Britt - Roadmap to a Writer
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
What do you do for a living?
I'm a writer. My full-time job is for Cancer Wellness and I also do freelance writing.
What does a day at your job look like?
I wake up early to start a full morning routine that includes a 10-20min meditation, journaling three full pages, Chinese medicinal herbs and drinking lemon water, among other things. Then I head into the office. During my commute I update my planner and outline my day. I read if possible. Return emails. Once I get to work, tasks vary from day to day. I spend my days managing many things at a time. I may be creating a documentary, participating in a video shoot, coordinating a photo shoot, conducting and/or transcribing interviews, writing and/or editing stories, planning social media for the month, attending or organizing meetings...I'm responsible for publication of the entire magazine (a quarterly publication with a creative production staff of three people). During lunch and after work I catch up on my freelance projects: emails, tweets, interviews, writing. I attend events in the evenings (I get lots of invitations to shows, events, dinners, parties, readings...) or work on other personal things because I've found I can’t write late in the day.
What path did you take to get here?
Graduated high school-->Bachelor in English Lit with a Minor in Philosophy from DePaul University-->Started a personal blog-->Spent a year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the media relations department-->Got laid off when the position was eliminated-->Worked several jobs over 3.5 years at Groupon in editorial departments (fact checking, project manager, copy editing) but wasn't ever give a staff writing position-->Started freelance writing at Gapers Block and contributing more to my personal blog (essays, critical analysis of fashion, music and art reviews, dance reviews) which allowed me to go behind the scenes of Chicago entertainment--> Named Best Local Writer by Chicago Reader which jumpstarted the rest of my career
-->Started blogging for wBEZ about music, culture, race, art, and gender-->Became a Pitchfork freelance tracks reviewer-->Continued personal writing, performing in storytelling shows-->Accepted writing positions at MTV and editing positions at Vice
-->Hired to create Cancer Wellness-->Got offered and accepted Editorial Director of the magazine while continuing to freelance write
What are the Challenges of your job?
1. I feel disconnected from other people in my freelance world where you have to rely on yourself because you're not working in a traditional newsroom
2. Also, with freelance work, income can be unpredictable. I like the balance of my day job and my own writing.
What are the blessings of your job?
A lot of people quit writing at some point because of jobs that don't provide enough freedom or make them feel their voice is being stifled. Freelancing allows me to pursue and write about things I'm moved by without feeling trapped. Of all of my college friends who started out writing, I'm the only one still writing.
What 3 characteristics do you have to possess or develop to do your job well?
1. Curiosity - you can’t write about new things without being curious about new things
2. Openness - be open and accepting of people different than you to pursue worthwhile stories
3. Thick skin - there can be a lot of rejection of the stories you write or the ideas you propose. You will meet people in this field driven by their own insecurities, so you have to be strong in your voice.
What are 3 concrete things you’d tell someone on their journey to doing your job?
1. Read every single day. Read the news, magazine, websites, blogs, books. Take time to pause, understand the content and take it in. Ask a lot of questions about everything. Writing is trying to figure out why things are the way they are.
2. Get to know yourself. Know what your style is and isn’t, what you like and don’t like.
3. Don’t accept "no" for an answer. If you apply for an internship and you don’t get it, keep going. I didn’t get a journalism job right out of college because I didn’t go to the "right" school or have the right connections. But I still pursued it even though I heard tons of “no”. I applied for an internship at Pitchfork in high school and I didn’t get it, but 4 years later I had a job as their track reviewer.