Apr 17
2013

bad advice, part one.

I get a lot of questions every day from Twitter followers who wonder how I ended up in my job and/or who want advice about how to get into doing what I do, so I thought I’d write down some thoughts. It should be said that I am not remotely qualified to be giving advice about anything at all. But people keep asking. So.

First of all, what it is that I do is pretty blurry. When I first started I was at the LA Times writing recaps (not reviews, but recaps) and doing the occasional interview. Then when I moved on to Zap2it, the philosophy at Zap was that it was a TV site written by fans of TV, for fans of TV. Obviously, there’s a lot of journalism that goes into what I do, but I wasn’t hired because I had journalism experience (I had zero journalism experience). I was hired because I was a fan of TV and because I had a lot of enthusiasm.

That’s why I always think it’s funny when online commenters get mad at me for being “such a fangirl.” I giggle in interviews a lot because I just… am a person who giggles a lot, and I try to conduct interviews like conversations, when possible. Very often when people are trying to hate on me, they say “oh, she’s not a journalist, she’s a professional fangirl.” And they’re 100% totally right, and that doesn’t offend me.

My official title at Zap is “staff editor,” but the most accurate description of what I do is “blogger.” If you’re looking for serious journalism, there are lots of other TV writers who do that; I’ve never been one of them. It’s not what I was hired to do. I do what I was hired to do, which is to write things that might interest other fans and to ask questions to which fans might want answers. That’s all. If I wrote for a different outlet, they might have different policies, and I might have a different approach. But I write for Zap2it and I love it.

So, okay, now that that’s clarified a bit, I should say that I sort of got into this gig by accident. When I graduated from college I had a series of jobs that weren’t really good fits for me (or I wasn’t a good fit for them). But I have always loved TV, and I’ve always been a good writer. (Yes, I know that a lot of people out there don’t think I’m a good writer. What matters to me is that I think I’m a good writer. Suck it, universe.) I wrote an email to Zap2it with my resume, and asked a colleague to put in a good word. Like I said, I had very little experience, so there was no good reason for Zap2it to hire me, but I was very confident and very enthusiastic at my interview, and I was a good writer, so they did it anyway. I am really lucky. I also work really hard and put myself out there a lot.

Basically, getting this job was about the same things that getting any job is about. Knowing the right people, not being afraid to send out your resume, and doing a decent job in the interview. That said, if you’re a young person who is interested in doing what I do (whatever that is) here are the six biggest pieces of advice that I can give you.

1. Move to Los Angeles. This is the first thing and also probably the hardest thing. You can also get your hustle on in New York or Vancouver or Toronto, or your country’s equivalent of one of those cities, but I think the job market is biggest in Los Angeles. Get here. Everything starts with being in the right place at the right time, and as much as it sucks, the right place is probably not going to be your small fishing village in Saskatchewan. I was scared shitless (and also broke) when I packed up my car and drove out to LA after college. I had a REALLY rough first couple of months — relationship-wise, life-wise, I was all over the place. But I stuck it out and I didn’t go home. That was thing #1.

2. Start a blog now. I’m not talking about a Tumblr where you repeatedly post gifs of every sex scene your fave ‘ship has ever had, I’m talking about a smart, well-written blog. If you want to be a TV blogger, be one now. Write reviews, recaps, and reactions now. Share them on Twitter. Be dedicated. There are great TV blogs out there — winestainedlife.com springs to mind — that are professional even though they might not be PROFESSIONAL. That way, when you are looking for a job, you have proof of what you can do. You might even have developed a following. The great thing about blogging is that nobody has to hire you in order for you to get experience. A lot of my TV blogger peers had their own TV blog before they were hired at a larger site. (My first shot at TV blogging was this important piece of serious journalism. Come at me, bro.)

3. Write well, always. Especially on the internet. You guys, grammar is important, and if you apply for a job that involves writing, and then someone Googles you and discovers your Tumblr full of “your vs. you’re” issues and key-mashing about your “feels,” that looks terrible. On the other hand, if you have a Tumblr with interesting episode commentary and eloquent descriptions of your reactions to pop culture stuff, that could be a big plus. I mean, I’m really glad that Tumblr didn’t exist when I was in high school because I’m sure there would be a lot of embarrassing stuff out there about my *NSYNC obsession, but at least it would’ve been grammatically correct. (The “feels” thing is a pet peeve of mine, but I’m serious. If you can’t be more evocative than that, you’re going to struggle.)

4. In college, study what you like to learn about. People ask me about this all the time. I didn’t study journalism in college. (“It shows!” says every Serious Important TV Journalist who thinks I’m a hack that writes like a schoolgirl with a crush. “I know!” I reply, doodling Mrs. Carina Riggins on my trapper-keeper.) I majored in English and spent most of my college career focused on poetry, which I absolutely love. Don’t waste four years studying something that bores you; you don’t know what’s going to happen after college. If you love studying journalism, study it. If you don’t, don’t. I hated the journalism classes that I took and switched it up. Being an engaged student does amazing things to your brain that will benefit you for your entire life. Being a bored student makes you boring and bitter.

5. Try not to be shy. I know that this is basically like saying “Try not to breathe air!” for some people. I was really shy and very introverted as a kid. Seriously — my teachers made my parents come to meetings to talk about my general lack of social interaction at recess. I liked books better than people. (I still do.) I used to stutter when I was really nervous. The thing is, being shy is okay when you’re a kid. You can’t use shyness as an excuse when you’re an adult. You have to learn to ask questions and make friends and be enthusiastic and be interesting and be interested. Being social is a huuuge part of my job, but in general, adulthood means not getting to hide behind your mom’s dress without looking like an asshole. I have an actor friend who always insists that he’s a shy person, and I always tell him that’s obviously bullshit. To which he says, “That’s because I’m acting like a person who isn’t shy.” I kinda like that.

6. Fight for what’s important to you. Don’t fight over what’s not. This is advice that I’m still trying to apply to my own life — I spend a lot of time with my dukes up, lately. But it’s the most important. I would probably be a lot better at my job and a lot better at my life if I wasn’t so easily riled up. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if I wasn’t willing to put my foot down and stand up for myself once in a while. I’m working on getting better at knowing which is which.   So there it is! Let me know if you guys have any questions. Also, I take no responsibility for your life choices. Talk to your guidance counselor.