Creative Careerist Helen Robertson


HR_Head ShotMeet Helen Robertson

My story so far is proof that life is seldom one straight line. My…uh… “careers” have ranged from newspaper reporter to university professor, but my favorite job ever was as an assistant to a stock photographer based in Paris. And having a paper route when I was 12. I’ve lived in Germany, Switzerland, France, and Israel, and traveled throughout Europe and the U.S. Learning languages is one of my favorite pastimes; I speak French and German, love Russian, and want to learn Arabic next. Or maybe Chinese. Or Italian…?


I have a Ph.D. in geography and teach as an adjunct at the University of Oklahoma. My day job is technical writer and editor for an energy consulting company in Oklahoma City. I’m also an avid bicyclist and ride over 100 miles a week when the weather permits. When the weather doesn’t permit, I get grumpy. Bike touring is my favorite way to travel, and I’ve cycled through Ireland, France, Austria, Spain, Belgium, and Holland. I also love scuba diving, sailing, tie dying, digging in the dirt, baking cookies, roller blading, and flying kites.

I’ve been a writer since forever in one way or another. I love writing both fiction and non-fiction, but am concentrating on MG and YA novels right now.




What does an average day look like for you in your creative career?


My creative career is only a few hours a day at this point. It’s usually between the time I get up and when I have to be at my day job. I’m fortunate in that I work from home and don’t have to commute, so I get a couple hours a day before work and a couple after.






How did you get to where you are now in your career? 

Creative careers are cyclical rather than linear, I think. You’re always going on to a new idea, a new project, but the cycle is the same. With writing, you start with a commitment to an idea, write the first draft, and then revise until you have a book you’re proud to send out. Hopefully that book gets published. Even if it doesn’t, you start all over again with a different idea or story.


Right now I’m in the revision stage of my second novel. To get there, I had to do all the usual things: put in the time and finish the book. Encouraging and interested friends and critique partners help immensely. I have several beta readers who keep me going because they want so much to read the finished book.



What key moments, decisions, or circumstances brought you here?

I realized that until you have a finished book, you’ve got nothing. It doesn’t matter how great your first ten pages are. If you can’t deliver the full, you can’t sell a book. That keeps me working past the initial crush on the idea. I avoid the endless polishing of the beginning of a manuscript; I don’t have anyone read or critique my work until a full draft is complete.




What excites you most about your work?

The challenge of crafting engrossing stories. I have always loved books and stories, and it’s fun and exciting to write my own.



What is its greatest challenge for you?

Finishing and moving on. I have a tendency to tweak and tweak.


How do you get your best ideas?

I think ideas are everywhere and you just have to pay attention. For me, they always start with “what if…” thoughts and go from there. The hard thing is deciding which ideas are worth the time and effort of a novel. I jot ideas in a file, but the ones that stay with me, the ones that circle around my mind and start revealing characters, those are the ones I pursue. Whether they’re my best ideas or not, I don’t know. Let’s just say they’re my favorites!


What do you do when you get stuck?

I give myself a few days to work through it, because sometimes I just need to let myself ponder things. But I don’t wait too long. After a few days, I get back to it. I do what so many writers recommend: just start writing. For me, much of being stuck is trying to make it perfect. You just have to let go and write.


How do you make sure you make time for creativity in your life?

There is no shortcut; you just have to make time. Do what it takes. For me, thinking about the characters helps. I feel like I’m letting them down if I don’t make time for them.


What advice do you have for other aspiring creatives who want to follow in your footsteps?

Find something active you like to do outside, and DO IT. You have to get away from the computer, you have to move your body! I love bicycling and a lot of my plotting gets done on long bike rides. Walking is also great for me. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just find something you like to do that gets you out of your head and into your body.


4 thoughts on “Creative Careerist Helen Robertson

  1. Helen, I enjoyed reading more about you! You are not only creative but such a go-getter. I love how you take life by the horns and just get out there and DO it! You really know how to live. What an amazing woman you are! And I know by reading some of your work that you are an amazing writer, too! By the way, when do I get to read your latest book manuscripts? Thanks for all your input on my latest manuscript. Your ideas really helped.

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