We had the good fortune of connecting with Ali Weeks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ali, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I have always been an artist of some kind. I took my first dance class at age 3, running around a studio in a Tinkerbell tutu, and haven’t stopped since (though I like to think I’ve gotten a bit more sophisticated over the decades). As I studied dance, I always wrote, and I figured my career would involve writing in some capacity. For me, art doesn’t feel optional. If I’m not expressing myself in one creative medium, I’ll feel called to explore a new one. Art is not a choice so much as a matter of survival.
My whole life I’ve known I wanted my career to be personally fulfilling as well as a means of financial support. If I’m going to spend huge swaths of my day focused on something, it better energize me.
Writing is the perfect solution. I can both collaborate with others and spend long hours lost in my own mind. I can shift from one editing or ghostwriting project to another, exercising different voices, like trying on someone else’s wardrobe or suddenly hopping into an entirely new body.
I realized writing was a viable career option when I stopped seeing creativity and financial stability as mutually exclusive. I used to think, “You can either be an artist, or you can make a decent living.” That kind of thinking shackles us. It locks us into doing only what has been done before, paralyzing us from ever taking risks that might lead to a brand new solution.
It can certainly be harder to make a decent living as an artist compared to many other fields, sure, but it’s far from impossible. Success as a creative requires breaking old paradigms, shedding ego about what you think an artist’s life “should” look like, and having the courage to be honest about who you are.
My career, like any artist’s body of work, is constantly evolving. I’m currently earning a Masters of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction, and I apply everything I learn to my work with clients. Even in the first few months, I’ve seen my writing elevate to something unrecognizable from what it was before.
Being an artist means opening yourself to the possibility of becoming unrecognizable. Maybe that’s even the goal.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Since I could scrawl letters onto paper, I’ve been writing. It began with crayons and markers and continues in pen and keystroke, but the intention has stayed the same: to make sense of the world through prose.
I’m lucky enough to have made a career out of the practice I love most. As a ghostwriter and editor, I lend my decades of writing to someone else, like borrowing a cup of sugar. I give them everything I’ve learned, everything I’m working through, and use it as the vehicle to deliver their story to the world. It’s the ultimate form of collaboration: my skill set, their brilliant ideas or profound life experience.
I’m most passionate about ghostwriting memoir and nonfiction. I studied psychology in my undergrad and thought for a long time I would become a therapist. I’ve always been fascinated by relationship dynamics, generational patterns, and coping mechanisms. Memoir gives me a chance to satisfy the would-be therapist in me. It gives us a chance to lay an entire life onto the table and sift through until we see the throughline. We can craft a story that explains how we’ve managed to transform pain into a new kind of progress, to solve some old problems (and inevitably create some new ones).
As for other forms of nonfiction, in the space of making the everyday sing, I thrive. I love working with healers—therapists, holistic medicine practitioners—and environmental conservationists. I see writing as my medium to contribute to the betterment of the world. I love working with people who share that mission and pursue it in their daily work.
So often my clients will ask me why their story is important. Why am I unique? Why do I matter?
Maybe the answer is that none of us are particularly unique—and that’s why your story matters. It’s what we have in common that makes your life experience interesting. It’s how you’ve been handed your particular set of circumstances and what you’ve chosen to do with them. There are a million people who have made similar decisions, and to them, you offer solidarity. And there are a million others who have made the opposite choice. To them, you show a different way of being in the world.
We don’t need to be singular to be important. I use writing to put beauty into the world alongside pain not because I am the only person who has experienced either, but because everyone has. This is how we connect.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d offer the advice of Jami Attenberg in her recent memoir, “I Came All This Way to Meet You”: “For me, the best way to get to know a city is the same as with a human being: learn both the flaws and the charms.”
I’d start off a sunny summer weekend with a Farmer’s Market, either South Pearl Street or City Park. We’ll stock up on colorful cherry tomatoes, local bratwurst, and homemade bread, savoring pastries or warm empanadas as we stroll. Then, bags stashed with veggies, we’ll make our way to the mountains for a hike.
We don’t need to drive far to surround ourselves with stoic pines along a dusty trail. We’ll go a few miles, our dog’s paws leading the way, and take in the view from the lookout. There, we’ll talk about how the mountain has changed. We’ll mourn the fire-blackened trees and scarred landscape. We’ll worry about the future. We’ll shore each other up and trade ways for staying accountable, for being part of a solution. We’ll walk down the mountain holding both grief and hope in our chests. On the drive home, we’ll talk about all the reasons for optimism, and realize that hopelessness doesn’t have a place in our lives.
As we wind back into the city, dog dirty and asleep in the back, we’ll stop by Weathervane Cafe for sandwiches and cold drinks.
Later, after a shower and some rest, we’ll walk through RiNo, noting the larger-than-life murals and the clusters of tents, of people making it work however they can. We’ll sip some wine under the wide sky at Infinite Monkey Theorem while we wait for our table at Safta a few blocks over. Dinner will be pillowy pita bread dipped in fresh hummus and roast chicken and seasoned vegetables. It’ll be luxurious cocktails and loud laughs. Maybe we’ll stay for a drink at the rooftop bar, but more likely we’ll tumble into bed, tipsy and grateful.
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?
To all the writers who came before me, pouring their souls onto the page with abandon, offering us a seat at their childhood dinner table, teaching us what it means to create an entire world from nothing, showing us how to deliver love with the mark of a pen: Thank you for paving the way, for showing me how it’s done.
Headshot photo credit goes to Aly Carlisle