On the blog, Grant shares social media, career, and publishing advice. She is preparing to publish her first memoir, she’s recently published her first e-guide, she’s working on a second book and she’s preparing to launch an online course in social media.
She is one busy woman with a ton of useful information to share, so I am delighted for the chance to launch this series with her Q&A.
Alexis Grant: I chose that route because I think readers can relate to what I’m going through, and because it’s more helpful when I’m honest about what I’ve learned through these various challenges. Too often I read a blog post about one thing or another, and it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the real questions I have about what that person’s going through.
So I ask myself, if I was picking my own brain about how I’m accomplishing these various tasks, what would I really want to know? The answer is that I’d want to know more than just the outcome. I’d want to know how I got there. So I try to give readers what I’d want to read myself. Also, one of my goals with my blog is to create a community, and being honest and personable goes a long way toward accomplishing that.
DS: What effects does such transparency have on the different facets of your career?
AG: I do think through what I write on the blog, sometimes to the point where I write two or three drafts of what I see as a sensitive post. This post about how I’m leaving my day job, for example, went through a bunch of iterations before I felt comfortable with anyone and everyone (including my former employer and potential new clients) reading it.
DS: Despite the diversity of work you do, you call yourself “first and foremost … a journalist”. Is that because it has been the core of your career, or because it is the work you most enjoy, or is there a more existential piece to it that causes you to identify with the title?
AG: I do identify with the title. My journalism background affects all my work. In fact, I think the reason I’m a good blogger and social media strategist is because I can synthesize information down to what’s most important and get right to that point, while bloggers without that training sometimes blab on and on, making the mistake of, as we say in journalism, burying the lead. Journalism has made me an effective communicator. But it has also shaped my ethics and values, and I think some readers expect me to hold myself to a certain standard because I’m a journalist.
Until now, journalism has also been at the core of how I make income. I’ve never had a full-time job that wasn’t in journalism. And while I’ll still be working as a journalist in my new “slasher” career as journalist/blog & social media strategist/budding entrepreneur, I’m becoming more of a part-time journalist. I struggle with this, because I still think of myself as primarily a journalist… But all good things morph and change over time, right? Including our identities and careers.
DS: You have mentioned your difficulty with writing in first person, coming from a journalism background. You’re also blogging regularly, which requires you to inject yourself and your opinions into the writing. How has stepping into these different styles effected your skills and style as a writer in general?
AG: Trying different genres has helped me grow as a writer. It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to try something different, which always helps us improve!
DS: Have you seen a difference in your journalistic writing since writing the book and blogging? And, as you go back and forth now, do you see your journalism background effecting your books or blogging?
AG: While it hasn’t much affected my journalistic pursuits, it has helped me become a better blogger. Between blogging and writing my memoir, I think I’ve finally found my voice, which was hidden under years of (journalistic) inverted pyramids. To be honest, I think I’m actually better at writing in this bloggy voice now than I am at writing straight-up journalistic pieces. Writing my memoir helped me get there.
DS: With your second book, you’re considering self-publishing. If you choose to self-publish that one, would you continue to seek a publisher for Please Send Pants, or would you consider self-publishing for that book as well? Why?
AG: No, I’ll continue seeking traditional publication for Please Send Pants. Partly because my agent is putting work into selling that book, so it’s become her baby now, too! But the kind of self-publishing I want to do is solely informational e-guides, and memoir doesn’t fall into that category. I think there’s still a big stigma against fiction and memoir that’s self-published, but not as much of a stigma against informational e-guides (which also have a much higher price point). Just goes to show that while one publishing route might be right for one book, another route might be right for another.
DS: As a freelancer — and one who wears so many hats — how do you make time just for yourself, and what do you like to do with time off?
AG: This question made me laugh, because I’m not good at scheduling “me” time. In fact, it’s 10:30 p.m., and I’m sitting at my computer working on this Q&A. Taking time off is something I’ll have to focus on in this new phase of my work life. I love to run, hike and travel. I’m also a big baker, and since I (purposely) don’t have a television, baking is how I de-stress in the evenings. I also love hanging out with my Mommy friends and their kids or having a beer with friends at a local bar.
DS: Besides a steady paycheck (because that’s too easy), is there anything that you miss about “the 40-hour work week”, i.e. a traditional career path?
AG: Yes! I actually really like the stability of a day job — I’ll be writing more about this on my blog in the coming weeks. I like going to the office every day; without that, I tend to work in my pajamas and never leave the house. I’m going to look for a co-working space to help me remedy that habit. Until recently, I worked in Georgetown, and I loved walking to work, over the bridge and by the water. I also really enjoyed having co-workers around to bounce ideas off. Working independently has its perks, but it also comes with challenges.
DS: Since you are the journalist, and I still have so much to learn, I’ll end with this: What question(s) did I miss that you would have asked in an interview with you? And, why would include them?
AG: Great question. At the end of every phone interview, I ask the subject, “Is there anything else I haven’t asked you about that you think is important?” Sometimes they say no. But more often, they throw in an awesome nugget of information that I never even thought to inquire about. And sometimes the subject will simply summarize our entire conversation to make sure I got the point, giving me the best quote of the entire interview. Asking that question is a fabulous way to end an interview.
What would I ask myself about? A dating site I try to force myself to use asks, “What do you spend a lot of time thinking about?” I think that’s an awesome question, because essentially you’re asking the person where they want to be rather than where they are at that very moment, which gives you a peek at their mindset. Lately I spend a lot of time thinking about entrepreneurship, how to successfully launch products using my online network; my next launch will be an online class about how to use social media to Make Your Own Luck, something I preach on my blog. I think about how to create a “workstyle” that allows me to travel and seek adventure while still bringing in (a modest) income.
And today, I’m thinking about how to outsource (to an American student hopefully, not abroad) tasks for my business and blog that I don’t really need to do myself, so I have more time to focus on bigger-picture projects.
DS: Finally, congrats on the new job and yet another great leap in your career! I so look forward to following The Traveling Writer for more on what you learn along the way.
Thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge with us, Alexis!