women build women

Gabrielle

Sarah Sharp is a woman of wit and grace. She could be described as the best friend or sister that you wish you had and never knew how much you needed. I had the honor to pick her brain and now get to share some of her indispensable wisdom.

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VV. Tell us a bit about yourself

SS. My name is Sarah Sharp. I grew up in a suburb outside of Portland, Oregon, where most of my family still lives. Now I live and work in Brooklyn, where I’m a copywriter at an advertising agency. Besides those things I like to cook, tweet about my feelings, blog (sometimes), I’m learning to embroider, and about to buy a new sewing machine.

VV. As a woman working in the advertising industry, what have you learned?

SS. I genuinely feel like I’m learning all the time. Gross, I know. I think it’s always that way; you just have to keep getting better. I’d say I’ve grown most in the strategic part of being a “creative,” like how to present to people I’m intimidated by; how to defend work I believe in; how to accept feedback graciously, or get what I need via carefully worded email. I’m still learning this stuff, but it’s honing these more administrative skills that lets your actual work, the ideas you have, get better and really shine.

VV. What has been one of your proudest moments?

SS. I think the moments I’ve been most proud of myself are small ones that symbolize a lot. I’m sentimental that way.

There was a time last spring, leaving work in that perfect not-quite-summer New York sunshine. My partner and I had finished a really productive day and the weather had us in great spirits, so we went to a nearby bar where they put an apple and a half into a juicer and juice it into a glass already half full of whiskey and you drink two and need to lie down. Anyway, we went there and had some of those apple juice drinks and an appetizer and then went our separate ways. As I was wandering through soho by myself I realized that I was just really happy. The sun was still out, I was wearing a new dress, and I had no plans. It had been a tough year—moving to a new city, getting my first real job, going through a breakup. I didn’t realize how exhausting it all was until I was through it, noticing for the first time in that sunny spring moment that I had made it, that I had been making it for a while.

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VV. What would you like to see change for women in the working world?

SS. I want to see socialized feminine traits valued the same way socialized masculine traits are. It’s totally fine for women to “lean in,” but we set women up for failure when we suggest that being more traditionally masculine is the way to solve inequality, not least because it isn’t the sole job of women to dismantle inequality, but of course, because women are judged more harshly than men when they’re assertive and outspoken like we tell them to be. It’s a trap, and a mental gerbil’s wheel that gets us nowhere. And most of all: women have grown up in the same world but lived very different lives from their male counterparts. We have different skills and perspectives because of that, and they are incredibly valuable! I want women to be able to own their experience and perspective, and bring their best qualities to the table, even if they’re considered feminine. For this to happen, we have to start acknowledging all the structural bias we give more masculine traits, and make space for all types of humans on the gender spectrum to be successful.

VV. Do you have any words of advice for women and in what ways do you think that women can continue to build each other up and empower one another?

SS. Two things. One: let yourself acknowledge when things are hard or fucked up. It’s important to take time to be disappointed, angry, and just fucking annoyed sometimes, especially with someone who can relate. Sometimes all you want is for someone else to say, “Wow, that’s so unfair. I’ve experienced that too. I’m sorry.” Find that person. You can only understand the powers at be if you acknowledge they exist. You can only protect yourself, and advocate for a safer, more inclusive world if you’re honest about the need for those things. You need a safe space to have those feelings and conversations. I think we owe that to ourselves and each other.

Being a professional while compensating for privileges you don’t have is exhausting, but it’s also a type of resistance training that pays off. Processing this stuff makes you smarter. Understanding how the world works, how power works, makes you more insightful. Feeling the need for change makes you more generous. I have to believe those things win.

VV. You have a witty and humorous twitter, what inspires these tweets?

SS. I tell people on the internet my stupidest jokes and most embarrassing personal stories and in return I get validation. It’s kind of like, who needs a significant other?

Honestly, it’s a good way to practice brevity and it’s helped me develop my voice a lot. I hate that I just said that, god.

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VV. You share your own blog posts with some beautiful insights and intimate thoughts, what inspires you to write these?

SS. At work, most of the writing I do is for presentation slides. I’m stupidly optimistic so I will say that presentation writing is somewhat of an art and it has made me sharper. But in college I was writing pages and pages and pages, making up whatever arguments I wanted about female character development or why exactly a painting could make me nostalgic. I miss being able to stretch an idea over several thousand words—just to have that much space to play with.

I’ve loved writing since I was a kid, but it just occured to me in the last couple of years that I can actually sit down and write about personal things that are challenging me, and get somewhere, find a coherent argument along the way. I like sharing that stuff because, as with twitter, I like validation. I’m sort of joking, but I do like hearing or seeing that other people feel the same way or appreciate what I have to say. That’s always nice.

VV. As a writer what would you say to other women pursuing writing?

SS. Hm. I’m going to give advice I need to take, which is: just start calling yourself a writer and then write, and then keep writing—even if you’re worried you aren’t that good or that you have nothing new to say.

I learned to ski when I was five and fearless. Now I’m a competent, even good, skier but I’m also a fully-formed adult who understands physical pain and hospital bills. If I tried to learn to ski now, I’d be so afraid.

You’re probably never going be less afraid of starting than you are right now. The vulnerability, the distinct flavor of failure and rejection, your own internal pressure to be better—these are constants. Take a deep breath, remember that literally every person who writes first decided they were allowed to take up that space, to put that title by their name, and do the same even if you feel like you’re faking it.

If you’re already doing all this keep going and please give me advice.

VV. Any final thoughts?

SS. Thanks for having me! Follow me on twitter. Kidding. Sort of. @sarahissharp

VV. Seriously, follow this gal on Twitter and while you’re at it, check out her blog. You won’t regret it!

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