Women Branching Out: Alison Gresik

Very happy to have Alison Gresik with us today.

Alison is a writer and coach and is currently traveling the world (most recent stop: Holland) with her husband and children.

While traveling she’s writing a memoir, Pilgrimage of Desire, and running a crowd-funding campaign to self publish the book.

She also coaches writers and artists who are prone to depression and want to make their art a priority.

Here’s Alison…

Earlier this year you wrote a post about walking depression which struck such a chord with me. Now you’re working on Pilgrimage of Desire, a memoir of your recovery from depression. Why this book? Why now?

Pilgrimage of Desire found me and won’t let me go.

The book brings together every aspect of my self — writer, coach, traveller, wife, mother, daughter, spiritual seeker, entrepreneur — in a way that is very artistically satisfying. I’ve been telling pieces of my story, in person and on my blog, but I wanted to assemble it into a crafted whole that would have more impact.

As for why now, this period of my life feels like crossing a threshold. I’m stepping out of a quiet, settled existence and into the world, physically and virtually, in a bigger way. Pilgrimage of Desire ushers me over that threshold and into a more open, genuine relationship with others. The book feels very alive and of the moment, and I have this urgency to get it into people’s hands.

In the literary world, it’s not always cool to have an agenda for one’s work. There’s this idea of “art for art’s sake” and not imposing meaning on it. But I am writing this book for a purpose. I want it to change people, to inspire them to bring their disparate selves together and strike out in the direction of their desires. It’s not enough for me to be happy — I want to spread happiness like an echo in a canyon. That sounds so incredibly uncool even as I write it, but that’s the truth.

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You’re crowd-funding the self-publishing of Pilgrimage of Desire. What have you learned about yourself and others through this fundraising experience?

I’ve never been good at asking for help — I have this independent streak a mile wide. I like having control instead of relying on the good graces of others. So this fundraiser has challenged me to reach out and trust that people want to help, that they believe in my work and will extend themselves to see my project succeed.

As artists, I think we all reach a point where we have to recruit others to our cause if we want our creations to have the scope and power they deserve.
So this fundraiser is great practice in advocating for myself and my writing, something that every professional artist needs to be adept at.

And doing this has reminded me that in giving there is receiving. When I worry that I’m putting people out by asking for money and publicity, I try to remember what they’re getting back: the joy of being useful, the fulfillment of being invested in an important project, and the pleasure of connection. Friends, family, and strangers have stepped forward to back this campaign, and they seem delighted to do it. So when I feel shy about sending out yet another email request, I remember that I’m giving people a gift too — the gift of doing communal good.

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How is the experience of writing your memoir influencing your fiction work?

In practical terms, it’s distracting me from it! I have a middle grade children’s novel in progress — I’ve just had it professionally edited in anticipation of a major revision — but the demands of the memoir mean that I’m not working on the novel right now.

From the perspective of my creative process, the memoir is taking me to a new level of confidence and flow that I’m sure will transfer back to my fiction writing.

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In your coaching practice you help writers and artists learn to create art-committed lives. What is an art-committed life?

The term “art-committed life” was coined by Eric Maisel in his book Creativity for Life, meaning that “a person can spend a lifetime creating in a particular domain to which she decides to devote herself.”

And my take is that when you design and live an art-committed life, everything revolves around your identity and work as an artist.

I may not spend every waking hour writing, but I travel like an artist — observing and collecting material, making each stop on the trip meaningful. I mother like an artist — giving my kids inspiring adventures, listening with empathy. Right now I’m fundraising like an artist — taking breaks for sightseeing and coffee on the terrace instead of spending 24/7 on my computer.

I also make sure that my writing practice gets the best I have to give. When I sit down to work, I’m happy, rested, and not rushed. Those are the best conditions for flow. Many of my clients have a tendency to push their art to the fringes, and spend only the dregs of their time and energy in the studio. An art-committed life means that your creative work is privileged and central to your purpose.

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In 2011 you sold your house and headed off with your husband and two kids on a world wide trip. Where have you found truth and beauty in this adventure?

Gosh, everywhere.

This morning, in the smell of mown hay, sheep bleating in the field, and bicyclists sailing by on the path outside our window here in Zuid Holland.

Last week, in the colourful house of a Frenchman named Benoit, who offered us beds, champagne, and sparkling conversation when we couch-surfed with him. In the way I’ve fallen more deeply in love with my husband and children because we’re sharing this enchanting time together. In the times of uncertainty and homesickness and setbacks, too, which remind us of what this lifestyle costs and why it’s worth it.

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Who are your biggest supporters and what does their support allow you to do?

My husband Shawn makes this whole life possible for me, by sharing the dream and the workload, by keeping the faith and doing the dishes.

My parents and parents-in-law have also been wonderful,
despite the fact that we’ve taken their grandchildren half a world away. Their unconditional love creates a sense of safety that makes it easier to take the kinds of risks we’re taking.

And the book designer I’m working with, Michelle Farinella,
has held the vision for Pilgrimage of Desire and given my words gorgeous life. This memoir would not exist without her.

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What are your favorite books and what are you reading now?

A few books have stood out for me this year. There’s Martha Beck’s latest book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, which inspires me as a model for Pilgrimage of Desire, since Martha weaves her personal experiences so organically with her coaching advice and exercises. This book has many stories about her encounters with animals and her visits to a game reserve in Africa.

I stumbled across the science fiction book WOOL by Hugh Howey,
which is not only a terrific novel about a society living underground in silos, but also a rags-to-riches story of Howey’s success in self-publishing. Since January, he’s been able to quit his day job to write, and now has traditional publishing contracts and movie deals. Months later, the characters and images from that book are still with me.

This fundraising period has made it hard to focus for reading, but when I do have a minute, I’m enjoying the middle grade historical novel The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, who’s also campaigning to self-publish a companion novella to her next children’s book.

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Is there anything else you’d like to say?

The first few chapters of Pilgrimage of Desire are available to read at Michelle’s site. And I would love for people to check out the Indiegogo fundraiser before June 6 and support the project. (Look at me, asking for help!)


Alison Gresik is the author of Pilgrimage of Desire: An Explorer’s Intimate Journal of Art and Flow as a Way of Life.  She also coaches writers and artists who are prone to depression and want to make their art a priority. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

If you love this interview with Alison, share it, like it, pass it on! And leave Alison a comment below!


  1. I never thought of raising money with indiegogo for a self publishing project! I am off to check that now. I love hearing stories of real people overcoming their challenges, changing their lives. I am off to get that book. Thank you!!

    • Hi Stacey! Yes, crowdfunding is a whole new frontier for writers, very exciting. I’m with you on real stories, I loved memoirs like WILD by Cheryl Strayed and LIT by Mary Karr.

    • christie on at

      Stacey – thank you for stopping by! Alison introduced me to crowd funding for writers. It’s very exciting.

  2. Wow, this interview inspired the pants off me. What she said about falling in love with her husband and children even more as they shared this adventure brought tears to my eyes. I know the feeling…having experienced it with my partner Sean, but looking forward to one day living similarly with kids in tow…I feel like she’s given me a peek into my own future. Alison you are a touchstone along a beautiful path – thank you so much for sharing your story! And for the record, the statement, “I want to spread happiness like an echo in a canyon.” isn’t cheesy at all – I love it!! (off to Tweet…) 🙂

    • Heather, I’m so glad to hear you’re holding this future for yourself too! I can highly recommend it 🙂

    • christie on at

      So glad Alison’s story inspires you Heather. You’ve got the traveling thing down!

  3. Anja on at

    Thank you for this, Christie!
    What an exciting journey – both around the world and through writing and publishing a book!

    I love Alison’s authenticity of taking your “inner artist” into everything you do – I travel like an artist, I mother like an artist, I fundraise like an artist. Beautiful!

    • Thanks, Anja. I for one was really afraid that mothering meant I couldn’t be an artist — not the artist I wanted to be, anyway. Turns out to have been an unfounded fear!

    • christie on at

      Anja – I love that too. The idea that our art can be part of the whole fabric of our lives is awesome!

  4. Emily Montez on at

    I love the concept of my work as doing a communal good. So many people are struggling with your smae struggles, depression and finding themselves and their inner artist. It is hard to find balance. But you bring these things to light, show that real people struggle and overcome. Thank you for this inspiring article!

    • You’re welcome, Emily! Yes, when I was in the worst part of the struggle, finding role models was really important. EAT PRAY LOVE was a profound book for me (I read it back in 2006 when it first came out) as well as blogs like Andrea Scher’s Superhero Journal (http://www.superherojournal.com/).

    • christie on at

      Thanks Emily for stopping by and connecting w/Alison.

  5. Amy Scott on at

    Thanks for sharing your story, Alison! I sometimes suggest my clients try crowdsourcing to fund their books, but no one has taken me up on it yet – anxious to see how it turns out for you!

    Sounds like we have a lot in common, too, as travelers and as coaches – next month, I’m getting back on the road with my husband AND I am starting my training with Eric! Very excited about both.

    • I’m really glad we found each other, Amy. You’ll love working with Eric Maisel, he’s got so much gentle no-nonsense wisdom.

      And I’m really curious to see how my fundraiser ends up too! Whatever the outcome, I’m glad I took this risk to ask for help. I’m learning a ton.

    • christie on at

      So glad you two have connected.

  6. Sarah on at

    I really appreciate the idea of living like an artist: observing, noting and soaking up all that is in the mean time. At least that is how I interpreted what you mentioned. I can also relate to telling pieces of my story- when compiled together is paints a different picture, for sure. Thank you for sharing part of you here.


    • Hugs to you too, Sarah! If you like this idea of the artist integrated through all of life, you could check out “Claim Your Artistic License”, which is a multimedia miniclass that you get when you sign up on my mailing list at http://www.gresik.ca.

    • christie on at

      Thanks for stopping by Sarah!

  7. Heather Day on at

    Gorgeous. Alison, I can hear your voice’s softness and spaciousness in your writing- I can only imagine falling in love with your memoir! Thank you for embarking on this journey of discovery, for showing us that asking for help is a big and strong and productive thing to do, and for speaking up about depression. And thank you to JBC for interviewing such *wonderful* women!


    • Gosh, thank you, Heather. I’ve felt so loved and seen here, Christie has made a wonderful space with all of you!

    • christie on at

      You are welcome Heather!

  8. Wow, I’m so inspired by your life Alison. In many ways you’re doing exactly what I’ve often dreamed of. Traveling the world, observing, reflecting, writing and having adventures. And I love the idea of an “artist’s life.” You’re not just an artist when you’re physically working on the crafts. You’re always embodying the qualities of a creator. I can’t wait to preview your book.

    Christie, thanks for the thoughtful interview.

    • christie on at

      You are welcome Ashley! Love that you said “embodying the qualities of a creator” that feels really rich for you. Enjoy your travels!

  9. Loved this article. Partially because she is travelling the world and committed to living her dreams fully but also because of the crowdfunding component using one of my favourite crowdfunding platforms, Indie GoGo. Crowdfunding is also enabling entrepreneurs and small business owners to achieve what they sometimes believe to be the impossible through the funding support of these initiatives. Awesome read!


    Take BIG Steps, Make Bold Moves!
    Join me on Mentor Mondays for your latest business advice from me and other amazing biz mentors. http://www.anastasia-valentine.com/mentor-mondays/

    • christie on at

      So glad you loved the article Anastasia, since I know you’re an expert at crowdfunding! Alison’s also a fellow Canadian (when she’s not traveling the world).

  10. Di on at

    I really, really love this. How can you not be passionate about life when you are able to follow your dream 100% and to become an inspirational role model for all the women who are still having questions about their real purpose in life! Congrats! Great interview! I definitely will buy your baby -the book. 🙂

    • christie on at

      Thank you Di. So glad you stopped by. Alison is such an inspiration to me, too!

  11. Amber on at

    Love this line – As artists, I think we all reach a point where we have to recruit others to our cause if we want our creations to have the scope and power they deserve.

    I’m so looking forward to reading this book!

    • christie on at

      Thanks for stopping by Amber! That is one of my favorite parts of the interview, too. Learning how we can advocate for ourselves and our work is such an important step up for all of us.

  12. Your worldwide travels sound incredible! And this statement really resonated with me: “I have this independent streak a mile wide. I like having control instead of relying on the good graces of others.” I can SO relate. Thanks for sharing what you learned in this area.

    • christie on at

      Thank you for stopping by to comment Leanne. I definitely relate to Alison’s independent streak, but also so glad she’s reaching out for help to get her writing to a wider audience!

  13. This is beautiful: “An art-committed life means that your creative work is privileged and central to your purpose.” It’s what we’re all aiming for, isn’t it?

    • christie on at

      Yes, to treat our creative work as sacred, thank you for mentioning that Phyllis. It’s so important!

  14. Brittni on at

    Great interview! I love this quote “From the perspective of my creative process, the memoir is taking me to a new level of confidence…” I think this idea transfers over into other creative fields as well. When you are doing what feels the most right, confidence abounds.

    • christie on at

      Thanks for stopping by Brittni – glad Alison inspired you.