We had the good fortune of connecting with Gracie Canaan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gracie, why did you pursue a creative career?
Honestly, I don’t think there was ever an option of pursuing anything else. I’m a complete right-brained human. Trying to do anything STEM related in school growing up was like bending my mind through a wormhole. It just didn’t click. So I automatically gravitated towards anything creative — drawing, theater, sculpture — anything that allowed me to explore that “inner world.” It wasn’t until I was in college and in my twenties that I realized I could actually make a living doing these things.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My day-to-day is always a bit different — illustration commissions, staff writing jobs here and there, and virtual comedy shows. I’m a multi-hyphenate who took a turn in her career: from industrial designer to now, comedian and television writer. And I’m talking hard left turn, like swerving over a median in the middle of the road going 60 MPH left turn. It took me six years of relentless work to get here: working multiple jobs, figuring out a way to refinance my ridiculously high student loans, being out late doing shows and up early for my design job. It really comes down to never taking your eye off the prize (I call it “the North Star”) and for me, that is a way to earn money doing the thing I love and the thing I’m good at.
Huge note: when I say “it took me x and y to get *here*”, let me be clear: right now, on paper I am unemployed. I am cracking into my 401k on my last reserves. I made my relatives art for Christmas gifts. But do I feel like I’ve “made it,” as in, am I doing what I set out to do? Absolutely. I finally have the freedom to *not* have a conventional day job. That’s huge. I landed a great manager, I’m developing promising writing projects, stories that are authentically me, that make me feel amped to get out of bed. I’m building my clientele for stand-up comedy events, and I’m constantly recalibrating to figure out the best way to juggle all of these plates without losing my mind. If nothing else, it’s an authentic and exciting way to live.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m sure there’s a character limit when listing my shoutouts, otherwise, I’d be here writing this all day. Because the truth is, I’d be nowhere without the people in my life. And I’m not just talking about my emotional “A-Team,” the people who know me the best and are with me through-and-through. I’m also talking about coworkers who have been supportive enough to come to my comedy shows, peers who have given me the time to read and give feedback on my scripts. Audience members who have DMed me with thanks after a show, strangers who have been kind to me for no reason, and therefore inspired me to be kinder. It’s corny, but every act of encouragement and kindness, no matter how small, has contributed to where I am today. Pursuing a creative passion that you love is rewarding but grueling — every bit of positivity helps.
As far as resources, I’d say the book that inspired me to blow up my life a year and a half ago (quitting my job in the middle of a pandemic to pursue writing and comedy, in a time where I couldn’t even do physical comedy shows — oops! ) was “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. Like any self-help/inspirational memoir book, it has its corny moments, but her argument to trust your gut, to follow that feeling of “Knowing” (with a capital “K”) struck a deep chord with me. We hear this over and over again, and we nod politely while continuing to live our humdrum because we’re still scared of the unknown. But something about her language hit home. It’s such an important message, especially for women.
JT Anderson Arin Sang-Urai