Writer Talks: A Chat With … Myself

As I prepared these questions for other writers, it never occurred to me to answer them for myself — that is, until a friend of mine asked me to. Therefore, I give you my interview of … myself. I always knew my only child tendencies of talking to myself would prevail.

1) What kind of writing do you do for work?

I’m a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist. I’ve written copy for early-stage startups, I’ve helped startups and solopreneurs create content strategies, and I’ve written hundreds of articles on personal finance, careers, personal development, and more. Lately, I’ve been focusing on writing personal finance articles for a FinTech startup, which happens to be how I got my start in this business years ago.

2) What kind of writing do you do for fun?

This website, of course! I’ve also written two novels in the past (no, they were not and will never be published) and have started to take on poetry. I’m very much enjoying it, although I haven’t a clue what I’m doing.

3) What's your ideal writing routine?

My ideal writing routine would be to wake up early and write in the morning light at my favorite coffee shop. Since it’s now closed and I haven’t found any coffee shops that come close to the environment of that one, my new ideal writing routine is to sit at my desk early in the morning and get to work after making a pot of French press coffee. In a perfect world, most of my writing is finished before lunchtime, as I find it difficult to concentrate once my brain is fully awake.

4) How often do you get to partake in your ideal writing routine?

Every day. If I don’t, I end up having a truly terrible week of writer’s block and frustration and scrambling to meet deadlines. I’ve since started extending this routine into the weekend as well to hopefully get to a place where my body naturally wakes up at 6:00 a.m. I’m definitely not there yet.

5) Do you believe in writer's block?

Yeah. Yep. Abso-freaking-lutely.

That said, I don’t believe in letting writer’s block get the best of you. I’m constantly looking for ways to push past the blocks, such as handwriting, going for a walk, and even talking into a voice recorder to get my thoughts flowing. After years of writing, I’ve finally realized I get writer’s block not because I can’t find the words, but because I don’t have a clear enough idea of what I want to say. Therefore, anything I can do to get clear on what I have to say will help.

Writer’s block is real. But you can’t let it win.  

6) As a paid writer, when was the first time you lost trust in your own work?

Several years ago, I had a writing gig that was different than any I had before. I was used turning my work in and hearing the editor say something like, “Looks good, minimal changes.” In this case, however, every writer had a handful of editors who worked on their pieces, and every article had a scorecard that graded it on a 20-point scale.

All of a sudden, I had to write to a formula. Must put a data point in the first paragraph. Must find x stats per article. The list goes on. In short, this organization made a list of things they believed needed to exist in order for an article to be “good.” It didn’t matter if the requirements served the needs of the topic. All that mattered was that every writer wrote in exactly the same way.

Now, I’m extremely organized and have no trouble following a brief, but this intensely laid out formula gave me a kind of writer’s block I’d never had before. As I got used to aiming for a good “grade” on my work, I started to lose my instincts and voice — and eventually, my love for the work.

7) Do you ever daydream about doing another job when you're having a bad writing day?

Oh, yes. During the entire period described above, I dreamed about doing anything but writing. After all those years of working towards becoming a professional writer, I suddenly wanted to chuck my whole career out the window.

To do what? Become an interior designer. I got the idea while walking by an interior design school one day, and managed to even convince myself of how similar interior design can be to content strategy. (You get to help someone find and express their voice, after all!) But what I think I really craved at that time was creativity. I’d become a writing machine and my senses had become dulled. I wanted to have at it with a blank canvas, but I also wanted to bring others the joy that I had lost.

After years of working to get back to my instincts, creativity, and voice, I no longer have this fantasy. I now fantasize about supporting other writers and helping them find their way back to their voice if it’s been buried — or perhaps not yet found.

8) What are your personal and professional goals?

Professionally, I want to eventually go back to being an editor so I can preserve my writing energy for my own work. In the meantime, I’m very happy with my current work as a personal finance writer. Writing about money gives me a chance to help people navigate through a sticky, complicated topic that touches on every aspect of their lives. It also gives me a chance to empower them to realize they can work towards their goals despite limitations.

Personally, I want this website to become a source of support and inspiration for all writers. I also have plans to create a literary journal, and I’ll link to it here when it’s live.

9) What's one piece of writing advice you got that still reigns true? What writing advice would you give?

This answer is one and the same for me. Back in my fiction writing days, I told a friend of mine who happened to be a literary agent that I was struggling to get anything on the page. I would sit with my paper in my hand and nothing to put on it, I whined to him, to which he replied:

“Sit down every single day, for 15 minutes a day, and WRITE. I don’t care if what you’re writing is a heaping, steaming pile of crap. Just do it.”

I protested mightily at this, telling him that I was trying to do just that and it wasn’t working. He then told me to get out of the house, find a place, and go there at the same time every day. So, I started going to my favorite coffee shop before work at the same time every day and, what do you know, my empty pages turned into crap-filled pages turned into somewhat decent pages.

Write every day. Same time. Same place. Fifteen minutes. Even if 90 percent of what you write goes in the trash, that other 10 percent might be the best writing you’ve ever done. The only way out is through.