Maintaining structure and balance is a huge issue for freelancers, and it’s something that I struggle with even now… One of the main ways I keep myself on track is by constantly switching up my routine: a new routine is fresh and exciting, and it keeps you on the ball for a while.
The Fetch recently spoke to Rachel Hills – an Australia blogger, TEDx speaker, cultural chronicler, and sex author living in London. Along the way, we got a fascinating glimpse into how to rise from blogger to full-fledged journalist to (soon-to-be) published author, and what you need to do to juggle time zones. (Hint: cut stuff out). We’ll be keeping an eye on Rachel, as she navigates the junction of sex, identity, Gen Y, and media. Could there be a more interesting zone to be in, these days?
You are currently in the process of having your first book, The Sex Myth, published. How has taking on the role of author in addition to journalist changed your daily life?
Writing a book has given my life more stability, especially in terms of income (not really any freelance writer’s strong suit). It can also be emotionally draining, though. Because the project is so long-term and has such a broad scope, it has required more focus, patience and internal motivation than the adrenalin-fuelled hustle and bustle of everyday freelancing.
Creatively speaking, it’s been great to work on a project that has really pushed me to my limit. Even the best newspaper and magazine articles have a relatively short shelf life, but a book hopefully has a bit more longevity to it. Which means you want to be doing your best work.
The Sex Myth explores the notion that unrealistic expectations about sex are plaguing the current generation of twenty-somethings. What surprised you the most as you carried out research for the book?
How much the subject matter has resonated with people. I started researching The Sex Myth five years ago because I felt like a misfit when it came to certain my sexual history, and I wanted to understand why. Half a decade, hundreds of interviews, and a slew of public speaking engagements later, I understand that a) there are a lot of people out there who feel like sexual and romantic misfits (more, perhaps, than who feel like their sexual histories are ‘normal’), and b) there are also a lot of people out there who are thinking very critically about the messages we are sold about sex, and about what it means to be liberal or progressive in this arena. Sexual freedom doesn’t just equal freedom from being told what not to do anymore; it also means freedom from being told what to do.
Your blog Musings of an Inappropriate Woman has received a number of awards over the last five years. How did you get started with your blogging career?
I wouldn’t call it a “career” – it’s more a hobby – but I’ve been posting work on the internet since the late 1990s. I started my first website, which was basically fan and pop culture commentary when I was still in high school, kept a website and various online diaries when I was at university, and launched my current blog in late 2007. It too is constantly evolving, but tends to focus on the subjects of gender/feminism, creativity, and the politics of everyday life.
Immediately after finishing college you went to work as a freelance writer for 10 years. What advice would you give aspiring freelancers on maintaining structure and balance in everyday life?
Wow! It’s been 10 years already! I didn’t actually believe you on that one until I checked my own LinkedIn page. That said, those earliest clips weren’t very impressive – and I’m pretty sure they didn’t pay (I didn’t start freelancing for money until a couple of years after I graduated) – but they were good for building experience and learning how to really write.
To answer your actual question, maintaining structure and balance is a huge issue for freelancers, and it’s something that I struggle with even now. I’m not someone who is terribly given to routine, and one of the main ways I keep myself on track is by constantly switching up my routine: a new routine is fresh and exciting, and it keeps you on the ball for a while.
Other tips? Keep your plate filled with work so there is always something immediate to be focused on. And ‘to do’ lists. There is a special thrill in checking things off on ‘to do’ lists.
Your work has been published across the globe, and you are self-described “fluent in time zones.” How do you keep a finger on the cultural and social pulse of global happenings enough to maintain relevance in your writing?
By not trying to stay on top of everything. Obviously you want to keep abreast of the main stories and conversations, but sometimes it’s nice to pull back for a few days and focus on the projects you’re actually working on. Good work requires you to go deep as well as broad.
Other than that, I read a lot. Twitter, RSS feeds, mailing lists, magazines and newspapers, the stories my friends post to Facebook. Sometimes it’s nice to get offline and get back into the “real world” as well.
Did you envision your life taking you in the direction that it has?
You know, it’s funny, because I went back to one of those old websites I mentioned earlier a few weeks back, and my life has unfolded pretty much exactly as I wanted it to when I was 19. Which is pretty amazing when you think about it. It has unfolded so slowly I barely even noticed it was happening, though, which always seems to be the way.
What are your favourite events to attend in London?
It’s a little bit daggy, but I love the Southbank Centre: the Hayward Gallery has London’s best contemporary art, the National Theatre is phenomenal, and then there are all the weird and wonderful speakers and performers that they bring in – recently, I saw Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker talk about fame, and a hilarious bunch of London cabaret performers put on an Alternative (and very dirty) Eurovision. For parties, I like the trashy pop of Guilty Pleasures and the immersive decadence of the Last Tuesday Society. For Literature, Kit Lovelace’s ‘Romantic Misadventures’ readings are always good for a laugh, and I love a good supper club as well. Live & Unamplified is my favourite I’ve attended so far, and I also recently launched a supper club of my own at Hub Islington.
About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.