PORTRAIT TAKEN BY SELIN SÖNMEZ
Following is an English transcription of my Q&A (above) with Elle Turkey’s Seda Yilmaz:
SEDA YILMAZ: For how many years did you work as an advertising creative? How did you decide to stop and pursue your dream of becoming a writer?
I worked as an agency copywriter for around 10 years. Then it lost its spark … but I was really fortunate to work with some amazing talents in art direction, copywriting, as well as photography, illustration, sound and television production. Working with actors in the studio on scripts was a particular highlight, but advertising was never where I wanted to be. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about 15. That was the first time I thought about it, but I took action around 6 years ago with the decision to drop everything I know and move to Istanbul to work on novels rather than try to cram the kind of writing I love into the 3 hours I had before going to an agency.
SEDA YILMAZ: In what ways does Istanbul inspire you?
Endless ways. Where do I start? It’s a very curvy city, winding and deceptive. You think you know something but then you round a bend and you’re in an altogether different place than you were 30 seconds earlier. The people. The energy. The architecture. The everyday drama. It’s so changeable. You needn’t look far for a muse in Istanbul. The water alone has a voice.
SEDA YILMAZ: I don’t want to call you an outsider. But even though you’ve been living in Istanbul for a long time you still have this curious and distinct way of looking at the city. How do you maintain this?
No, no, call me an outsider. That’s one of the liberating things about being here. I’m comfortable with that. Even after a lifetime I think I’d still be getting the hang of this city, its rhythms, its nuances, its unpredictability, its people. It’s kind of like a love affair. Some days are caring. Some days are tempestuous. Some days I feel downright bruised. But it never bores me, being in this relationship. Once you think you know someone, it’s over. Then there are no surprises left. There are times I need a break because Istanbul is a demanding beauty, but she’s worth it, and her indulgences are great.
SEDA YILMAZ: Which parts of the city do you like the most? What makes them appealing?
Right now I’m really loving Karaköy. Its a very unpredictable place, with a lot of divers yet converging flows—people, places and personalities. Again, it’s never still, but it manages to hold on to something that Beyoglu once had and now seems to have lost. But there are countless other places I’m dying to explore. There are so many hidden corners, I haven’t explored. The idea of those excite me the most. But being near the water is really important. The Black Sea, the Bosporus, The Marmara, The Golden Horn, stray to far from those and the thrill dries out.
SEDA YILMAZ: I love the way you associated alchemy with creativity. How do you nurture your creativity?
By staying curious. If you approach your work with openness, and hone your observational skills, I think you’ll always be rewarded with an interesting outcome. But if you approach your creativity with an ego-driven agenda, to prove something or win some personal glory, it gets tired fast. You have to be passionate about the act of questioning, not answering. You have to lust for wonder. Once you have the answers, the story’s over.