During the week, Pittsburgh’s Megha Pai works as an assistant account executive at the agency Havas PR, where she creates social media content, pitches journalists and drafts news releases.
But when Sunday rolls around, Pai grabs her notebook, heads to a local coffee shop and writes poems — the likes of which have been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and earned her a 2017 nomination for Pittsburgh City Paper’s “Best Local Poet.”
Pai, who also serves on the board of PRSA’s Pittsburgh Chapter, says she rarely feels burdened by meeting the demands of both her PR career and her writing endeavors because she’s passionate about both of them.
“The balance isn’t difficult,” she says. “I carve out that time for creative writing because I look forward to it.”
In honor of March 21 being “World Poetry Day,” we chatted with Pai about her favorite writers, what inspires her work, and how having a creative side-gig can help communicators grow in their careers.
When did you first become interested in writing poetry?
I started writing nonfiction, poetry and fiction in college as part of my English major. English was originally my minor — but I loved “Intro to Creative Nonfiction” and “Intro to Poetry” so much that English grew into a second major! I’ve always had a passion for reading, so writing came naturally to me. It’s a great creative outlet.
What’s your writing routine like now? Is it difficult to balance writing poetry with your full-time job?
My writing routine now isn’t as structured as it was in college, but it’s been six years since graduation and I still keep up with it. These days, I make time to write almost every Sunday — whether it’s writing in a notebook at a coffee shop or typing from my MacBook in my living room.
Who are some of your favorite writers, and what do you like about their styles?
Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath and Renata Adler are among my favorites. I like how their voices propel their narratives in an engaging way — and each one of them has a unique method of doing this.
Where do you take inspiration for your own poetry?
My creative inspiration usually comes from nature, the music I’m listening to and the city of Pittsburgh itself, but it can really come from anything.
Do you ever apply the lessons and perspectives from writing poetry and apply it to your communications job?
Being a writer is a huge asset to my career, especially with the current emphasis on storytelling in public relations. It helps me think creatively when we’re brainstorming content strategies and activation ideas at my job. In public relations, I’ve learned how to write in a more conversational way; whether you’re emailing a client, speaking to an audience on social media or pitching a news story to a reporter, this skill is key. Using a conversational tone has also enhanced my creative works in that I speak more directly to the reader now.
If you had any advice for a PR professional aspiring to write or take up any creative endeavor on the side, what would it be?
Read as often as you can. Explore poetry and prose. Mix the classics with contemporary works; discover what moves you. Practice freewriting to hone your unique voice on the page. For any creative endeavor, look to what’s already out there and find your place within it.
To learn more about Pai and her work, visit her website.
Dean Essner is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications.