From Fan-Fiction to Las Vegas Entertainment Editor, My Writing Journey

Monday, April 30, 2018


If you ask me what I do I’ll tell you I’m a writer. My resume says a bunch of things (journalist, multimedia editor, interviewer, etc.), but those are all just fancy ways of saying I write for different mediums.

On paper my career as a writer sounds pretty cool. I’ve had my stories as the cover stories on multiple print magazines, I’ve interviewed a few celebrities, and I get a lot of complimentary things around Vegas. And while it is cool, I’m still in the very early stages of my career. I’m still learning, still building, and definitely still failing. But I want to share with you guys how I got those things, because there are those who want to write professionally and wonder “how the fuck do I turn my 1,432+ word documents of stories, articles, blog posts, random thoughts, poems, and short stories into a career?”

So I’m sharing my journey with you all, because there is no singular path to what you want. If anything there are infinite paths, one consistently being created and imagined after another. This just so happens to be mine.



Blogs, Fan-Fiction



My first foray into sharing my writing with the world was the beautiful world of fictional fan narratives. Yes, I wrote fan-fiction. I may be ever-so-slightly cringing as I admit a lot of it was Loki fan-fiction. And okay, some was about the boy-band B2K (mainly Lil Fizz and J-Boog). *Covers eyes in shame* let’s just move on shall we? …

All jokes aside I think fan-fiction forums are a brilliant way to sharpen your skills. Most of the time there's a ready-made fandom that will read your stories, provide feedback, and offer support. In addition it's good for practicing consistency, building confidence, and learning to make self-imposed deadlines. And if you don't want anyone to know about it you can always publish anonymously (I did!). In addition I started various blogs where I would write about various things (this time not anonymously). Again, it was good practice, but I never fully got into the groove of blogging. 

I spent probably 10+ years writing fan fiction and blogging, and the support I gained gave me reassurance beyond measure. But let me be 100% blunt too: neither my fan-fiction nor my blog helped me advance career-wise. I didn’t get any jobs from them, I NEVER included them in any resume, and I never reached the point of working with brands through my personal blog. They were solely helpful tools for my own development.


Magazine Internship



When I finished college I had no clear idea what would be next, something that drove me to multiple mental breakdowns. Honestly I didn't know many writers, and I didn't major in a literary degree in college. I never knew about all the options writers had, or where to begin. I stumbled around for some time, reached out to various people, took as much advice as I could, and tried to find a place to fit in.

Six months after I graduated I started working for a weekly entertainment magazine here in Vegas. I was making no money, living in the TINEST apartment you’ve ever seen. I promise, it would make even a New Yorker cringe. The majority of the time I felt like I didn't know what I was doing. I would be assigned fact-checking, transcribing interviews, and light editing. I did things the best I knew how, though if I could redo it I would have asked more questions instead of staying quiet and trying to figure things out solo. I was blessed to have an editor who believed in me and saw my talent even when I didn't recognize it. She assigned me bigger and bigger stories, culminating to my first cover story.

Throughout this time I still wasn't 100% sure what I wanted to do, but I made a promise to myself that I would say yes to everything. I have a habit of talking myself out of things, but during this phase I told myself no matter how much it scares you, say yes. Say yes now and figure the rest out later. So I did. And it led me to amazing places. When my internship was up they asked me to say on as a contributing editor. 

I said yes.


Being an Entertainment Editor in Las Vegas


This chapter in my early budding career is called 'not knowing how to act.' I was a beautiful, young woman living in fast-paced Las Vegas with access to pretty much anything I wanted, and a job pulled from my dreams. I went slightly crazy. 

I was gaining momentum in my career (getting bigger and bigger stories, meeting influential people, making smart connections) but I was so miserable and conflicted in my personal life it overshadowed my climb. I drank too much, focused more on my trendy, cosmopolitan wardrobe and lifestyle instead of my work, I was moody, snappy, and borderline arrogant outwardly (while being overly unsure of myself internally), and I burned through a lot of money.

Don't get me wrong it was an insanely fun time, and I did manage to get a lot of cool work/interviews accomplished. I just wasn't happy. And it started to show in my work.




Failure, Quitting, and Lessons
Where everything went wrong



(Look Mom, It's me in a magazine!)
Let’s call it what it is - I was horrid at freelancing. I just wasn’t good at ‘chasing’ stories, or pitching, or aggressively seeking clients. Also my response time to e-mails and my communication in general was shitty. Not because I didn’t care, but my anxiety was out of control. It overwhelmed me, I doubted myself, and drove myself deeper into panic and mental disarray.

I committed many cardinal sins – missing deadlines, not turning in assignments, going ‘missing’ and turning in crappy late minute work.

If you ever asked me at the time how things were going or checked my Instagram it would seem as if I had it all together, but the truth was I was failing. I kept running away from the fact I should have just faced: I didn’t know how to do this. And even more honest? I didn’t want to know how to do it.

What followed was to be expected; when you’re putting in minimal effort you get minimal return. Stories stopped coming in, clients diminished, and I was left with an increasing amount of idle time and a stagnant portfolio. And I had no clue what to do next. Combine that with the fact I was in the middle of a toxic dating experience (aka getting my heart broken), a depressive episode, and a heavy emotional drinking period. I ended up getting a full-time job that had NOTHING to do with writing, and told myself that was the end of my ‘editor’ career.

Social Media 

Becoming a Poet

In the midst of all this emotional turmoil I started posting poetry I’d been writing on Instagram. Honestly I did it because I had words I wanted to get out, and I didn’t know where else to place them. But people started liking them. People starting sharing them, and people (including a few poets I’ve always admired) reached out to share their support. I felt like myself again, and those moments when I would write pieces of poetry were the moments I felt a sense of peace. 'This is what you are supposed to be doing, Zauni. This is what is meant to happen.' It wasn’t a clear direction of what to do next, but it was a good feeling. So I kept at it, I kept writing and sharing, and working a full-time job and just hoping eventually I’d know where to go next.


Writing a Book



So I kept writing, and writing, and writing, and before I knew it I was in the middle of writing a book. It took a little over a year, and I wrote most of it in secret, but it's finally done. It was hard work, but it’s been hard work that has flown easily. Holding my book in my hand, going through the process, and seeing my book with my name on the cover feels the most right, the most me. No matter my income, no matter my location, no matter my age, I know writing books will forever be a part of me. It took me years to come to that realization, but I am grateful I finally did.


Currently


Now I’m attempting to balance two sides of a career in writing. On side (A) we have my author and poet life where I publish poetry books and novels. On side (B) we have my editor life where I create written and visual content for publications in Las Vegas. Both sides I enjoy, and while I do enjoy one more than the other (side A, always side A) I have committed to nurturing them both.

Honestly, it's overwhelming most of the time (one of the reasons I’ve sought therapy and have been relying heavily on support systems). Side A I have more assurance in, but Side B is challenging. I’m learning as I go, and I’m asking for a lot of help this time around.

In May I publish my first poetry book, and I would love for it to reach as many people as possible. This summer I’ll release a Vegas-based project I’ve been working on for some time, and I want it to leave a permanent (positive) mark as a part of Vegas culture. Most the time I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m learning as I go and I’m writing as I learn. Always.


Takeaways


There are so many paths to do what you love. I don’t know many women who are both entertainment editors and poets lol. But I knew I wanted to do both simultaneously, and I wasn’t willing to compromise either. I also knew there wasn’t a clear-cut path or a guidebook on how to accomplish that, so I would hit a lot of learning curves.

If you’re a writer (or creative, or anyone trying to figure out how to make your passion/talent into a career) I say this:

  • Try things
  • Go where your heart and your writing leads you 
  • Admit when you fail, and admit when something isn’t for you 
  • If It flows, keep flowing. If it’s forced, reevaluate 
  • And know that at any point you can hit restart; you can always start over, and for the most part you can always come back from anything.


I'm rooting for us all.




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