Songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez speaks at the TIME and Real Simple's Women & Success event at the Park Hyatt on Oct. 1, 2014 in New York City.
Larry Busacca—Getty Images for Time Inc.
By Charlotte Alter and Eliana Dockterman
October 2, 2014

Frozen songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez spoke with Today Show host Tamron Hall, former CEO of WWE Linda McMahon, and Real Simple editor Kristen van Ogtrop about her path to success and the advice she’d give to young women. Here’s what she had to say:

On the wrong approach to success:

When I look back in my 20s, I was so obsessed with success. I used to call it ‘my ticket out of hell,’ I used to think ‘if I got this thing, that one thing, then I would be successful.’ And it would be something like the tour of the Fiddler on the Roof… And if it was my ‘ticket out of hell’ I wouldn’t get it, because I approached it with so much anxiety.

On the ‘aha’ moment where her attitude changed:

But I had this Oprah ‘aha!’ moment… I realized that for me, success was being in the moment… It’s being in the moment because I’m in the flow of the song, when I stop worrying about what time it is, or whether I’m hungry.

Look at what you’re doing with your free time. Look at what draws you when you aren’t working. Look at what you’re doing. Whatever you’re doing that draws you, listen to that voice and follow that voice.

On when she realized she wanted to be a songwriter instead of an actor:

I did ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, and it forced me to write every morning. It was the first time I ever thought I wanted to be a songwriter, I wrote it in the form of “I want to be the third Indigo girl.”

On failure:

There were 7 ½ songs cut from Frozen. Even “Do You Want to Make a Snowman” was out, then it was in, then it was out, then it was in, we had to deal with the failure of “ooh that wasn’t executed just right”… [you have to] think of failure as process, not as a label.

Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com and Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com.

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