What is the best thing that I love about my work? The creativity, challenge, thinking, and continued growth I experience as a writer. No two days are ever the same and I love that. I also think the variety of projects pushes me to be more creative and think critically. I am a writer at heart and I feel blessed to be able to do it every day and get paid for it. On the professional writing side, I write and edit for my tech clients, learning about the latest financial technology tools and trends. Personally, I’m working on my first book, a memoir. I write regularly for my Substack newsletter about my book-writing journey and two websites. One is my travel blog called Claire’s Holiday and the other is my professional portfolio, ClaireTak.com.
What is my idea of happiness? Happiness is wanting the things you already have. I think I read that in a book and I remember feeling so wowed by it. I had never thought of happiness quite in that way before. I started to really dig deep and think about what I had in my life—two loving parents who are still alive, friends I care about fiercely, and work that brings so much meaning to my life, I couldn’t help but to become so incredibly grateful for all of it. I started to see life through a different lens and it became easier to shift my thoughts away from “I’ll be happy when…” to “I’m so happy because…”
What is my greatest fear? Stagnancy. I want to know that I am always learning, growing, and being a little uncomfortable. It’s the moments of uncomfortableness that you start to expand.
What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? Sometimes I am too impatient. It’s mostly with myself, but I’m learning to get better at waiting and not making brash decisions or rushing. These are mistakes I made in my 30s. When you reach your 40s, life goes by even faster so it’s nice to “train yourself” to slow down a bit and just enjoy.
Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? I am a huge fan of books, so of course, I have a deep affinity and admiration for authors. There are so many! The ones I admire write about change and overcoming complicated and painful problems. Here are some favorite authors of mine: Ann Patchett (“These Precious Days”) Amy Bloom (“In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss”) Kiese Laymon (“Heavy”), Roxane Gay (“Hunger”), Tom Hanks (did you know he wrote fiction books?! My favorite is “Uncommon Type”), and Anthony Ray Hinton (“The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row”).
What is my greatest extravagance? Being able to travel and live wherever I want, when I want. Also, taking online writing classes—they’re not cheap!
On what occasion would I lie? There are two—if someone asks me, “Do I look fat?” and if a story is repeated to me and the person asks if I’ve already heard it.
What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? I tend to procrastinate when things are hazy—for example if a client gives me work but I don’t fully understand the product or the goal. There was also a moment in my writing career when the kind of writing I was doing felt very robotic. I was just churning out the same stuff, week after week. It started to feel stale. But no one is a mind reader, so I learned to be more vocal about taking on other kinds of writing projects and sparking more variation and creativity in my days.
When and where was I the happiest, in my work? I’m happiest when I’m in the flow—this is when I am deep in my writing, usually, it’s when I’m writing a really vivid scene for a chapter in my memoir. Sometimes, it stirs up really painful memories, but other times, I recall moments that were so delightful. I’m also happiest when I’m with my writing group. We meet once a week to write together for an hour. It’s the best way to be productive!
If I could, what would I change about myself? I would change my ability to relax. I wish I could take naps during the day and lounge around without thinking so much about everything I need to get done.
What is my greatest achievement in work? Over the last decade, I feel proud of being able to work with and learn from really brilliant people in the fintech world, especially when I was in San Francisco. I once met Sebastian Thrun on a Zoom call to ghostwrite for him—he’s an ex-Google VP and co-founder of the digital learning platform Udacity. I’m grateful to have been able to experience such awe-inspiring moments. But honestly, my greatest achievement is getting to where I am right now, to have my career in marketing and tech writing evolve into my desire to become a published author. I always thought writing a book would be too hard, too much work… but then I thought, why not me? The more I push myself to think that way, the more I feel like I can achieve anything.
Where would I most like to live? Somewhere near a snow mountain! Besides writing, I snowboard a ton, and I’ve traveled the world doing it. I haven’t snowboarded in Europe yet, so I’d love to live somewhere near the Swiss Alps just to experience a few seasons there.
What is my most treasured possession? Right now, it’s my Apple AirPod Pros. They’re the ones with noise cancellation and let me tell you, it’s changed my world! I no longer need to lug my giant headphones around when I write at coffee shops or travel. They’re seriously worth every penny.
What is my most marked characteristic? I tend to be pretty a pretty disciplined person. Writing is really hard and if I don’t work during my peak brain efficiency time (early mornings), it’s hard to get work done. I thrive on being productive and I stick to a strict writing schedule for both work and personal projects.
What is my most inspirational location, in my city? Right now I live in Honolulu, so the most inspirational location is on a hike in the mountains. You can always see ocean views and there’s no smog here. I also really enjoy the view from my apartment—every day I get a front-and-center view of the sunrise and blazing sunsets.
What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? My favorite spot is called Leahi. It’s a no-frills vegan place that has the most incredible power bowls! For drinks, I usually hang out at a place called Work Play.
What books influenced my life and how? Oh my gosh, there are way too many to list them. I’m obsessed with audiobooks. My recent favorites include “Finding Me: A Memoir,” by Viola Davis—this book seriously touched my soul. She totally opened up about being poor and hungry and suffered abuse as a child, but then beat the odds and got into Julliard for acting. She’s such an incredibly inspiring person. I admire her so much. I also tore through “Crying in H Mart” by Korean American singer Michelle Zauner. She wrote about the death of her mother when she was 25 and her mom was only 56. Such a young age to lose a parent, and I felt such a deep loss for her. Since I’m also Korean, I identified with a lot the author’s stories about her mom. I thought about ways I can be a better daughter and friend to my mom. I made more of a commitment to show her that she is loved by me.
You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? The Strokes—You Only Live Once.
Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Probably Josephine March (Jo) from “Little Women.”
Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? I admire my parents tremendously. They came to America for a better life, but many times, they did not live this so-called dream. But they kept going. They kept working and trying and failing and getting back up to do it all over again. They’re brave and relentless.
Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? This one is hard because I also really love movies. I have three—“Fargo,” “Forrest Gump,” and “The Matrix.” Not necessarily in that order!
What role play stories in my life and work? Stories are ingrained in us, as humans. From the time we learned how to make fire, we sat around telling stories of the hunt. For me, a compelling story is waiting to be uncovered. Whether it’s meeting someone new and learning more about them or writing a case study for a client in the marketing data space—I always look for the story.
What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ mean? It means you have a choice to interpret your life the way you want it to be. In other words, I could choose to be unsatisfied with my routine, with the amount of money I make, with my relationships, etc. Or I could choose to find something positive or something I feel grateful for each day. When you tell yourself this version of the story, it gets easier to believe it and live it.
Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, or partner in crime? My mom. She is always supportive of my work and cheers me on with words of inspiration and kindness. She reminds me that I’m still young enough to do whatever I want and to never let anything stop me.
Which people or companies would I like to work with? I’ve always wanted to explore more of the journalism side of writing—such as interview-style writing. I really admire these publications and would love to contribute to them in some way:
What project am I looking forward to work on? I am looking forward to finishing my memoir in 2023!
Where can you see me or my work? You can sign up for my weekly newsletter where I write about my book writing journey and road to becoming an author: Memoir Junkie Wannabe Author on Substack.
My travel blog: Clairesholiday.com
My professional writing: ClaireTak.com
What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? It means when you love something, you find meaning in it—and for me, this is what keeps me going. Even though I love writing, there are days I hate it. There are days when I want to give up. But I keep going and that’s what counts.
Which creative professionals should Peter invite to tell their story?
Kuba Koziej https://www.linkedin.com/in/kubakoziej/ (I’m speaking with him about a writing role at his company, so he may be interested in seeing this post!)
Piotrek Sosnowski https://www.linkedin.com/in/piotrsosnowski/