Taylor Jenkins Reid has a pretty extraordinary resume. The author, essayist, and TV writer just finished her third book—Maybe in Another Life. Her first book, Forever, Interrupted, was recently optioned for film with Dakota Johnson attached to star. She co-wrote the Hulu series Resident Advisors that was produced by Elizabeth Banks. She also regularly writes essays for places like the Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post. But she didn't get the start you might think—it took a little nudging from Jennifer Aniston while working in casting for TV and films for everything to fall into place. We caught up with the triple threat to get the scoop on her new novel, how she keeps it all going, and how a career doesn't have to be just one thing.
I hear Jennifer Aniston inspired you to become a writer—how so?
"Meeting Jennifer Aniston, because I'd been such a huge, huge fan of Friends, was so incredible that it gave me something I felt like I had to write about. I was working in feature casting at the time and I found out that she would be coming in to the office. I emailed all of my friends to tell them and since everyone said they wanted to know how it went, I wrote a story about it and sent it out to them all. That was the first time I sat down and wrote something for fun. And I was surprised by just how fun it was."
How did you figure out what you wanted to do?
"After I wrote that first story, I started finding other things in my life that I could write about. It took me about a year of that before I sat down and said, 'I need to try to write a fiction novel.' Once I did, I was hooked. I knew exactly what I wanted to do."
How do you describe what you do to others, considering all your endeavors?
"I tend to say that I'm a writer and then interpret that to fit whatever I'm working on that day. The part where it gets confusing is when I'm talking to my friends or family about various projects and they say, 'Oh, interesting, and that's a movie or a book?' and I have to say, 'No, sorry that's a TV show idea.' Or vice versa."
You have three books (one out in July), created a Hulu series, and write for mags. How do you keep organized?
"I am methodical about my email inbox and I always have a physical to-do list. Without those two things, I think I'd lose my mind. Plus, I long ago resolved to work when there is work to do and then relax where there isn't. So that means that sometimes I'm at the beach on a Tuesday morning and other times I'm writing at 11 p.m. on a Saturday. It's not ideal but it keeps me on deadline."
What's the biggest thing you've learned through all these avenues when it comes to career path?
"It's the thing I'm still learning, which is that no one gives you anything that you don't have the guts to ask for. You have to know your value, demand to be respected, speak your mind, and dare to ask for what you want. I struggle with every single one of these. But when you are your own boss, you also have to be your own advocate. I'm learning and I'm getting better, but that's a mountain that I am still very much climbing."
What's your passion? How does it transfer to these projects?
"My passion is capturing what it feels like to love, be it romantic or otherwise. I love to watch two people realize what they meant for each other—and that goes across all media, books, TV, movies, personal essays; everything. I am endlessly inspired by both the tenderness that can exist between two people and the excitement of falling in love. I'm very fortunate that I've been able to explore that in novels, a television show, some early development film projects, and essays about my own life."
How can other women do what you do—that is, not have "one" job or translate their passions into different things?
"I think the big thing—and it's big—is to be ready to hustle. You have to be willing to ask for favors for opportunities that you might not have originally been considered for. You have to be willing to work hard before even getting paid. I wrote my first book on nights and weekends while I was working a full time job and you really have to believe in yourself. So many times, my goals have seemed embarrassingly big and I was too scared to tell anyone about them. It wasn't until I took myself seriously that anyone else did."
What do you think the secret is to success?
"Being in the right field. Everyone is great at something. When you love something and you're good at it, things take flight."
What's been the biggest surprise when it comes to your career path?
"I think my biggest surprise has been the scope of my ambition. Five years ago, I said time and time again, 'I just want to sell one book.' Then I sold that book and wanted to sell more. I'm always moving the carrot, chasing something else. The minute I achieve one thing, I'm making grand plans for the next. Some of that is good, some of it is healthy, but I also need to learn how to chill out. I think it's a problem that a lot of my peers have. At some point, you have to be able to look around and say, 'this is enough.' So I'm learning how to do that, albeit, quite slowly!"
1. How to be Parisian Wherever You Are (opens in new tab) by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas
2. The One that Got Away (opens in new tab) by Bethany Chase
3. I Regret Nothing: A Memoir (opens in new tab) by Jen Lancaster
Grab Taylor Jenkins Reid's third novel, Maybe in Another Life (opens in new tab), out July 7.
Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.
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