours looking through all of my research and I started to wonder, “What if?” I remembered how much I enjoyed writing when I was younger, and figured that now that I had the training, I should give fiction writing another go. So I transitioned The Mirror Stage from script to manuscript and never looked back!

4word:  Did you have any unexpected challenges along the way?

Jordan: Definitely! When I decided to start writing the book, I was completely clueless. When you self-publish (like I did), you are everything. The author, the publisher, the agent, the PR person. While it’s nice to have total control, it also means you have to wear a million different hats. My biggest challenge I’ve faced to date is just getting the word out. I’m brand-new at this, so no one knows who I am or cares that I wrote a book. So it’s been my job ever since I published to make people care.

4word: Was there anyone who mentored you along the way?

Jordan: A friend I've known since middle school, Katie Camp (Kate Avery Ellison), is a very successful author with quite a few books under her belt. When I first decided I wanted to take a stab at this author thing, I reached out to her through Facebook, totally on a whim and completely expecting her to be way too busy to be able to answer me. I was so surprised and honored when she not only responded to my Facebook message, but continued to write back and forth with me over the next few months. She talked to me about everything, from self-publishing know-how to story arcs to writing practices.

Without her mentoring, I would never have had the courage or the drive to keep going. I would have felt like I was all on my own, trying to achieve the impossible. When she came alongside me and politely and thoroughly answered every question I furiously typed her way, she really helped bring my writing career to life. I've thanked her over and over for her guidance and friendship through the tedious process of writing The Mirror Stage, and it still doesn't feel like I've conveyed enough gratitude.

4word: What was your inspiration behind The Mirror Stage?

Jordan: The story stemmed from my love of gritty crime shows and novels. Shows like The Following and Hannibal, and novels like Gone Girl and Dark Places sucked me in and didn’t let go. I wanted to create a story in a similar vein to these shows and novels, because nothing is worse than writing something that you yourself wouldn’t want to read!

One of the main attractors for me to these shows and novels is strong characters that I really get invested in. With every character in The Mirror Stage, I really tried to make them as "real" as possible. They're real to me because I created them, but I wanted my readers to create a connection with them, too. I really analyzed what characteristics and story lines I was most drawn to in my favorite shows and novels, and incorporated my strongest findings into my characters and the story.

4word: Your career path hasn’t been the most traditional. Can you share that with us?

Jordan: I worked in advertising for the first three years after college. Then the agency I was with downsized and I found myself unemployed for around six months. I looked everywhere for another advertising position. One day, while I was trolling job boards, I saw a posting to drive a school bus for Gwinnett County Public Schools. At first I passed over it. Then I saw it again on another site and took a closer look. Health benefits, paid holidays and summer break. I decided it was worth a shot and applied.

Jumping from advertising to being a school bus driver was met with lots of speculation and raised brows from those who knew me. But the entire hiring and training process went off without a hitch, and I just knew and felt that this was where God wanted me to be. Was it what I thought I would be doing? No. But driving that school bus became one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I became part of dozens of students' lives and that blessed me more than I thought it would.

4word:  What's next for you?

Jordan: I’m working on wrapping up the first draft of Book Two of The Imago Trilogy (which The Mirror Stage is the first book of), and then that will be ready for my beta readers and editor. After that, I get to work on outlining Book Three! It’s a vicious cycle but I love it.

4word: Any closing words for our readers?

Jordan: Never forget your dreams. You may not be able to achieve them at the time you think is best, but that’s just because God has a better time for those opportunities to show up. Be ready for detours and enjoy them. They are unexpected spice for your life that will enrich you more than you could ever imagine or plan for.

Pursuing a calling and a dream can be challenging and unpredictable. It’s also a rewarding journey filled with many lessons and rich blessings. Keep climbing those mountains and celebrating the milestones.  

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When did you recognize your talent? How have you used that passion in your career? Let us know in the comments!

Jordan Johnstone (J.J. Stone) holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. Currently a freelance copywriter, she wears multiple hats for a variety of clients. Her journey as an author is one that she has dreamed of since she created her first story at the age of 11. She is currently working on the next chapter in The Imago Trilogy. Her debut novel The Mirror Stage is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks