Lately I’ve been fascinated with writers’ and bloggers’ daily work routines, workspaces, and anything and everything that helps them Get Stuff Done. (I’m reading The New New Journalism and it’s full of info like this, FYI! You might like it if you’re similarly geeky.)
I thought I’d make a survey that other bloggers can copy and paste into their blog and answer the questions themselves. Please do! I’d love to hear how and where you work. If you do the survey, how ‘bout hashtagging it on Twitter with #HowIBlog so we can find it more easily?
And now, without further ado…
Do you have a workspace? What does it look like?
See above. I recently got a proper desk for the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE (?!); previously I had always worked from bed, coffee shops, or with my laptop sitting on the kitchen table or on my lap while I sat in any random spot of my choosing. Now I have an actual area in which to work, and the exhilaration is intense!
I keep a variety of pens, markers and highlighters in a Museum of Sex mug that says “Sex makes me thirsty” in cute script. I have a black woven basket full of journalism reference books and all the other books I’m supposed to read this semester. Right next to my computer, I keep a to-do list that’s categorized into sections (each class I’m taking is a section, and “blog/writing” is its own category). I also keep two index cards, one for blog post ideas and one for story ideas I plan on eventually pitching to magazines, websites, etc.
There are lots of extra notebooks and index cards in my desk drawers so I’ll always have paper to quickly grab if I need to make a note of an idea. There’s a small bulletin board over the desk that I’ve loaded up with images that inspire me and make me happy (e.g. pictures of my current crush, my friends, and myself when I looked my cutest). And because I’m ultra new-age-y, I’ve also got a small collection of crystals that are said to enhance writerly powers. (Incase you’re wondering, they are as follows: sodalite for inner peace and endurance, carnelian for energy and humor, tiger eye for confidence and creativity, chalcedony for dissipating negative energy, rhodochrosite for compassion and creativity, jade for love and wealth, kyanite for tranquility and intuition, black tourmaline for luck and happiness, and citrine for wealth and clarity. Phew!)
Where do you go to look for ideas? Where do your ideas come from?
I read the news and keep an eye on social media, where I follow lots of folks who work and write in the same field as me. I subscribe to a few Reddit subforums that deal heavily or exclusively with sex, so new ideas and concepts are often brought to my attention there. I read books, articles and websites about sex. I spend a lot of time thinking about sex, journaling about it, and talking to friends and family about it, all of which brings up new things I might not have otherwise thought of.
What’s the process you go through to turn an idea into a finished post?
When I first get an idea, and I think it’s a good one, I write it down on my little ongoing blog ideas index card if I don’t have time to work on it right away or if I feel I need to think about it and flesh it out more before I get started on it. Then I mull it over for a few days or weeks, and usually the idea becomes more fully formed the more that I think about it. Sometimes I have epiphanies in my sleep, or while doing something mundane like washing my body in the bath or walking to class, because the repetitive motion kicks my creative brain into gear.
Sometimes, if I like an idea but can’t seem to unify it in my head, I’ll run it by a friend and see what they have to say about it. Explaining an idea out loud can help make it more coherent, and my smart, sex-positive friends always have interesting suggestions and perspectives.
If, however, I feel like an idea is ready to be made into a post right away, and I have the time to do it, I get started immediately. (This post was one of those!)
How long does it take you to write a post once you’ve got the idea?
I’ve always been a pretty fast writer – it’s one of my saving graces at journalism school, actually, where time management looms large – so I can get a post done in 45 minutes to an hour, most times. After that, I edit it, have a look at the preview of how it’ll appear when it’s on my blog’s homepage, make sure everything is A-OK, and then hit publish (or queue).
Reviews can take me a bit longer because sometimes I’ll get halfway through a review and realize I’ve forgotten to test certain functions or uses of the toy, and need to do additional testing before finishing the post.
How do you prepare your work environment (and yourself) to create maximum productivity and focus?
If I have the time and it’s feasible for me, I like to have a massive caffeinated drink before and during my blog work. Caffeine really helps stimulate my creativity and it gets me very excited about whatever I’m working on. Sometimes I’ll schlep my laptop to a coffee shop to work, partly so I’ll have close access to coffee and partly because the bustling atmosphere helps me focus. (Coffitivity is a useful tool for replicating this effect at home, if you’re interested!)
If I’m at my desk at home, I like to put on music while I work. Usually I go for something instrumental and minimally distracting, like Chris Thile playing Bach on the mandolin or the string quartet tribute to Death Cab For Cutie. Sometimes I open up sound effect websites, like the aforementioned Coffitivity or Rainy Mood, and either layer them with music or just listen to them alone.
I like my desk to be relatively clear when I work, so I can focus. Any clutter must be beautiful/inspiring clutter.
My “writing clothes” have to be super comfortable so they don’t distract me. In the summertime I wore a lot of oversized tank tops (I bought mine in a unisex size large so they’re basically dresses on me) because they’re comfy and unrestrictive, but now that it’s getting colder, you’ll more often find me writing in sweaters, leggings and shearling slippers. Basically anything that allows me to focus on my thoughts and my words instead of my body. And ideally something that allows for quick genital access if need be; wink wink.
What daily or regular practices do you do to improve your writing?
I am a huge fan of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way books, and in particular, the morning pages exercise she suggests. I don’t always have the time or energy to keep up with my daily morning pages, but when I do, I find that I’m so much more creative, decisive, and productive. It’s truly astonishing.
I write in a journal almost every day, just recording what happened in my life and how I feel about it, and I think that practice has improved my writing enormously, simply because the more you write, the better you get. Putting feelings into words can be a particularly challenging task, so in some ways, writing about sex toys feels like a walk in the park after that!
I also make a habit of reading books on writing (Bird by Bird and The Elements of Style are two recent ones I’ve enjoyed) and making sure to read a fuckton of other people’s writing – not just in the genre I write for (primarily sex-related nonfiction), but in lots of other genres too. The more you read, the better you write.
I also like to go for long, thoughtful walks – another Julia Cameron recommendation. If I’m stuck and can’t seem to “give birth to” a post or article (for lack of a better phrase), a walk often unsticks my brain. Sometimes I just keep walking until the issue resolves itself, even if that means I go for a longer walk than I normally would. Divine inspiration always seems to strike eventually.
What rules (if any) do you always follow when you write? What rules (if any) do you break?
I follow spelling and grammar rules to the best of my ability, unless I’m breaking them purposely to achieve a particular effect.
I always try to make my first sentence interesting and attention-grabbing. It’s my journalistic background.
I hold myself to a very high standard when it comes to being non-judgmental and anti-oppressive. I do my best to make sure my posts don’t contain anything that could make someone feel shitty about themselves, whether that’s due to feeling shamed for something they like in bed or feeling excluded based on their identity or anything else.
In reviews, I often break the “rule” that you have to include a plethora of technical information about a toy, like how it charges, how long the charge lasts, what the toy’s buttons or controls are like, how to clean and care for the toy’s material, etc. I tend to only include that information if it’s notable and I want to comment on it for one reason or another. I figure folks can always Google for that information and they’ve come to my blog to hear what I think about how the toy feels.
What other writers (of any genre or medium) do you admire, and why?
In the sex blogging realm: Epiphora for her hilarious and inventive descriptions of sex toys and their sensations. Lilly for her well-researched and sometimes delightfully ranty posts. Redhead Bedhead because her blog is a mishmash of mental, emotional, and physical approaches to sexuality (which is kind of what I try to do here, too). Emily Nagoski because she is soooo non-judgmental and her approach is scientific but compassionate.
In the world of nonfiction: I love Rachel Rabbit White’s sex journalism. (I actually interviewed her for a first-year journalism school project where we had to talk to a journalist we admire. I was so shy and starstruck but she was very sweet to me.) I like Augusten Burroughs’ dark, biting wit and interesting way of looking at the world. I love Gala Darling’s bubbly, carefree tone and her take on self-love.
Fiction: J. K. Rowling and Veronica Roth (young adult fiction is hard and they get it right). Will Ferguson (hilarious, but dark and deep sometimes too). Emma Donoghue (read Room; trust me on this one). Stephen King (a true, great storyteller; I’m obsessed with The Stand and Under the Dome).
Other genres: I dig poetry by Charles Bukowski and Richard Brautigan. Stephen Sondheim is the best lyricist I know of, living or dead.
So? Are you going to answer these questions on your own blog? Make sure to use the #HowIBlog hashtag if you tweet your post!