Are you even a writer?
I have asked this question so many times… as has (probably) every writer.
Paulette Perhach's life started with financial disaster and the accidental death of her father when she was 17, she started started out with a victim mentality.
Paulette admits to feeling entitled and waited for success to come to her. It wasn't until she had an experience through the Peace Corps that she learned she had to take responsibility for her own success. She discovered the miracle of self-education during her service in Paraguay.
She bought a horse and simply Googled: "How to ride horse." Two weeks later, she was galloping.
She's gone on to become an adult-education evangelist, starting a corporate university at a $50M company, creating writing courses, and authoring the book Welcome to the Writer’s Life Book—a guide to turning freelance writing into a business.
She also wrote a globally viral article that helped millions of women realize the importance of financial power, calledA Story of a F-Off Fund.
She is now a successful writer and writing coach, with work in The New York Times, Vox, Cosmo, Glamour, and many more.
Writer's Mission Control
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Hello and welcome to in the rising podcast. My name is Betina brown, and this is the platform I've chosen to talk about living a life that's in alignment with your hopes, your dreams and your goals, regardless of what your past was or what you feel your past represents walking away from shame and blame, that does nothing for you. And so I really like on this podcast in the rising to talk to people who have risen through some major life event or some sort of metamorphosis into something very, very different. And my guess today is Paulette perha, and she has changed her entire life by getting out of a victim mentality. And so I'm really excited for you to listen to what she's been through and where she is today. Thank you so much for being here on in the rising podcast. And I have read your bio, I've actually read it like three, four times. I have a little <laugh> circle and all of that, you said you actually started off your life with like a financial disaster mm-hmm <affirmative> and then, you know, you've , you've financials is kind of what you've alluded to many times. Would you be willing to go a little bit into this financial disaster that really made a difference in your life?Speaker 3:
So that really started when I was eight and my family went bankrupt. And then it was kind of one of those things where, you know, when you're kind of running down a hill and you trip once and then you can't get your footing and then you just kind of tumble all the way down the hill. So it felt a little bit like financial disaster ongoing from the time I was eight to the time I was in my early twenties, really? Because by the time we were getting out of the, you know, the original kind of financial disaster, my dad had a job. And then when I was 17, he was killed in an accident at work. And then, you know, that was two months before I went to college. I was just really messed up around money for a long time and had to really pay attention to it, to, to fix my relationship with money really mm-hmmSpeaker 2:
<affirmative>, you know, and , and I like how you point out fix the relationship with money. A lot of us don't feel like we have a relationship with money. Like that's, mm-hmm , <affirmative> , um, a new topic and that how we feel about it, how we feel about it coming or going, having not having , um, you mentioned that your , your family had this, this issue at eight, that they went bankrupt. Some people feel when I talked to them, they're like, I never knew we had money problems growing up. It was just, there was love. There was this. Now I really see it. Did you feel, you knew at that time that there was a change in your style ? OhSpeaker 3:
Yeah. I mean, and I think my parents did their best for sure. And it was, you know, I always say it was a very loving environment. We were a very fun family, but, you know, it was the kind of thing where the phone rang and my parents were like, don't answer it. <laugh> mm-hmm <affirmative> and , um, you know, things being broken, things, not being fixed, stuff like that. And, you know, parents saying we can't afford it, we can't afford it. We can't afford it whenever we wanted something.Speaker 2:
Yeah. Yeah. Now you have done a lot, like you said, you went to the peace Corps and that, that was a big changing thing. How did that even come about as an option for you? How did you even learn about this?Speaker 3:
Well, I always wanted to travel and being broke. I never really could. So, you know, when I was 13, I signed up for a scholarship program to go to Finland for the summer. And I remember they had all these programs you could just pay for and go to, but I had to do the scholarship one and I got into the finals and then I didn't get picked. And I was just like so devastated and , you know, and I'm like teenager, so I'm like, I'll never travel, right. I'm 13. So, you know, then cut to my early twenties. I'm like, I , you know, all through, you know, other people were traveling sometimes in college and doing a semester at sea or something, super cool like that. And then I felt like, you know, I was halfway through my twenties and I hadn't really, I had gone on like a senior trip to Mexico, like the classic Cancun disaster trip where I got robbed, by the way I had worked at a skating rink, saved all my money and then I got robbed. It was very sad , um, just from my , uh, from my suitcase in my hotel room. Um, but I really wanted to see the world and , um, you know, wanted to do something bigger, I think. And I was realizing that journalism, I was working at a small town newspaper, and I was realizing like, I love writing, but I'm not quite a journalist mm-hmm <affirmative> . And you know, that can mean a lot of things and I still write feature stories, but I wanted to be a little bit more creative and I thought it was a great way to kind of go have a big experience and , um, you know, be of service in some way and, and learn a new language and just ha just do something wild.Speaker 2:
Yeah. Yeah. And where did you go? What did you do with this peace Corps ?Speaker 3:
So I went to Paraguay and when I found out I got Paraguay, I was like Paraguay. Like, you know, I knew I was gonna south America, some picturing like beaches, mountains, and then PUA , just like in the middle and with no beaches and no mountains. And I almost asked for a country change, but I was like, you are going to be of service to other people. This is not about you. And then I had the most incredible time, most incredible host family. And, you know, I always joke it was the best of times. It was the worst of times. And , um, and, but I was right where I needed to be. Mm-hmmSpeaker 2:
<affirmative> what did you learn out of that trip when you said I wanted to be of service? How , what did you gain out of that trip to really learn that,Speaker 3:
You know, honestly, it was that there is no experience in which you are entirely giving or entirely taking. That was what was fascinating to me because I did peace Corps and everyone expects you in peace Corps to be this kind of like Saint, like you're just there to give, give, give . And, and honestly, there are ways in which some people don't want your help or your help is rejected, or, you know, I think there's a huge conversation around peace Corps . I, I wish the peace Corps framed more as a cultural exchange because you go there as an idiot, 25 year old kid, at least I did. And I had so much to learn and, you know, my host family and the people in my community taught me so much. I took so much away from it. It was incredible. Um, and then later I worked in business and people expect you in business to be all like, take, take, take the other person's, you know, out to get , eat your lunch and, you know, and it can be this like beautiful exchange of value. So for me, there's kind of the half for me, half for you with, of course, that margin for generosity and , um, you know, giving to people who don't have anything to give back at the right now.Speaker 2:
Yeah. Wow. And so you went there and then you said you discovered the miracle of self education. So expand on that, please. What that meant to you?Speaker 3:
Well, about halfway through my service, I just kind of snapped and bought a horse. And then I Googled how to ride horse <laugh> . And in like two weeks I was galloping on my horse and my boyfriend at the time was Paraguay . And he is like, oh my God, I cannot believe you're galloping on this horse . And I was watching these YouTube videos with this woman in this beautiful corral with these incredible boots. And she looked like one of the top writers in the United States. And I'm like, I'm in the middle of south America, learning from someone who obviously is an incredible teacher. And you think about , um, you know, peace Corps has kind of made me think about the wider scales of time and space mm-hmm <affirmative> and, you know, just a few hundred years ago, which is not very long ago, if you wanted to learn something, it was like, does someone in your village know it? Mm-hmm <affirmative> if not like, and even if they do, can you afford to pay them? So I think that we've kind of just been raised in this era where every, all this information became available and there's all these different forms of value where there's money, there's power and knowledge is a kind of power. And I feel like that is kind of the back door to getting into a place of abundance is if you don't have anything else, what you have is the internet or access to the internet probably in the United States. You know , um, certainly not everyone has it at the same level, but most of us can try to learn for half an hour a day and have an unlimited amount of knowledge to, to gain from the internet. And then you can slowly start to trade that for money and then think life just gets easier, you know? Yeah . And my life was not very, my life just felt like I was all treading water for a long time. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and not really sure what I was doing wrong. And so I spent a lot of time researching organization and business and just, you know, living a life that feels better.Speaker 2:
Yeah. Yeah. So where did you go from galloping Inua to authoring books <laugh> and writing now? Like , what was that next step for you?Speaker 3:
Uh , well, first I had to come back from peace Corps , which was a terrible experience. It was a terrible time of my life. I came , it was like a whole cluster, my own fault, but I basically came back with like no money. You're supposed to have a readjustment allowance and through a long complicated story, I basically came back with no money. I had to move in with my mom, get I with like literally two or three days after coming back from peace Corps , which is a very emotional time. I was sitting in a cubicle, the width of like a bathroom stall, doing data entry as a temp because I had to just get a job immediately. And , um, Then I ended up moving to Seattle and getting a job at a tech company using, you know, books that I had. I , I mean, I really just like made a leap because I was like, I'm gonna read as much as I can about job hunting and trying to find a great job and like got myself a great job, which was awesome. And my job scared the crap outta me. And so it really made me step up my game a lot. And I became a lot more professional at that job, even though at the time it felt like, oh, this is totally getting in the way of me being a writer. I just wanna write all day. I learned skills there that I will use for the rest of my life, for sure. To support myself as a writer. And so I happened to move six blocks from a writing center called Hugo house in Seattle. And it was just very cool to go from, you know, it was in, it was in peace Corps that I decided that I wanted to be a creative writer, but I was just there on my own. You know, I went to our little peace Corps library and I was lucky to get the books, bird by bird and the artist's way, which are like two of the best books you can get on writing like that. Those are my first two books I found is so lucky. I had no idea that they were total classics and, but I had no writing community. I just had the books. Right. So it was in Seattle that I got to know other writers and it's so different from what you imagine it to be. Everyone seems so cool and collected in their author's photo. And then, you know, you think what you're reading is like pretty much their first draft of this, like jotted it off. Yeah . And so I kind of had this backstage view, just being surrounded by all these writers. And so I really wanted to write this kind of like overview of what it is like to live a writer's life. And , um, and I started that project before I had the, a peace go viral. Like I was a total, nobody now I'm like nobody. Plus like I have like one little lineSpeaker 2:
<laugh> .Speaker 3:
Um , but , um, so yeah, so I just really fell in love with, with freedom, with reality in peace Corps and with, with the art of writing.Speaker 2:
Wow. And so with all of that, your viral piece, explain a little bit about that. <laugh>Speaker 3:
So I'm a big fan of what I call fake outs, which are fake stakes to keep you working. You know, if you don't have an answer to the question, what would happen if I don't write today? Which most of us don't like, you're probably not gonna write mm-hmm <affirmative> . So I'm always putting things in my way of like , uh , like classes or accountability groups or workshops, things like that. So in 2015, I felt like my writing wasn't going very well. And so I started an accountability group with my friend and just once a month we had to give each other an essay. And it just said, we were like, joking. We're like, are we even writers anymore? Like we're not writing. So it just said in our calendar, in all caps, are you even a writer? And that was the day we had to send our essay. And so this essay about , um, what it feels like to not have enough money to stick up for yourself, or when someone has control over your money and you need it because you've fallen into the consumerist hamster wheel mm-hmm <affirmative> and spent all your money. Um, so I called it a story of a off fund and it was crazy. I was just sitting at my day job and like nine 30, someone like a writer in New York tweeted about it. And then at like 10:00 AM, Jezebel posted a story about my story. And I just like wheeled my chair over to my friend's cubicle. And I was like, something is happening right now. Like, this is crazy. And now, I mean, more than a million people have read it is , which is just crazy to think about, but it just keeps going and going. I mean, it's been years now and it'll still pop up places and , um, it's very cool. I feel really satisfied in a way, like, that'll probably never happen again. Luckily I was already kind of into spirituality at that time. So it enabled me to be like, all right , this is like this too shall pass <laugh> <laugh> and you know, like, I can enjoy this little ride. My little ego is just like sitting pretty like me .Speaker 2:
Is fun. And I was like, and then it's all gonna go away. And LA LA LA . So , um, so yeah, that was really fun.Speaker 2:
Yeah. With that. How, you know, you talked to your friend, you said you wheeled around the corner. Did you feel that, that question on your calendar are you even a writer was finally answeredSpeaker 3:
<laugh> yes. Like I, I mean, and that feels really good, you know, it's like, I think we all have to make the agreement. If we wanna go into the arts that like, this is who I am, and this is what I'm gonna do, whether or not the outside world acknowledges that or agrees or whatever. And, but it definitely is fun when the outside world says like, yes, we are into this mm-hmm <affirmative> um, it's like poets and writers picked my , one of my books as like the best books for writers. And I was like, whew , okay. I did enough. Right. Like, okay, I'm not totally full of crap. Um , which was touch and go there for a while . We didn't know. But yeah, I mean, that, that did feel that way for sure. And, you know , getting things like certain bylines that make you feel good, but it doesn't like solve doesn't solve for X. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> , you're still, and this is something I've learned, especially for people who tend to be maybe labeled as like ambitious. It's like, usually it's just anxious and like it's never enough. Um, I just went to New York and hung out with some friends with some incredible bylines, but like get 'em over cocktails. And it's all just like, oh , I don't know. I don't, you know, we're all just, just like insecure little artists and you know, like Martha Graham said, no artist is ever satisfied. <laugh> right. And it's true. Yes . CauseSpeaker 2:
It's always a little more, <laugh>Speaker 3:
Always a little , yeah. There's always someone else there's always a little bit more you could do. So mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it's definitely a balance of being in the moment and enjoying the process and then , um, going after things, cuz getting things is fun, but it's not, you know, I love the paradox of choice. It's like one of my favorite books and we get used to everything. You , if you want a Pulitzer, you get used to having a Pulitzer. Yeah . That's human .Speaker 2:
That's true that , you know, one day you look around and you realize you have what you wanted and it's not like this shock. It's just like, yeah, I have everything I wanted, but I didn't realize I had it until it , it took, you know, thought , um , yeah . To do that. So I get to talk to a lot of , um, authors and it's, it's a great conversation because writing is also, it's like producing a child. Right. You're you're putting some of you into that , um, into that piece, poetry book, you know, essay, what have not, what do you feel that you now would tell the poll 10 years ago about writingSpeaker 3:
That like that it's okay. That there's so much more that I love, you know, there's all these books about like focus on one thing, one thing only, and I really love creating community. I love entrepreneurship. I love technology. I do a lot of different things. And I think that I kind of , um, I think that I berate myself that I'm not in a cabin, just writing and reading and writing and reading. And it's been such a beautiful thing to create a , a writing community and to have writing friends and to collaborate and to network. And so I would chill out a little bit on that. <laugh> because I think we have this vision of like a writer. It's just like just a writer. It's all you do. And well , you're obsessed and lonely and you know, and I really like creating like a full life around it. Yeah. Cause I'm very social. It's like, I'm a writer, but I'm very social. So <laugh> , it's , it's a struggleSpeaker 2:
And that's good. I think a lot of us would, would really benefit from that. You know, that, that , again, the , you say writer and you think person that does that all day, every day and a cabin in a way, or that you have to be sad or depressed to be creative. And that is not one in one . It's not doesn't solve the problem either. <laugh> so, yeah. But you actually created writing courses like you created a university for that. Um, I guess an online, can you ex you know, expand a little bit on that share, share this huge accomplishment <laugh>Speaker 3:
Oh, thanks. Um, so yeah, I do coaching for writers and I created a system called the writer's mission control center that I teach in a class called . You've got to get your writing life organized. And it's basically a Google add-on that acts like a piece of software for writers to help them organize everything from their story ideas, to their contacts, to their submissions. Cuz it can be so complicated. And I really enjoy organizing information. I actually , uh , recently was diagnosed with ADHD and you know , I say diagnosed , but like reading books on it it's it can be so helpful. And it is so what makes, what makes me, me, you know, all the ideas, the entrepreneurship, the impulsiveness, the sense of humor, like I'm for it, it's fine. You know, but it's also a real challenge to say organized. So mm-hmm <affirmative> I love to help people organize their writing lives and, and really be able to get in that zone because to be disorganized and worried and stressed is just not fun.Speaker 2:
No , no, no. Mm-hmm <affirmative> . And so you have work and the New York times Cosmo glamor and, and all of that, but which is phenomenal. I always like to talk to people that have that done. I feel, I feel good just knowing <laugh> knowing them for a few minutes, but a lot of people don't feel like this is it, like you said, this is I'm okay. I , I have that now. What is still on the horizon for you? What are you still planning to rise up to?Speaker 3:
Yeah, my novel, I'm writing a novel. I've been writing a novel forever at varying points of, you know, I wrote 70,000 words of it. I threw that away. I'm getting up now at like five in the morning to try to work on it. And it's like slow going such like totally slow going . So just trying to hang in there and be like, what is the deal with this novel that I have been trying to write forever? And it's not even like, you read a novel and you're just like, like Pachinko took her like 20 years and you read it and you're like, that makes sense. I don't think mine is gonna seem like a novel. It took 10 yearsSpeaker 2:
<laugh> causeSpeaker 3:
I think it seems it's gonna seem like in a regular novel. Um, so yeah, there's that. And then , um, I really wanna make my, the writer's mission control center , like into a full on piece of software in an app. And I'm like, it freaks me out a little bit. I'm like, am I gonna be able to do that and be a writer? And I don't , I don't know . So , um, yeah. And I want to, as a , as the, the , the author of, from monk to money manager says, I wanna be a little bit wealthy.Speaker 2:
<affirmative> I wanna be able to have a house I want to retire. Well, yeah. I wanna see penguins in.Speaker 2:
I like that. <laugh> I like that. I have a question for you. What happened to the horse?Speaker 3:
I sold it.Speaker 2:
You sold it? Yeah. Was that a little bit hard? Um, because you had been learning the Gallup and this is kind of this life changing or no , was it just time that you're like you're friends and you're just like, okay, now it's time to move on.Speaker 3:
Yeah. I was like, now it's it. Wasn't like, it's kinda like dogs in Paraguay , like street dogs are not like dogs. We know here, this course was not like, I love you. It was like, oh my God, what are you doing to me right now? <laugh> and I would take it out into the field and it would be all stubborn and, and then I would turn around and it would just haul back. And I would just like, let it go wild and run so fast without a helmet, like so dangerous. Um, just in my little like converse and jeans <laugh> and uh, yeah, so it wasn't like, like many things in peace Corps , the vision of what you have, like my best friend, the horse is like, no , like this is a working animal. <laugh>Speaker 2:
The part , my around <laugh> . Wow . And like, it was pretty small. I wonder about like that. Okay . <laugh> wasn't big enough to , to carry. Was it a pony, but I actually just rode horses last week. Randomly my friend was staying with her in-laws and they, they raise horses. I'm not around horses that much. Um, it had been years and years, but I was like, oh , these , these horses are really big. I'm like , my horse is really small.Speaker 4:
<laugh> <laugh> .Speaker 2:
Wow. Well, thank you so much Paulette for your time today and for sharing your story and congratulations on all the success you've had now and all the impact you've made on writers writers to be. So this was a very interesting show for me because she embodies a person who has more than one interest. And I love the topic of focusing on one thing. In fact, I love the book, the one thing, but not all of us are designed that way. And Paulette really allows this where she loves technology and is basically working on a brand new computer program. And app loves coaching, loves writing, and just allows herself to be on that. And she is still successful because success is being in the place that she wants to be. And I think if your work is written , um, and published in the New York times and glamor , that's also a very good thing. And to be recognized by other writers for doing the work you do. But I really enjoyed speaking with Paulette because she talks about her relationship, not only with money, but basically how these things and events in life helped her change her relationship with herself and how the peace Corps helped her with that. So I am so thankful for your time today because you know what time is something we do not get back. So I really appreciate it. If you liked this podcast, go ahead and share it with someone that you know, because that is how we help rise others up and share it. Like it leave a five star review. It does so much for my podcast and I welcome you to listen next week . And until then , let .