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A Book Apart

Get to know Krystal Higgins

May 26, 2021

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Author Krystal Higgins smiling and wearing a black cardigan and a silver necklace.

Up next in our Meet the Author series, we’re getting to know Krystal Higgins—author of Better Onboarding. She tells us what she loves about her unique workspace, how she starts her day underwater, and how her creative ideas come about while scuba diving.

ABA: What is your favorite thing about your workspace?

Krystal Higgins: What makes me really happy about my workspace is that I’ve been able to carve out a corner of my tiny apartment that makes it look like I’ve got a dedicated, professional office, despite my couch/tv/bathroom/kitchen being to the immediate left of it. The corner is next to a window, so I always have a source of light to keep me energized. And I have three of my favourite paintings hanging behind me that are instant conversation starters (“Wait…are those pomegranate monsters? And is that a cockatoo?”). I spend a lot of time on video calls and it always makes me smile to see those paintings behind me when the camera’s on!

ABA: What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day on the right foot?

KH: To get my day started right I do two things: first, I get in a workout. It’s the one thing I know I can get done every day and it’s always great to start the day off with an accomplishment.

The second thing I do is play the live stream of Coral City Camera, an underwater camera in Miami that’s capturing the local fish life there. I’m a huge advocate for the protection of marine life and, despite the camera being in an unassuming location, it serves as a reminder about the impact of Miami harbor development on a rich collection of marine life. And it’s so relaxing to have that playing in the background as I start my day. Sometimes I even get a glimpse of a manatee!

ABA: Is there anyone you’re following the work of right now, who you’d recommend others pay attention to?

KH: Ooh, can I answer with 3?

Kat Vellos is an author, experience designer, speaker, and community builder who has written excellent books like We Should Get Together. She is a constant teacher of topics related to the professional and the social, recently even introducing a designer-to-author workshop!

Genevieve Bell and the new cybernetics program she’s created as part of the 3A Institute at Australian National University. She’s a strong advocate for humanizing our AI-enabled future, and I’ll be paying attention to what comes out of the institution!

I’ve also enjoyed following the works of computational artist Memo Atken. He creatively applies machine learning to generate artwork and it’s expanded my view of what both art and ML can be.

ABA: What is your go-to source of inspiration when you’re trying to get out of a creative rut?

KH: While I certainly look for inspiration in the usual places (art sites, Instagram, museums, etc), I find getting outdoors is the best solution to getting out of a creative rut. That’s because I usually need to get perspective, which I can’t do when passively consuming content made by someone else (except if it’s an interactive installation piece, in which case it’s great!). For example, after a scuba dive, all the great ideas come into my brain, I think partly because I gave them a chance to incubate in the background while focusing on task-loading in the foreground, and partly because the underwater world shows weird and wacky patterns in rocks, plant life, and fish life. And the flora and fauna of Australia is quite unique due to the adaptations it’s had to make to survive, so sometimes looking at the structure of a banksia or grevillea flower, or watching the behaviour of lorikeets in a palm tree, will give me new ideas.

ABA: What characteristic do you most admire in other driven/creative people?

KH: I greatly admire people who can start a creative project with an outline or set plan, and then follow it to the letter. For me, creativity and plans are mutually exclusive; I like to follow the threads of new ideas as I get hands-on into a project. That has its upsides (lots of wacky ideas, helps me connect the dots at a systems level) and downsides (hello, distractions!). In the writing world they call writers who outline “plotters” and those who fly by the seats of their pants “pantsers” (I even wrote about this in relation to user onboarding). I’m certainly a pantser, as the A Book Apart editorial staff can attest, and I admire the plotters in the world. But the world needs a little bit of each type, so I’ve learned to partner with plotters to balance out my quirky idea threading.

ABA: Is there a piece of professional or life advice you’ve gotten that has always stuck with you? What is it?

KH: This was a piece of advice I’ve heard for my personal life: There is no right or wrong decision, there is only the decision you make and what you do with it.

Sometimes personal life decisions can seem so big or complex that I need to carefully think about every possible outcome before I can decide to move forward. I think that’s the plight of systems thinking, we’re always worried about the downstream impacts of our actions. And while it is important to think carefully about the impact of our actions, it’s often not until we make some decision, that the path becomes clear. And from there, you can take your next steps, or realize you need to change directions. This is what makes the difference between never making any decisions, doubling-down on the wrong decisions, and making decisions with humility.

This is weird, but sometimes when I’m stuck in the loop of overthinking, I like to imagine that when I make a decision, there’s another Krystal in an alternate universe who made the opposite decision. It grounds me in this sense that Krystal, as an aggregate of all Krystals, has benefited and learned from all decisions. I should mention I watch a lot of scifi… :D

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Learn more about all our authors—check out the rest of our Meet the Author series!

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