Jessica Howell— Actress, Writer, Producer


What is your creative mission?

I think great art reminds us of who we are, it asks big questions as to why we are here and awakens our humanity. I want to do that. It’s a tall order, sure, but I want to be part of that which awakens our humanity, and I want to do that through my art. I want to inspire people to remember how exciting it is to be alive in this world, the way truly incredible performances, and amazing stories do.

What do you love about what you do?

I love so much about what I do. I love learning. There is no end to the line of learning in this path as a creator, or as a human, really. But I’m learning constantly, daily, sometimes minute by minute! Once one story or project is over, I’m onto learning about a whole different one. I get to do loads of research on moments in history, sociological trends, technology, renaissance art, zen buddhism, whatever. And then, I get to connect with a whole new group of artists and collaborators, and I have to learn from them and about them, about how they all work and how I work with them, or I connect with old collaborators in completely new way. It’s endlessly challenging and endlessly gratifying. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What have you learned from your successes/ failures?

This is an interesting question for me, because I don’t actually think of things in terms of successes and failures. As far a creativity goes, at the end of the day, I’m making a body of work. It’s up for historians and critics to deem what was a “success” and “failure” is, and it’s up to me to just keep getting better. Each new experience I have changes me and informs my work differently. Therefore what I create is always changing and some of it will be good, and some of it will be crap. But that’s what you get when you create things, you have to create a bunch of stuff, you have to practice, you have to grow.

Some of what you make will be crap, but that doesn’t mean the effort was a failure, it’s an integral part of the process. You learn what made it crap, and strive for something better, something more honest, something more compelling. Hopefully, over time, there will  be less and less crap, and more of it will be good, even great, because that’s how one becomes a master of anything. Making crap is an inevitable part of mastery.

How do you keep pushing ahead after a difficult challenge?

My grandpa used to say when someone would complain or throw their hands up or whatever, “Ain’t nothin easy.” He meant, “nothing is easy” but he was from the south, and that’s just how he said it. He always said it with a twinkle in his eye, kind of like a playful dare, like, “You think this is hard? Try something else, that’s probably gonna be hard too, so good luck with your frustration, kiddo.”

Challenge is simply a part of life. Stopping after a difficult challenge will put you, I don’t know, nowhere. Life throws all kinds of challenges in your way, you know, like an avalanche. Real avalanches happen. Rocks, snow, mud, falls from what was a seemingly stable mountain, onto whole towns, onto people, children, onto their homes. That’s, you know, challenging. Death is challenging. So in that case, challenges aren’t at all personal as they are just part of simply being alive. Everybody has challenges, large and small, external and internal, that’s just how it is. So I focus on being alive, living the best I know how, bring as much kindness into the world as I can, and keep doing what I do.

Have you ever encountered resistance from family, friends, or the world in general? How did you overcome those kinds of blocks?

Sure, I’ve encountered all kinds of resistance. It’s the same way I feel about challenges, it’s just part of how life works. So you have to tack and jibe with them, like the winds, and let it keep pushing your sails (if you’re doing it right-that’s exactly what you do-let it push you along even faster). My artistic community is deeply important to me during struggle, uncertainty, or being knocked off my feet. I find it so valuable to have true support and inspiration coming from people that are close, people you cherish. I don’t hold people close who aren’t genuinely supportive of me or my life, because I’ve found that kind of relationship to be corrosive in an invisible way that can take a kind of sneaky toll.

I’ll also say that the greatest resistance I’ve faced and continue to face comes from within. I’ve found it’s the internal resistance that can be the most difficult to suss out, and often the most powerful. I understand all too well the real power of self sabotage and negative thinking. So I tackle it head on with a daily mediation practice, good nutrition and exercise. The health of your mind and your body are intricately linked, so I aim to maintain a space for a heathy mind and body so I can keep on keeping on. It’s not as simple as that, of course, and sometimes a healthy balance is difficult to achieve, but that’s a huge part of addressing resistance for me in my life. By staying healthy and active, it helps me stay positive, able to process more stress, and just be generally more unstoppable.

How has your art and creativity healed you?

Yeah, that’s an interesting one. I’m not sure it my creativity has healed me. I think my creativity often comes out of a question or a desire to understand something more deeply, sometimes it also comes out of chaos or trauma. And sometimes when you enter a subject, be that a person or a broader idea, it can be both awakening and devastating. It can feel more like splitting open. But I suppose, in that experience of growing my heart and deepening my empathy it gives me a deeper understanding of people, of the human condition. In that deeper understanding is an experience of connectedness. I believe connectivity is healing. So I suppose, that’s what it does for me. And really, it’s that experience that I want to bring to others.

What are your NFA Bullet points? What steps would you recommend for anyone who wants to kick some ass and get their creative dreams off the ground?

Bullet points. HA! I’ll take a crack at it.

1. Do it. There’s a reason why it’s a great slogan: Just. Do. It. If you don’t know how, learn how, if people tell you you can’t, don’t talk to them about it anymore, or maybe straight up don’t talk to them. Make time to do it, and do it. Let the idea of doing it charm you. Take a step. Do it again. Take another step. Just. Do. It.

2. Keep learning! Learn from your peers, mentors, books, take class, volunteer, read blogs, go to films, museums, and learn from yourself. You have more knowledge inside you then you realize, take time to learn from you as well (like journaling, meditation, or walks in the woods doing some self introspection.)

3. Challenge yourself to fail. If it’s a creative dream, “failure”, is just you getting so much BETTER. Keep failing. That means you’re doing something right.


Find Jessica


Hey you. Wanna share your wisdom? Answer the 7questions of Creativity here.



About the Author:

Jeff Leisawitz burns with a mission—to inspire writers, artists, musicians and random creative types to amp up their creativity, heal their hearts and shine in the world. Author. Award winning musician/ producer. Internationally distributed filmmaker. College prof. Photographer. Speaker. Consultant. Not F*ing Around—The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground is Jeff’s first book.

Leave A Comment