I’ve always thought it was a little too meta to write about writing, but when my good friend Matt Villano—who I’d consider both a mentor and an inspiration to me as a journalist—asked me to participate in this blog hop, I figured why the heck not (particularly as you guys seem as interested in my career in magazine journalism as my travels, and I don’t blog nearly enough about the former).
Last week, Matt posted his own rare look behind the curtain, then posed these four questions to me:
1) What am I writing or working on?
So many things, I can barely keep them all straight. I’ve had a handful of Travel Mindset campaigns to work on this month—Panama City Beach, Gatlinburg, Airbnb—that they’ve kept me busy on the writing side. I also have a monthly travel column for Nashville Lifestyles, our city magazine owned by Gannett, and am still contributing semi-regularly to Entrepreneur as well as other consumer magazines such as Southern Living when I’m needed.
I’m updating my Nashville guide to USA Today quarterly (if you’re coming to town, shoot me a note and I’ll email you the PDF), as well as just finished a bunch of Nashville content for The Guardian (you can view it here). I’m not actively pitching magazines at the moment (lack of time, really), but only taking the assignments that fall in my lap as I can barely keep up with everything else I have going on. On the side, I have a book marketing client, a handful of web development and corporate copywriting projects, and other random odds and ends that occupy every last “free” moment I might have.
My next few months are so full of travel—some for work, some for fun—that I can barely keep it all straight (and I’m already missing Ella knowing we’re going to be apart for more time than we’re together!). This weekend, SVV and I head to New York City to see a dear friend get married. In early June, I jet off to Montana for a week for a trip I’ve had planned with five dear friends for the better part of a year. I return the day Bonnaroo kicks off, and we’ll have a full house of fellow festival-goers bunking at our place (good thing we have a lot of room!). And—this just in—during in the four days between Bonnaroo and the family heading off to Europe, I’ll now be flying down to Orlando for a quick 48 hours to cover the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley media preview. Of all things on the docket, I might be the most excited about this development!
And then of course, there’s the 23 days (holy crap, so long!) that SVV and I will be traveling through the Mediterranean, but you’ll hear plenty about that all in due time. Also, in the few days I’m home between New York and Montana, I’ll be gearing up to cover CMT Awards and possibly CMA Music Fest (TBD). June sure is my favorite time of year to be a Tennessean with all the musical happenings in these parts!
And then there are two pretty big things happening when I return from Europe in July:
First, I’ll be acting managing editor at Nashville Lifestyles until mid-October while the current editor is away on maternity leave. This is exciting for me as I’ve really missed working in an office these past six years and being part of a team. Plus, I’ll get to plan the editorial mix for those three issues (September, October, November) and hopefully interview some awesome Nashvillians in the process. Not to mention, it will keep me relatively homebound—well, at our Nashville condo, that is—during the week at least.
Second, I’ll be throwing myself into Thrillist’s new Nashville edition with full force. I was recruited last August to spearhead the Nashville launch and it took until now to actually get it greenlit. So I’m excited to let the snark flow as I extensively cover the city so near and dear to my heart.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
If we’re talking blog specifically, I’d say that I tend to write more first-person narrative (and fewer listicles) than your average travel blogger. I’m loquacious—that comes as no surprise (my print editors are forever asking me to cut down the stories I submit to them)—and if given the chance, a little bit (OK, a lot bit) sarcastic. While it may not serve me well as far as search engines are concerned, I’ve always cared less about SEO-centric content and more about making sure I’m engaging and entertaining. Plus, it’s no big secret that my posts are very photo-heavy, as these days I prefer telling stories through visuals than the written word. This reason is twofold: For one, in a world of 140 characters, I feel like people aren’t reading blogs as carefully anymore and just skimming the surface. Second, I’m writing so many words a day for my other projects—seriously, an average day for me is probably a minimum of 10,000 words, and that’s six days a week at least—that by the time I get around to blogging, I’m clean out of prose. Photo content just seems easier as it taps into a separate part of my brain.
3) Why do I write what I do?
There was a time I only wrote about travel. These days, I’d say it’s half of what I write, at most. As I evolved as a journalist, I found writing solely about consumer travel meant that I was missing out on my favorite parts of writing and what drove me to go to J-School in the first place, and that’s the interview process. In the last year, I’ve really gotten back to this nucleus of why I write (to meet other people and help tell their stories). The nice thing about working in a diverse field like journalism is that you get the opportunity to explore multiple areas of interest, which is why I’ve continued to expand my portfolio to include topics beyond travel and entertainment (including food, startups, business, technology, you name it). At the end of the day, my curiosity is what drove me into this industry in the first place, and that same curiosity is what keeps me reinventing myself as a writer and exploring a plethora of subject matter.
4) How does my writing process work?
I have so many half-finished
…oh, sorry, where was I?
Right. I’m quite ADD when it comes to work—and always working on at least five assignments at once—that I tend to hop around among documents every few minutes, rarely completing one story from start to finish in a single sitting. You’d be pretty amazed by the number of half-finished Word docs on my computer (or blog posts in my dash, pitches in my drafts folder). Many times I’ll get back to them…eventually. But other times, my attention will be grabbed by a shiny object—SQUIRREL!—and I won’t actually ever touch them again. (Fellow journalists out there: Please tell me I’m not alone.)
In terms of the process itself, I tend to write the middle of a story first, then come up with an ending that sums up the point I want to leave behind with the reader, then return to the lede, typically leaving it for the last and trying to make it as punchy as possible. But I’m also forever cutting and pasting paragraphs and moving them all around, so often the finished product looks absolutely nothing like the first draft.
I get my best inspiration when I’m not at the computer, which can be problematic. Full stories write themselves in my head while at the gym, driving, running or doing anything that involves being disconnected from technology. So I’ve learned to keep a recorder close by and dictate my inspiration to my iPhone notepad as it sneaks up on me.
I also work best at night. I feel like much of my day is spent on social media or answering emails or doing phone interviews that as soon as 5pm hits and my inbox goes silent, that’s when I can really get to the meat of my work. I’ve always been a night owl so it’s not uncommon that I’m writing between the hours of 11pm and 2am. That’s also why I get up and spend 8 to 10am at the gym each day, as I know I’d just be sitting in front of my computer checking Facebook anyway, so I might as well get my calorie-burn done first thing in the morning before I really get into the zone.