A multi-hyphenate, the uber-talented Sarah Jasmine Montgomery is a writer, photographer and artist. From her effortless and intimate portraits of everyone from Chance the Rapper to her friends, she's generated an endless array of media that's been featured everywhere from Complex to Vevo to The Fader. However, it's her incredible work ethic and unique ability to beautifully synthesize ideas both verbally and visually that set her apart. Her thoughts on success are particularly striking: "Success is typically rooted in some kind of capital gain or recognition following production, but the actual product is rarely the point. I create because I like creating, and at this stage in my career it’s all about the work. As long as I enjoy it and am happy with the process, the ebb and flows of other external things don’t really matter to me."
How would you describe what you do?
I write. I make photos. I am starting to work more in video. When I feel like it, I try to paint.
How do you deal with the continual ebb and flow of “success” as a maker?
I don’t like to let “success” define my day to day. I try to focus on the work. Did I like the work? Am I happy with how something came out? I let myself enjoy the process. Success is typically rooted in some kind of capital gain or recognition following production, but the actual product is rarely the point. I create because I like creating, and at this stage in my career it’s all about the work. As long as I enjoy it and am happy with the process, the ebb and flows of other external things don’t really matter to me.
When is a time you felt really successful? Or a time you felt like you failed?
Success: Every time I get out of bed. Failure: Too many to count.
What is your biggest struggle as a person in creative industry?
Six months ago I might have said comparison, because us creatives always have to be measuring ourselves against others, but I don’t feel that so much anymore. The biggest thing is honesty. Being honest with myself about where I want to be and what kind of work I want to do is important. Another struggle is not letting myself get taken advantage of financially, but that I’m getting better at that too.
What is your daily routine? Your weekend routine?
I have a day job as a freelance news writer, so during the week I wake up early, make myself breakfast/coffee, and sit at my desk to write for eight hours. After work I try to go for a run, cook dinner, read, and maybe watch a movie (I’m currently trying to become a know-it-all film person so I’m watching a lot of movies lately). I may have plans with friends, or have other projects to work on. Lately, I’ve been editing video in my free time after work. During the weekend I try to be as work-free as possible, unless I have planned a shoot or something in advance. If I have a shoot, that takes up a lot of my weekend, but if not I let myself rest. Recharge is vital. My boyfriend lives in another city, so he usually visits. We try new food. We hang out with friends. I try to catch up on reading, and we’re big movie lovers, so we usually watch a couple movies.
How do you motivate yourself to actually get things done?
I’m a compulsive list maker, so anything on the list has to get finished eventually. I enjoy crossing things off—that in itself is motivation. Outside of that, I try and remind myself why I’m doing something. For example, I recently wrote a story that was just a drag to rewrite, so I had to remind myself why the story was important and why I wanted to write it in the first place. I also have strict deadlines for stories and deadlines for when people want photos so…I have to oblige.
Especially given that it’s unusually expensive to make things, how do you afford to be a creative person financially?
I’ve been supporting myself financially since I was 18, so I’m a very good saver. I have a day job that pays my bills, and I use money from extra work to save for things that are important. There is a camera and some supplies I want right now that I can’t afford, but one day I will have saved enough. Renting and borrowing is also always an option.
How do you manage the stress/anxiety that’s inevitable with putting yourself out there?
I take anti-anxiety medication, and I only spend time in places with good energy.
How do you manage the internet/social media?
I don’t. I use Twitter for work, but outside of that all my energy goes into my IRL relationships at the moment. I’m trying to be more present. I haven’t posted to Instagram in a really long time, but I’m still getting photo work, so it’s proven to not be detrimental for now.
Do you collaborate, and if so, what’s your collaborative process like?
I’m lucky that most of my friends are also creative people, so the collaborative process is frequent and natural. I just did a video with my friend Dahlia for our other friend Christelle, and it really just fell together. Almost all of my subjects for photos are my friends, because I think it makes the photos better when I have an intimate relationship with the subject.
Collaboration also creates a sense of community for me, even though I often work alone and from home. I don’t post a photo unless my best friend Jesus has seen it, because I trust his eye more than anyone. I have never published a piece of writing without it being edited by my roommates, who are writers, and my friends Kris and Samantha. On the flip side of that, my friends send me their poems, photos, songs, and other work for proof reading or feedback. It’s very special to have so many relationships with creative people who I trust and who trust me. Its one of the best things about my life, to be honest.
What’s your big dream? Do you have one? How do you set goals/set yourself up to achieve?
Right now my *big* dreams are being published in more magazines, writing a book, and living on a ranch. But like I said, I’m focused on being in the present right now and taking things day by day. I think achievement and success are both really hard to measure, and really subjective. I would like to live a like that is not defined by what I do, but who I am. In the fall, I was in NYC working at really cool places and on the outside looking very successful, but I was totally miserable.
I think for me, in order to meet my goals I have to be honest with myself about what I want to accomplish, follow my intuition, and believe that I am capable of what I’m trying to do (or if I’m not, work on the skills I need to become capable). At the end of the day I just try to focus on what’s most important: my relationships. If I do all of that, everything else seems to fall into place.