Writer Talks: A Chat With Writer and Editor Rebecca McCracken

Rebecca McCracken was one of my editors at a previous job and is now a dear friend. When I first met her, I instantly loved her for her heart and her biting wit. As I got to know her more, I grew to deeply appreciate her for the way she encouraged me to write in my own style. In those days, my confidence as a writer was in the tank, and Rebecca single-handedly lifted me back up time and again.

I believe that, as creatives, we can all do better to support one another the way Rebecca supported me. It can so often feel like we’re in this work alone, but the truth is we all go through many of the same things, which is why I’m highlighting stories of other professional writers and editors here. I hope you enjoy this chat with Rebecca as much as I did.

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

I'm now the editor for a company that teaches people how to code via courses with individual lessons. I created our tone/voice and style guides and ensure all company copy complies with it. I act as the project manager for our writers; I make sure they're hitting their lesson deadlines and help remove any roadblocks for them if they're not. I've created (and continue to create) multiple processes for the content team to improve the publishing process. Lastly, I own our bug process, which means I assign out bugs in our courses to writers (as well as help fix them), and make sure we get everything done on schedule.

Up until recently, I was a freelance writer and editor. I wrote a ton of marketing content (press releases, white papers), built out homepage wireframes, edited online articles — basically whatever I could to keep the lights on until I was able to find my current full-time job. 

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

I wish I had a better answer for this, but unfortunately with my job being so mentally demanding/exhausting at this point in time, I don't really have the brain bandwidth for any fun writing. I feel really creatively dead and the closest thing I come to creative right now are snarky Instagram stories. 

3) What's your ideal writing routine?

Ideal: Thoughtfully ponder writing assignment for a couple days (especially over the course of several meditative showers), allowing you to piece together the perfect opening lines. Wake up after a great night's sleep a week before the piece is due. Have a nourishing breakfast of plain, steel-cut oatmeal, greek yogurt, bee pollen, and three almonds. Sit down at your computer and let everything come pouring out, as if by magic. Read over your work and beam. Suck it, Hemingway. 

Reality: Push off writing assignment for several days, lie to self that you have time. Have an anxious, nagging feeling at the back of your mind and a horrible case of gut rot as you try not to think about it. Wake up the day before the piece is due after a miserable night of sleep. Eat a small mixing bowl of Cap'n Crunch. Sit down at your computer and, hands trembling from the sugar, force yourself to write something, anything. Just. Fucking. Write. Somehow wring an actually decent piece of work from yourself. Be impressed. Wonder what the hell you were so worried about. Learn nothing. Rinse and repeat. 

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

Never — please see above.

5) Do you believe in writer's block?

I don't know if it's being blocked so much as it is giving a shit. There have been so many times when I've had to write about something I couldn't care less about and it's like wringing blood from a stone. But if I actually love what I'm writing about? I can go on for pages. Want footnotes? I'll give you footnotes! And an index! If I can't connect with a topic on an emotional level, I don't want to write about it. If I'm being brutally honest with myself, I think this is why I'm an editor and why I don't want to be solely a freelance writer ... I don't want to make writing a miserable experience and take the joy out of something I love.

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

I had a client recently gaslight me, but I didn't realize it at first. I was doing everything they asked, and they still still weren't happy. I was miserable and felt like a complete failure; I thought I had lost my touch and wasn't cut out for this work anymore. It wasn't until a meeting where they asked me to do something that completely undid what they had previously asked me to do that I realized it wasn't me. And when I brought up my concerns and pointed out our previous conversation, they acted like I was completely out of line. That's when I knew for sure I was still as skilled as ever; it was the client who was the problem. But the in-between of thinking it was me was absolutely terrifying. And even after doing this for so long, to have self-doubt rise to the surface so quickly ... It's a horrible feeling. 

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

On days when I'm editing absolute dumpster fire pieces of writing, I fantasize about opening a bakery and just making bread and cakes and pastries all day long. The preciseness of measuring, the physicality of lifting the sacks of flour and sugar, of working the dough and loading the baking racks, never having to argue with some puckered-butthole control freak copy editor about the fucking punctuation placement in bullet points (spoiler alert: I don't care) ever again ... a girl can dream.

8) What are your personal and professional goals?

Personal: Eat more foods that come from plants and move during the day because the sedentary life of an editor is not doing me any favors.

Professional: One day be able to work with my old boss and coworkers again. Some of the hardest-working, most talented people I've ever had the pleasure to work with. Also: Continue to work remotely. Always. NO PANTS FOR LIFE. 

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

Answer for both: Stop using "that” so much (you'd be surprised by how much of a filler word it is!).

Want to learn more about Rebecca? Check out her website here.