In this story, I want to share with you an interview that I conducted with Roxanna Azimy. My first meeting with Roxanna was a serendipitous encounter by reading one her inspiring articles. Roxanna has joined ILLUMINATION in earlier days and contributed to our publication substantially. I found stories of Roxanna informative, insightful, and engaging. I am also connected with Roxanna on various social media platforms as she is an active and strategic collaborator. Let’s explore the background of this great writer!
Tell us a bit about your background, Roxanna.
I’m half English and half Iranian freelance writer specialised in human welfare, health, ethics, and psychology. I’m also currently Communications Director for the European Future Forum (EFF) and editor of Euro Babble.
Obsessed with learning about other languages and cultures from the get-go, I studied a BA in French and Spanish at King’s College London and also speak some Portuguese and Persian. I then studied a Master’s in European Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Upon graduating, I worked in the EU capital, Brussels, for almost 3 years. Most of this time was spent in a lobbyist organisation fighting for gender equality and universal healthcare at a political level. This enabled me to travel the world, from Canada, to Switzerland, to Rwanda — for international parliamentary conferences on reproductive health and rights — meeting political figures, writing, and campaigning as I went.
I then spent some time working as a consultant in PR and content strategy at the European Commission on a pro-EU corporate campaign spreading awareness of how the EU helps rural communities. This was a strange and rather depressing experience as a Brit during the lead-up to Brexit… but interesting nonetheless!
In light of these experiences working in political PR, human rights, health, multiculturalism, and social development, I now strive to combine my two passions of content writing and sociopolitical advocacy to create content in line with these interests and values for a variety of platforms.
Why do you write on Medium?
I only started writing on Medium in February 2020. I was just starting my freelance writing journey and already had articles published for a few external publications — such as Euro Babble, Italics Magazine, Selfish Darling, and Thrive Global — but I felt that the issues I liked to write about had been somehow sectioned off into distinct boxes. I felt like I was living as several personas! But they were all me.
For instance, in Euro Babble I write about politics, in Italics Magazine the emphasis is on culture, and for Selfish Darling I write about personal health and self-development. It may seem like rather an eclectic mix, and I often have a hard time explaining that yes — I like to write about both Brexit and meditation, about both Africa-Europe migration and spirituality.
I figured that a platform like Medium — where writers have full ownership over their portfolio — would allow me to write about all of these topics and more — with the only “brand” I need to bear in mind being my own identity.
And so, I gave it a shot by reposting an article I had written for Selfish Darling on a concept I had defined as “femininity shaming” — and it got triple-curated (not that I had any idea what that meant at the time!) and then scouted by the publication, Fearless She Wrote, within an hour of posting.
Since then, I have been addicted to Medium and have hugely benefited from open discussions with fellow writers, the supportive and engaging community, and the unmatched platform it gives.
What are your values as a writer?
Above all, I write the kinds of articles that I like to read myself. Pieces that intend to be thought-provoking and that discuss something topical but from a fresh perspective. I like to write articles to challenge existing beliefs and attitudes on sociopolitical issues as well as topics related to psychology, productivity, and self-improvement — but I don’t mean to enforce my own views. If anything, you often can’t tell my own opinions or beliefs behind the article, as this isn’t usually the reason why I write! Rather, I like to discuss the perspectives that are out there and how they compare or could be interpreted. And that goes for both the big political issues and the smaller, more intimate ones.
What are the top three books that affected your life?
Another difficult question! But here are three that came straight to my mind for different reasons:
The first one has to be “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. I read this book while I was still a teenager and it has stayed with me ever since. In case you haven’t yet had the pleasure, I won’t spoil it, but all you need to know is that it starts out as the quintessential ideal image of English boarding school life — and ends up being deeply thought-provoking and disturbing. Overall, it forces you to question your own morals and how you view human life and purpose in ways you perhaps haven’t before — and I believe takes some of the credit of why I am so driven by difficult ethical debates to this day!
The next is a non-fiction book called “Quiet” by Susan Cain. Growing up, I was one of those people who was always labelled as “quiet” and “shy,” and even got regularly disciplined at school for not talking enough! Today, I don’t receive such complaints… I am still naturally introverted, but have learned that this doesn’t have to equate to not being confident or making an impact in what you do. It simply means an appreciation of time spent alone, and, as Cain writes about in depth, an often softer approach to how you live and work. However, as she explains, this doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Far from it! The world could do with more sensitive souls, who think at great length before they talk, consider other people’s feelings, and who prefer to express themselves through art or written prose. This book actually inspired me to write this article early on in my Medium journey — as well as this one more recently about MBTI personality typing.
Finally is the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson. This book has redefined the self-help genre. It offers a reality check to the vast majority of us who care far too much about what other people are thinking about us. When you think about it — whether you’re a pretty confident individual or not, you likely spend a great deal of your day thinking about what other people are thinking. The catch? Many of them are thinking about what you’re thinking. So if we all just quit the nonsense — think for ourselves, do what we think is right (still sensitive to others’ feelings of course, but not living for them) and be bold enough to make our own decisions and live life how we see fit — we will all save a great deal of time and mental energy. The messages in this book inspired me to write this article — as well as much of the self-development content I produce both on Medium and for my clients.
What are your hobbies?
Needless to say, reading and writing are up there! But I also thoroughly enjoy drawing and painting — especially portraits. I also practice oriental dancing and enjoy cooking vegan food, traveling (under normal circumstances, at least…), and getting out close to nature and/or animals whenever possible. I have spent my adult life living between capital cities — London, Paris, and then Brussels — but I was raised in the countryside and this still shows!
How do you connect with your readers?
I hope to connect with my readers by writing about many different topics, addressing a range of perspectives and opinions, and deconstructing them. My intention is to leave it up to the reader to take these different ideas and do with them what they will. Although some of my articles are indeed intended to defend my own point of view (*cough* stop eating animals *cough*), I strive to open rather than close debates. I hope to share just enough of my personality and own opinions to make my content open and relatable — but not so much that I make the issues all about my own experiences.
Overall, I hope to engage with my readers by bouncing ideas off of each other and mutually learning from others’ perspectives. I love to receive thought-provoking comments — even pointing out a contrasting idea or something that I failed to include — and these will often inspire my next article!
Why did you join ILLUMINATION and how do you find it so far?
I found out about ILLUMINATION in its early days. Thank you for leaving a supportive note on an article I self-published. Your note helped me find your publication which was a good fit for me —of course, I gladly joined.
Who are the top ten writers you follow on ILLUMINATION?
I enjoy reading content from new writers all the time — but these are a few ILLUMINATION names that I end up going back to time and time again: Erin King, Aurora Eliam, CMP, Bill Abbate, Jezebel, Gurpreet Dhariwal, Amy Cottreau, René Junge, Mario Lopez-Goicoechea, Francesco Biz, and Henery X (long).
What are your top five stories that you want to share with your audience and why?
This was my very first Medium article, and discusses an often-deemed controversial topic that I think is a lot more relevant than both men and women often give it credit. This isn’t just a “women’s article.” It’s about letting both women and men know that those personality traits labeled (rightly or wrongly) as more feminine, are not a sign of weakness and should not be stamped out in the name of so-called feminism. This only reinforces the idea that both women and men must behave a certain way to be taken seriously or be successful.
Next is a piece I wrote as a response to a comment left on another article about meditation, asking my personal beliefs about spirituality — whether we only need ourselves and the present moment to achieve that sought-after state of mindfulness or self-actualisation, or if we need some sort of external entity, and need to wait for a future event of some sort in order to achieve this level of completion. As mentioned previously, I don’t tend to reveal my personal beliefs but love nothing more than laying out all the options and pouring over them. So, to keep up the brand:
Self-Discovery: When and Where do you Look?
This odd question may be the key to your spirituality.
I wrote this article as the pandemic was only just beginning to affect daily life here in Western Europe. It seemed that everything was both in intense chaos, and yet a strange sense of serenity. Chaos because, for obvious reasons, human health, welfare, and the economy were challenged perhaps more than ever before. And yet serenity, because we all — for maybe the first time in our lives — were forced to pause. To take stock of our lives and who we are. To give the environment a much-needed break. And to just stop moving for a second while we desperately try to remedy the unfortunate situation. Many countries are luckily past the peak (for now, at least) and the restrictions are loosening up accordingly. However, I think that this intense period of our lives will be looked back on and analysed for many years to come:
As our Health and Freedom Suffer, our Planet Heals
How COVID-19 itself is a vaccine for society.
As mentioned, I enjoy drawing portraits and have had a lot more time than usual to pursue this hobby in recent months. One day, while alternating between my sketchpad and my Medium drafts, I had the chance to think more deeply than usual about what we are actually looking for when we create or appreciate art. I don’t pretend that this is some revolutionary idea, of course. However, I felt compelled to put into words what I believed our creativity — whatever your own chosen outlet — boils down to. How this links to our psychology, the way we communicate, and our place within nature. So have a read — but please don’t write me off as crazy! This was a peak self-isolation moment…
What has Art got to do with Spirituality?
The psychology behind the goosebumps in one word.
Lastly, I share the article that unwittingly acted as my gateway into the ILLUMINATION publication. I wrote this after a conversation with a relative who was trying to discourage me from dedicating my work to the climate, human and animal rights causes that I hold most dear. I see it as our responsibility to do whatever is in our power to make positive change. Sure, keeping up with current affairs and the injustices in the world can leave you feeling pretty frustrated and even compassion-fatigued a lot of the time. But I believe that this is still better than keeping one’s head in the sand:
Your Advocacy Work Might Take Over Your Life
But if you feel it’s your purpose, then it’s worth it.
What are the success factors for you as a writer on Medium?
For me, it all started as a way to express myself — and in that respect, I have been successful from day one. That being said, more engagement — and of course, income — is always welcome! I simply strive to do a little better and reach a little further every month. But if I learn and connect with other writers along the way, then that’s more than enough to make me want to keep going!
What do you recommend to the new writers on ILLUMINATION?
The ILLUMINATION team is very supportive and I love how we all have such different backgrounds, areas of expertise, and lives, meaning that we collectively produce such a huge range of content. It has opened me up to many other genres and perspectives, and I hope that I have also been able to provide that for others.
Your unique perspective and writing style is your greatest asset. Don’t fret too much about being perfect, getting thousands of reads, or getting curated for every article. Just write what you love, and keep the passion going. And then, the rest will come!
What are your future plans as a writer?
Now writing for clients on a freelance basis as well as keeping going with my Medium portfolio, I try to take on as big a range of projects as possible and to blog about the new ideas and experiences I gather along the way.
Currently, I earn my main living from ghostwriting; writing non-fiction books on the topics of human health, welfare, and psychology on behalf of healthcare professionals and academics who wish to share their research with the general public in an engaging and accessible way.
(For anyone interested — I actually wrote an article about this little-understood line of writing work, in hope of better explaining what I do to others and how it can both enhance and challenge your own writing.)
And so, I plan to continue growing my reputation as a freelance ghostwriter but to continue with my first love of article-writing too!
Want to get to know each other better?
Thank you for your valuable time Roxanna Azimy. I enjoy reading your inspiring, insightful, and engaging stories on ILLUMINATION. Your thoughtful and fascinating stories are full of life lessons and much appreciated by our readers.
You may also check other interviews I conducted with inspiring writers of ILLUMINATION recently. These stories can provide a great opportunity to know more about our creative writers and connect with them.
You can find inspiring profiles of ILLUMINATION writers from this story.
You can find inspiring interviews with ILLUMINATION writers from this story.