I live in Brooklyn, New York, surrounded by people whose dream brought them to New York City. These are creative people, aspiring actors, opera singers, fashion designers, photographers, artists, writers. If their dream isn’t paying the bills yet, they get another job and lead parallel work lives.

Melissa McClain, Photographer and Visual Artist

Melissa McClain is a Brooklyn artist who has two full time jobs – one with a purpose she cares deeply about and the other that nurtures her creative soul. By day a crisis management professional with an expertise in survivor and family assistance, she has a second “job” as a photographer. She created the beautiful Water Colors photographs accompanying today’s post. With her camera, she finds color and patterns and drama on the most everyday industrial, urban, and seaside objects.

Water Colors Sahara

Water Colors Sahara, by Melissa McClain


Many people who are very successful in their careers reach a point when they realize that something is missing, often a need for self-expression.

“I’ve been able to travel around the world and help companies who truly care about their employees, customers, and the family members who are affected by crisis events,” says Melissa. “But after 13 years with a focus on disasters and ‘the unthinkable,’ I was beginning to feel burnout from the stress of my job. I needed an outlet that embraced joy, happiness, and beauty. I started out about three years ago taking my camera along on business trips and vacations. Occasionally I gave prints to friends who requested them. Then I created my first Water Colors image. The colors and textures inspired me and spoke to something deep in my soul.”

I feel completely whole, satisfied with self, and confident with my camera in my hand and a world before me to capture. When I’m out shooting Water Colors I can guess which ones will be special and sometimes I already have plans for them before I even download them from my camera.

When you have a “two career” life, and so much is going on, staying on track toward your dream can be difficult.

“I wasn’t doing very well at juggling the job and my art until I attended something called Vision Day. One of the coaches suggested that I view my dream as my second job. That really hit home for me. It actually changed the way I live. I am now up early every morning so I can fit both “jobs” into my day. Some days I’m tired and it gets really hard to keep up the pace. But I know, in the end, it will be worth it. Debbie Phillips, author of Women on Fire: 20 Inspiring Women Share Their Life Secrets (and Save You Years of Struggle!), gave me a quote that I love. “

Don’t stop before the miracle.

“When I’m feeling frustrated or second guessing myself, I stop and recite the mantra. My whole attitude changes and I’m renewed and ready to take the next step. We all have our “miracles” – our dreams and passions – and the key is to not give up before we get there. Because we will get there!”

Melissa’s tips for people who are working towards their dream or who have a dream but haven’t started the journey.

1. Connect with other people. Go out and volunteer or participate in new activities. Ask for help when you need it. If you don’t have a support network with people who understand and support your dream, get one!

2. Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. One of the people in my support network told me that when the doubts are the strongest, you are the closest to the next step of your dream coming true. This is such an empowering statement and takes the sting out of those times when doubt sneaks in; it’s just a prelude to something extraordinary.

3. Be kind to yourself! Celebrate your achievements, big and small. You’re balancing a lot so recognize your successes and your determination to keep going. On bad days, try a little self-care and TLC.

4. Stay on track. Identify your goals and create a detailed action plan for achieving them. WRITE IT DOWN! LOOK at it often!

To see more of the melissaAnne Photography Water Colors Collection.

Visit her website at http://www.melissaannegallery.com

Visit her blog at http://melissaannephotog.wordpress.com.

If you’re in Brooklyn, Melissa McClain will be the featured artist at:
Linger Café December 1-14. Stop by and see her work.

[BTW: Linger’s fresh, homemade food is delicious. My mouth waters at the thought of a recent Sunday brunch. And we did linger!]

MelissaAnne Photo a622

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  1. Angelica Smithson
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    The watercolors are stunning! So impressed I went to her website and saw more and ended up ordering a print for myself.

    Thanks for the inspiration. I’m an artist with a day job in a law firm and sometimes I get discouraged. Printed up a very large “DON’T STOP BEFORE the MIRACLE!” sign to hang at the top of my mirror.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Can you provide a link for Women on Fire? Also…can you add a blogroll?

  3. Paul
    Posted November 20, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I like your blog and your approach to work & careers. We are more than our work and sometimes we need the support of others to remimd us of that.

    Wishing you every success.


  4. Louise Holmes
    Posted November 20, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for your comment and your good wishes!

    Yesterday I learned about the concept of Flow and work. You may be familiar with it, but if not:

    “Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success.” (text from: wikipedia).

    I think this offers a yardstick for any of us to measure how we feel about what we do for work, versus the FLOW definition. Would love your thoughts. –Louise

  5. Paul
    Posted November 21, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Louise,

    I have heard of the flow concept as put forward by Mihalyi Csiksentmihalyi but I’m no expert. I really like the definition you found. I too am fascinated by the potential created when an individual meets work in this way.

    You can find descriptions of similar ideas out there too, it’s a fascinating area to study. A friend of mine talks about mindfulness (being present in the moment); another teaches the Hawaiian value of ho’ohana (work with intention/meaningful work). I sat on the fence for years but have recently climbed down, picked out the splinters and addressed the relationship between work and life as an exploration that each individual needs to go on.

    The work that engages us fully is genuinely worth exploring for and every one of us has the means within our power to find it.

    Keep exploring Louise, you are really onto something!

    All the best,


4 Trackbacks

  1. By Work that Matters – Nine Work Lives on November 17, 2009 at 1:11 am

    […] It’s also what we’ve been writing about here at Nine Work Lives. See “Create a New Vision for the Work You’ll Do Tomorrow,” and “When Pursuing Your Dream is Your Second Job.” […]

  2. By Trust Your Gut – Nine Work Lives on November 25, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    […] process, and tells how she feels about her work today (beautifully illustrating the concept of “flow”), then finally offers you her “Top 5 Tips for making a Work/Life […]

  3. By The Power of More than One – Nine Work Lives on July 28, 2010 at 10:14 am

    […] help each other out. Melissa McClain, an up-and-coming artist I wrote about in November in “When Pursuing Your Passion is Your Second Job“, joined Women on Fire, a membership network for women. Since then, she quit her day job to […]

  4. By Know Yourself – Nine Work Lives on April 2, 2013 at 9:42 am

    […] “Doodle Discovery” e-book. Melissa is a talented artist and my good friend. Since I interviewed Melissa three years ago, she has brought color and inspiration to thousands upon thousands of people. Give […]

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