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Lisa Boersen (LB) is a storyteller at heart, weaving narratives that resonate with audiences both young and old. With a solid foundation in cultural anthropology and literature, she has made significant contributions to Amsterdam's cultural scene, creating innovative art and socially impactful programs for esteemed institutions like De Balie and Paradiso. Lisa has authored several top-rated children's books. Currently, she serves as the head of the youth department at the Dutch broadcaster NTR—a conversation about storytelling, fostering a creativity-rich environment, and the socially acceptable ‘condition’ of writing fiction.

“It doesn't matter if I'm writing a book, producing a TV show, or creating a podcast—the journey is always similar and starts from nothing.”


What is your definition of creativity?

LB: "Creativity is like embarking on an exploration within. What fascinates me the most is diving into the unknown. Almost every idea I pursue turns into a quest for simplicity, a journey toward distilling everything down to its essence. You might not know exactly how to get there, but you have to navigate through a myriad of options until everything clicks into place. And when it does, that moment of clarity where everything works together perfectly? That's golden. 

It doesn't matter if I'm writing a book, producing a TV show, or creating a podcast—the journey is always similar and starts from nothing. I truly love that, but I've noticed over the years that not everyone is cut out for this. Some thrive when they have some starting blocks to build upon. But to start with nothing and lay down the building blocks from scratch? That's a different ball game that not everyone is eager or willing to play."

Where does that unwillingness come from?

LB: "I'm not entirely sure. I think it comes down to a dislike for discomfort and change. When you start a creative project, you're essentially beginning with nothing, and you have no idea where it will end up. You must trust this gut feeling and dive into the unknown, which isn't comfortable. It's a process filled with uncertainties, potential mistakes, and no guarantees. The process can be enjoyable but does not get easier over time. You have to go through this process repeatedly with every new project you embark on. It's the uncertainty and the inherent discomfort of creativity that I think deter a lot of people."


“It's the uncertainty and the inherent discomfort of creativity that I think deter a lot of people.”


Speaking of discomfort, you made quite the career switch. You went from being a very independent creative to heading a whole department of creatives at a broadcasting agency. How do you foster a creative and supportive environment in your current role?

LB: "You need space to be creative. An environment that's all about churning out content or products can stifle that creativity. It's essential to carve out a space where creativity can thrive, even within structured systems. It's about creating momentum while also allowing room for the creative process to unfold naturally. My approach involves flexibility. For instance, with new projects, I prefer setting up a structure where we can explore ideas without the immediate pressure of deadlines. This allows for creativity to flow more freely and means that we can fail without significant consequences early on in the process.

“It's my job to foster an environment where creativity is valued and nurtured.”


My work experiences have taught me the importance of a space where you can freely explore and create. I've been fortunate to have that in my career, and I aim to pass that on. Whether it's a creative industry or any other field, the principle remains the same. Innovation comes from giving people the room to experiment, fail, and learn. Creativity flourishes in an environment with room to explore and make mistakes. And it's my job to foster an environment where creativity is valued and nurtured."

How much creative freedom do you attribute to luck versus personal choices?

LB: "Well, you need a certain amount of luck to find yourself in a setting where creativity can flourish, but once you're there, your decisions can certainly shape things. I've declined certain opportunities to maintain my focus on writing, choosing positions that offered freedom over prestige. Structuring your life around your passions involves intentional decision-making rather than passively accepting opportunities. Opting for a day job as a safety net allowed me to pursue creative projects without financial pressure."

When are you most creative?

LB: "Mornings are my prime time, especially in the quiet moments when I'm still in bed. That's when my thoughts flow most freely, and I can clearly visualize my work. I always keep pen and paper close by to capture any fleeting ideas."

“Accepting the ebb and flow of creativity helps to manage expectations and prevent frustration.”


Do you follow any rituals to stay in the creative zone?

LB: "Adhering to a specific routine is crucial, but so is carving out uninterrupted time. Deep concentration periods are essential: I need time when I'm free from meetings or other distractions. Creativity demands dedicated time, and it cannot be forced into the gaps between tasks. Planning for undisturbed periods, whether by rising early or setting boundaries, is critical. 

Accepting the ebb and flow of creativity helps to manage expectations and prevent frustration. I have also learned that a wholly scheduled life is a major creativity killer. I need time to think and write simultaneously, as writing helps clarify my thoughts. Interruptions, especially from people around me, pull me out of deep concentration, which is killing for my creative process. But working in a lively café where no one disturbs me can be perfectly fine, as long as I can stay in my bubble." 

How much time do you spend in that bubble when you're writing a book?

LB: "Fiction is mystical. Writing fiction feels like I'm tapping into something beyond my control. The characters and storylines just come to me. The funny thing is that you can't force these things; you can only create conditions that make it more likely to foster them. It's like love in that sense. You can't guarantee meeting someone, but you can increase the chances of it happening. 

It’s an incredibly elusive process. And sometimes, it feels almost like a condition to me—a kind of socially accepted deviation. When you think about it, it's wild. I'm an adult woman fantasizing about imaginary friends, laughing at my own jokes, imagining a whole story unfolding in my head, and putting that in writing. It is truly wild.”

Lisa Boersen (born 1975) heads the youth department at Dutch broadcaster NTR. She is the author of several popular children's books including “Jani Kekke and the Blue Daydreamer” and the successful series "Timo and the Ninja Babysitter." Her most recent book (2022) is for adults, and it is titled: "García Márquez and the Honeymoon Quiz - How Stories Shape Us."


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