Gillian Sisley. Remember her name.
I stumbled upon her when I joined Medium last year, and I was blown away by how clearly I could hear her voice in her story telling. She immediately made me feel like I was safe – like I could share my sexual assault story without shame. Like the small details I was judging myself for would just melt away as soon as I hit ‘publish,’ because she’d built a tribe of women that were ready to support one another at the drop of a hat.
Also, where did the phrase ‘at the drop of a hat’ come from? *I just looked it up – it’s not that interesting, so I’m not including it*
Gillian has an extremely successful publication through the writing platform of all writing platforms, Medium, but before we dive into that part of her story, let’s take a moment to get into how she got there.
“Okay, girl, let me just preemptively apologize if there’s any loud construction noises, cause it’s been happening all morning,” I started once her beautiful face popped up on Zoom; she was looking cute as hell in her muted-colored turtleneck tunic. Her orange-hued hair fell perfectly with the type of natural wave most women deeply, deeply desire.
She smiled and waved her hand graciously as if to say, ‘who cares,’ before I continued.
“I decided to blow up my life and leave the relationship I was in, so I’m living with my sister right now,” I explained, going into more detail than I’m sure she cared to hear.
Her voice was calming as she expressed her support, reaffirming her position as an emboldened, powerful woman, always ready to lift someone up when they needed it.
“Okay, so tell me about your upbringing, Gillian… siblings, parents, school shit… the works… however much detail you want to go into,” I said, moving back on my sister’s blue-gray couch covered in marker from my niece (or maybe from my sister… who really knows).
“Well, yeah, that’s a story that really ties into everything,” she laughed. “I was born and raised in Ontario, Canada and now I’m in Nova Scotia, which is where my mom’s originally from.”
Her dad is from England, which makes her half English (cool as hell); he’s an engineer and ventured on over to Canada, which, obviously, is how her parents met.
“You could say I’m kind of the odd duckling of the family. I was always the creative one… math just cannot compute for me,” she waved her hands in front of her face, practically forcing ‘math’ to stay away.
“My mother’s an accountant, my dad’s an engineer, and my brother’s a paramedic,” Gillian was wide-eyed.
“My husband’s the same way,” she added, “and it drives me nuts… just never had to study for a test – got straight A’s…” we rolled our eyes simultaneously.
Gillian explained how dumb she thought she was growing up until she entered high school and was able to take more creative classes, ultimately finding her niche.
Side note – I’m so jealous of the French immersion schooling that 90% of Canadians take. (Don’t fact check us on that percentage, or do, just don’t come at me)
“Even as a child, I was positive I wanted to be a writer, before I knew I could make it a career… and as supportive as my mom was, she definitely wanted me to have a backup plan,” Gillian paused to consider. “Which, to be fair, that’s how most people were when our parents were growing up.”
Can we hear a collective ‘AMEN’ for how evolved and open our generation is becoming?
“I actually recently found a piece I wrote when I was like six, about a prince and a princess, and the prince turned out to be a douche bag, so I left him,” we laughed out loud and commended her boldness.
Even as a child, our girl was a FEMINIST. Praise fucking be.
“Did you read a lot as a kid?” I asked, recalling the book reports I did for my uncle outside of scheduled school reading.
“Actually, no… my brother was super into Harry Potter but I didn’t really get a lot of pleasure out of reading until my late teens,” she responded. “I spent a ton of time writing my own stories… fan fiction and all that.”
Don’t worry, guys, at this point, she has read Harry Potter and circles back to the books every few years.
“So yeah, once I got into my groove in high school and realized I wasn’t dumb, something flipped in my brain and I ended up getting straight A’s,” she laughed it off like it wasn’t extremely notable.
Genuinely – I want to take a moment here to recognize the immense POWER of our brains… how our reality is our perception. She literally just changed her mind about a story she was telling herself and everything else followed suit.
As much as I want to go down that rabbit hole, Gillian’s individual story is equally as inspiring.
“Talk to me about college and what your writing aspirations were during that time,” I urged.
“Well, my undergrad was just made up of the most random shit that barely applies to my life now,” she shook her head like, ‘what the fuck was I thinking,’ before continuing, “I double majored in French language – specifically had a focus in French literature – and international development, and then minored in Chinese language… none of which I knew what to do with.”
I’m sure every single thing she learned during that time will come into play at some point in her life. Except maybe the Pythagorean Theorem, ‘cause let’s be real, 99% of us never really need to know that.
“So, I went to my mom in a full-fledged panic,” she recounted, “I was supposed to have my life figured out by that point… I had no idea what I was going to do, so she talked it out with me; I listed out everything I felt called to and she calmly recommended public relations because it tied everything together.”
Naturally, then, Gillian got her undergraduate degree, followed by a degree in public relations. It increased her writing proficiency and taught her all the skills she would use to open her own business.
“We worked on business plans, communication, social media strategy, graphic design, logo creation…” she trailed off.
“Okay, so once you got your degree in Public Relations, did you just have enough confidence to start your own social media marketing company, or how did that all come about?” I asked eagerly, knowing I was about to be doused with more motivation.
“I actually went out and got this highly coveted job at a marketing agency, which I had to get for my PR program… and I was only a couple weeks in; I was doing all this editing and copywriting, and people were dropping shit on my desk, and I just remember thinking, ‘is this it? Am I just gonna be a worker bee for other people’s dreams?’”
I felt that in my gut as she explained how she immediately created a little side business… that little side business blew up in a matter of months, and alas, she was an entrepreneur.
“Once I got a taste of what it was like to work for myself,” she shook her head like she had an epiphany, “I just knew I would never work for anyone, ever again… literally never going back to the traditional 9-5.”
And then, in March 2019, our girl Gillian stumbled upon the writing platform of all writing platforms… Medium
“I was like, wait, I can write on here and share parts of my life and people will pay me for it?!… Um, yes, this is a dream, and I’ve already had my own business, so I can do this, no problem.”
I smiled, admiring the pure knowing she held so deeply.
She continued, “this might sound strange, but whenever I’ve really truly wanted something, I’ve just thought, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
“Doesn’t sound strange at all,” I assured her. “It sounds like you’ve just been in your flow with the universe for quite some time.”
I asked her to spell out her journey on Medium, because again, it just shows us the pure power of believing in ourselves, and making our damn dreams come true.
And sometimes, we need an expander, to show us it’s possible.
“Yeah, so for the first three weeks, I was writing eight to twelve hours a day, pumping out three articles every day, engaging with hundreds of writers…” her eyes lit up and she took a moment to consider her next words.
“Okay, so the thing I really support, is when you have that initial energy,” Gillian’s hands turned over as if she were holding two balls of energy, “I’m like, take that energy and run with it, because it’s not gonna be there forever… take that motivation and get as much growth as you can out of it.”
The first month on Medium, Gillian made $60.00 from people reading her work… for the first month, guys, that’s extremely notable.
The second month, she made $600.00… that’s 1000% growth in a month. Check my math on that…
She started weaning off from three pieces a day to two, which she carried on for six months (insane), and then down to one a day, and then since April 2020, Gillian’s remained at a few articles a week, which is still an impressive feat.
Consistency in creating is hard to come by.
“Now, I have more freedom to do other things… it’s so nice to not always been in this huge rush. And these days, more of my writing is focused on social commentary activist pieces, which takes a lot more energy out of me than personal essays,” she explained.
With her activism in standing up for women’s rights, we touched on Armie Hammer… which, let me remind you, he said the following to different women:
We also discussed the horrific events of Chad Wheeler (of course his name is Chad) – the gist…? He tried to kill his girlfriend, thought he succeeded, and then sat down to finish his smoothie.
But let’s quickly backtrack to the Fearless She Wrote publication Gillian created with her two friends, Jessica Lovejoy and Maggie Lupin (neither of whom she’s met in person… kind of love that… also, don’t their names sound like they should be Harry Potter characters?).
“We just found each other on Medium and realized we were all survivors of sexual assault,” her eyebrows sunk slightly, and her demeanor shifted, “…the three of us had actually never met another person who admitted they’d been a victim of sexual assault.”
That was my experience, as well… I didn’t realize how many women I knew had gone through such trauma, until I shared my story.
And I continue to be reminded, there’s so, so much power in being vulnerable
Gillian explained there didn’t appear to be a publication specifically designed for women to feel comfortable opening up about their experiences, so, her, Jessica, and Maggie banded together and started ‘Fearless She Wrote,’ and unsurprisingly, it blew up.
It’s because Gillian’s a boss-ass-bitch (bitch, in the most endearing of terms), and because she was being true to herself; authenticity always breeds success.
Ahh, deep breath. Big smile…
“Okay, babe, talk to me about your future dreams, because I have no doubt, you’ll accomplish whatever you set out to achieve,” I raised both hands like I was praising her.
“Oh, we have plans to build the Fearless She network into an empire and create a space for women to feel not only comfortable sharing, but empowered,” she responded with conviction.
“Can you share any of your visions for it or are you girls keeping it under wraps?” I asked dutifully. Obviously, as someone ready for inspiration at all times, I wanted to poke a bit more to see what we could uncover.
“Of course, yeah,” she patted down an invisible fly, telling me she was all in on sharing (we love a sharer), “we’ve talked about the potential of having a publishing company outside of Medium where we can pay writers for story submissions. We’ve talked about having meet and greets, and conferences…” she looked up to consider. “It’s really just about following where the need is. We want to be there for people and show up in the best way, and we’re definitely not afraid to dream big.”
CAN I GET AN AMEN?
“We want to make change in people’s lives and create enough noise to where society doesn’t accept the bullshit women put up with as the norm.”
Naturally, we discussed the education system and ideas on what a new way of learning would look like.
Me personally? I think ‘Promising Young Woman’ should be required material for all high school students to watch, coupled with other modalities spread throughout the school year.
Final word (Gillian always ends her pieces with this title) –
“Gillian, just so we can circle this back up to the original topic of writing, can you share any insight on how people who are considering writing themselves should get started?” I asked, looking over at my daily journal, my gratitude book, and my planner… yeah, I love to write, in just about every way.
“My suggestion is always, always, always to get a journal first,” she clapped her hands along to each ‘always,’ “people can just get comfortable writing consistently without any fear of judgment or criticism. And then once you’re in a spot where you’re willing to share, don’t worry about the first draft… just write everything down and let it flow out. Do not make the mistake of being an editor and a writer at the same time,” she urged.
Y’all, that’s me. I haven’t done it this time, though, and it’s taking everything in me just to write… to repeat words… to be a mess and not care.
Yes, everyone be proud and give me a gold star.
“Really what it all comes down to, though, is being truthful with ourselves. Don’t write if it doesn’t feel good. Don’t publish something if you’re not in the right headspace… but when you have a story, and you’re willing to share it, I promise, the world will be ready,” she so eloquently stated.
The universe is here to support us… as is Gillian… she’s here to support us, too, and thank God (or whatever you believe in) for that.