Ahead of Make Nice: Un-conference for Creative Women, which kicks off tomorrow in Sydney, we caught up with the event’s Keynote speaker Ann Friedman, an acclaimed freelance journalist who writes about (among other things) gender, media, technology, and culture.
How did you start out as a writer? What were some of your first jobs?
I am one of those weird people who has always known exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wrote short stories and articles as a kid, then I studied journalism at university. When I couldn’t find a job at a magazine or newspaper right after graduation, I got a non-journalism job and started blogging on the side. Eventually I got a fellowship at a magazine, which started my career in earnest. I was an editor for 6 years before becoming a freelance writer.
Freelancing can be a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotion – how have you dealt with feelings of self doubt?
In my earliest days as a freelancer, pushing past self-doubt wasn’t really a choice, because I had to pitch myself in order to get work and pay rent. I still have feelings of self-doubt—I am a human being, after all—but I rely on an incredible network of friends and collaborators to help me get through it and keep challenging myself.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing female journalists today?
As in many fields, I think it can be difficult for young women journalists in particular to build relationships with older, more established writers and editors in positions of power—many of whom are men. For slightly older women journalists who have caregiving responsibilities or family obligations, media careers can be unforgiving in terms of the hours required—especially if you are a features reporter or, say, a politics editor during campaign season.
How do you deal with criticism of your work?
I created a chart called The Disapproval Matrix to help me figure out which criticism to take seriously and which to ignore. You can find it here: http://www.annfriedman.com/disapprovalmatrix/
Working freelance from home can be a tough gig – how do you switch off and distance yourself from your job when you live at the office?
I try to leave my computer to exercise, take a walk, or meet a friend for lunch or coffee at least once a day. I also try to not work after dinner, and usually I’m pretty successful. Cooking dinner while listening to music or a podcast is a nice way of transitioning from day to night.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Many good pieces of advice! But here’s one: Don’t answer emails when you’re angry. Never hit “send” while you’re still in a rage.
What’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d listen to but didn’t?
I can’t think of anything, which either means I’m good at taking advice or that I’m bad at remembering advice I’ve ignored.
Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve failed at something and how did you navigate through that? What did you learn from it?
I fail all the time! For me, writing is realizing I’ll probably never live up to my very highest expectations, and continuing to publish anyway while getting incrementally better. The small, recurring failures are honestly the hardest for me to deal with, because you’ve got to get up and try to work through them every single day.
Learn more about Ann Friedman over on her official website. And as for Make Nice: Un-conference for Creative Women, which runs in Surry Hills from the 22nd to the 23rd of September, here are all the details you need.
Photo: Ann Friedman photographed by Jorge Rivas.