Interview + Giveaway: Meera Lee Patel Gets Us Creating With “Start Where You Are”

A new book by Greenpoint-based artist Meera Lee Patel is your new secret weapon to start creating. Start Where You Are, A Journal for Self-Exploration, out August 11th, is a beautiful illustrated gem of a book packed with Meera’s whimsical illustrations and ideas, exercises and tips to ditch your lack of confidence and get working on your creative projects.

"Start Where You Are" by Meera Lee PatelFrom START WHERE YOU ARE by Meera Lee Patel, published August 11 by Perigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2015, Meera Lee Patel.

Equal parts journal, manual and art book, Start Where You Are is designed to nurture creativity, explore inner thoughts, and help us focus on how to move forward — with both our creative abilities and life. Read on for our interview with Meera – and a chance to win a copy of Start Where You Are!

Excerpt from Meera Lee Patel's "Start Where You Are"© 2015, Meera Lee Patel.

What are readers going to find in Start Where You Are?

Readers will discover a wide array of prompts (writing exercises, questions, charts, graphics) that ask them to look inside themselves and listen. Each prompt is paired with an illustrated quote that offers a helping hand and encourages the reader to continue moving forward. Self-reflection is hard and can be scary, but as you do the work, you see that there’s an entire world waiting for you on the other side – one that is a bit clearer, stronger, and filled with endless possibility.

Excerpt from Meera Lee Patel's "Start Where You Are"
© 2015, Meera Lee Patel.

How do you shake off a Monday morning funk or creative block?

My favorite way to get my creativity moving is by getting my feet moving. I’m lucky to live in Brooklyn, where there is a non-stop rhythm moving through the air and endless inspiration covering the streets. I’ll go for a quick walk to the small park near my house, or just aimlessly walk through my neighborhood. To me, there’s nothing more inspirational then remembering there is so much beauty around me.

What are some steps to ease a non-creative or beginner into working on their own creative projects?

– Make a list: write down ideas or concepts that you have and work your way through them. It’s much easier to begin a project when your ideas are all in front of you.

– Begin a 30-day creative retreat: every day, make something small – a painting, a poem, writing a few words on a page. Creativity, like all things, is a practice, and you’ll find that as you begin to exercise it daily, it will become easier and easier to do so.

When did you become an entrepreneur?

I began writing and illustrating a few years ago, after I graduated from college and began working as an editor at a publishing company. It was then that I turned to illustration as a kind of solace. Painting became my inspiration, motivation, and a spark in my otherwise dry, monotonous work day. I couldn’t imagine living my life without purpose, and so I decided that a career as an artist is what I most wanted to work towards.

Since then, it’s been a continual battle to find balance – to manage my time between full-time work and freelance opportunities, to keep inspiration and desire close when tiredness and frustration settles in. It’s difficult, but it’s a good kind of fight. My dream is to work for myself, creating paintings and stories that brings a smile or thought to other people, and I’m going to try my best to get there.

What are your favorite spots in your neighborhood?

I’m luckily a short walk away from McCarren Park (good energy) and McGolrick Park (great trees), which are both wonderful for reading and naps and wandering. I’m a big fan of C.Lo Café, an adorable health cafe that opened up a few blocks away from me on Bushwick Avenue. I’m also incredibly loyal to The Blue Stove, which makes the best homemade pastries and pies in the area. I love going there with a sketchbook and spending a few hours working there, people-watching and imagining what other lives look like.


Start Where You Are comes out August 11th. We were very excited to partner with Penguin to give away TWO copies of Meera Lee Patel’s beautiful book. The giveaway period ended August 13th 2015 at 11.59pm.