I’m delighted for you to meet Caroline Topperman, a member of my fiction-writing peer group. Caroline is a European-Canadian writer, entrepreneur, dancer and world traveler. Born in Sweden, Caroline has travelled extensively. She speaks fluent English, Polish, and French.
As the founder of Style on the Side, Caroline has infused her professional background in fitness and beauty with her worldly upbringing to share her personal experiences, insights, and ultimately give others permission to step outside of their boxes and discover their own unique style/voice.
Currently living in Waterloo, Canada, earlier this year Caroline’s book Tell Me What You See, an inspiring collection of visual writing prompts, was published by One Idea Press. I’d heartily recommend Caroline’s book even if I didn’t know her personally. But since I do know her personally, I am really jumping up and down about her accomplishment. Caroline has kindly allowed me to share with you one of her prompts as a PDF. And if you’re interested in a structured exploration, Caroline just launched an online class based on her book. Enjoy!
Caroline! Introduce yourself.
I am a European-Canadian writer, entrepreneur, dancer who has never really said no to trying a job. I’ve owned a Pilates studio frequented by A-list celebrities and professional athletes; I’ve sold cosmetics; worked in fashion, the automotive industry, insurance, and had a stint in real estate. Several years ago, I founded my blog, Style on the Side where I share personal experiences and provide actionable advice in the style and fitness fields. Most recently, I wrote a visual prompt journal, Tell Me What You See, which helps people see the world through a new lens (along with a companion online class). Currently, I’m working on my next book, which is a family memoir.
Tell us about your book, your photography, your writing, and other creative endeavors.
I have always loved all the creative fields, but writing, whether through screenplays, scripts or stories, dance, or photography, has always been my favourite. I learned to take photographs on an old Rolleiflex camera and I wrote and performed in plays for as long as I can remember. I believe that creativity breeds creativity and participating in all these fields made me better at all of them. Dance and my film degree have allowed me to understand the composition for photography and writing has enabled me to fill in all the in between spaces and to communicate what I see when I close my eyes.
My book came about because of a bad case of writer’s block. I had just moved to a small town without an arts community and lacking in many services. I naturally fell back on my old love and started taking Polaroid photos; then I simply wrote what I saw. It dawned on me that there are probably lots of people who need to rely on visual stimulation to get them past creative blocks.
What prompted you to start a blog?
I’ve been blogging steadily for over 6 years now. I started because I really missed writing and being creative. At that time, I had stopped dancing and had no other creative outlet, so I decided to take a social media course and fell in love with the idea of blogging. It’s the online community and the human interaction that keep me motivated to continue. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet many amazing people all over the world.
What goals do you have for your creative pursuits? How do you define your “life’s work”?
One of the projects I’ve recently started is an online course based on my book and visual writing in general. I’m hoping to expand on that and get it up and running soon. I’d also like to publish the family memoir I’ve been working on for the past year. Past that, I’m working on several other writing projects that I want to bring to fruition and hopefully have published as well. As for defining my “life’s work,” I don’t know. I’m too curious and restless to do just one thing and while writing is here to stay and will always be a huge part of my life, I don’t think I could give up trying something new if given the opportunity. It’s not 100% serious for now, but I’ve been toying with the idea of selling everything and moving to the South of France…..
Where do you do your creative work?
Mostly at home. I’ve tried writing in coffee shops and while I do find the idea romantic, they are distracting and the seating is always uncomfortable. Any room with a view gets lots of bonus points. I crave open spaces.
Do you have a schedule for your writing and other creative activities?
At the moment I don’t because I’m very lucky that it’s what I do most of the day.
What do you struggle with most?
The lack of urgency. Since I’m only accountable to myself right now it’s easy to fill my days with other “things.” I’ll add that not having a mentor is tough. It would be great to have someone who could help me get my thoughts together, which would make it easier to move forward.
What inspires you?
I’m a very visual person and I love the bustling life of a big city that is filled with people, museums, galleries, plays, the ballet, and even window shopping. Travel, as well. I couldn’t live without visiting new places. All those things “feed my soul”
When are you at your happiest?
When I’m doing any of the above.
What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?
The Paris Review: love all the articles. The Writer Magazine: I actually enjoy getting their emails. Almost an Author: great interviews and tips. The Write Life, they are a great general resource. Writer’s Digest, because it has pretty much everything. I’m also addicted to Brain Pickings by Maria Popova; I think she’s a genius.
What are you reading right now? My grandfather’s memoir for research, The French Girl by Lexie Elliot (just finished it, great beach read), The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (loving it), Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami (I love everything he writes), Hunting the Truth by Beate and Serge Klarsfeld (random find) and another random find, Little Boy by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. For anyone looking for bits of inspiration, his book of poetry is fantastic. I carry it around with me.
What advice would you offer to other women struggling to find the time and means to be more creative? With regards to means, there are lots of ways to be creative that are free so that is one problem solved. Even time isn’t that hard. Sure, you may not be able to dedicate hours upon hours to something specific, but as little as 15 minutes is enough to yield the stress-relieving benefits of creativity. This can include dancing around your living room, daydreaming (highly recommend it) or even doodling. The key is doing it consistently. If you are a writer, then keep a notebook by your bedside table or in the shower (there are special ones that exist for this purpose) and every time you have an idea write it down. Before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful book of your thoughts. Another option is to take photos with your phone (which we all do anyway) and then spend 5-10 minutes writing down what you see. I guarantee this will get those creative juices flowing.