Interview with Sonia Weiser
Sonia W. is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and all-around hustler based in New York City, New York. She also runs the Teacher Appreciation Mailbox. We talked about odd jobs, competitiveness, and asking yourself which stories you tell. Check on her work on her website and find her on Twitter.
Your work has appeared on the Atlantic, Rolling Stone and the New York Times. What pieces are you most proud of and why?
I wrote for the Hairpin a year ago. It was the only thing I’ve written that has gone viral in the most mild form of the word. It was fiction, so when I get to publish fiction, I’m definitely more proud of that.
Neurotica: Erotica For the Slightly Anxious
by Sonia Weiser
He pulled me close to him, his hips grinding up against my own.
Also, the Atlantic piece took so long: half a year. It was in the culture section, then the science. I wrote four completely different drafts. I’m proud of the final product, but also my perseverance throughout it. I often doubt myself powering through projects, because I can get bored with topics, but following through after half a year was a great reminder. I’m also proud of my Pacific Standard story, Writing for Television in the Age of Trump.
When did you start freelancing?
In high school, I wrote something for a magazine called New Moon about Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. I earned 36 dollars and my mom cried.
In college, I did a whole batch of unpaid internships that got me some clips here and there. Right after I graduated, I worked at Mental Floss for a hot second — where I had to write three stories a day — and quickly I accepted I wasn’t good at office jobs.
I can’t have people looking over my shoulder or function in an office environment. That’s why I started taking freelancing more seriously.
What do you enjoy about freelancing?
I have a weird sleep cycle, where I wake up at three in the morning and feel motivated to work — so I enjoy the lack of structured schedule. Plus, there’s so many random topics I find interesting and freelancing gives me the opportunity to research what I’m passionate about. My writing is better when I care about the subject and the publication. It’s a great privilege.
Writing for Television in the Age of Trump
As conversations about sexual violence have heated up this election season, television writers are consciously deciding…
What don’t you enjoy?
It can be lonely. Money is always be a bitch. Something I’m working on this year is balancing freelancing with something that brings me in steady income. It’s a constant feeling of someone having to pay me, right now, and sometimes, I do have to ask my parents for help.
Do you offer any services other than writing?
I do random things. Recently, I made a giant tampon costume for a YouTuber. I dog walk and sit. I work at parties as a waitress, bartender, clean-up person, designated sober-person-in-the-room. I help people organize their closets. I’ve sold clothes to thrift stores.
What’s it like living as a freelancer in New York?
There are so many other freelancers, so it’s not particularly lonely in that regard. If I go to a yoga class in the afternoon, it won’t be just me. It’ll be students and a bunch of other adults that work from home and have their own schedules.
Living in New York, you get to talk to amazing people and get incredible ideas easily. It’s not hard to find a story.
Do you think it’s competitive?
It’s super competitive, not much amongst other freelancers, but just among people who want to survive here. When you’re a freelancer, or journalist in general, you’re not confined to just to local magazines. You’re competing with people all over the world for online real estate.
Should Prince's Tweets Be in a Museum?
Archivists are figuring out which pieces of artists' digital lives to preserve alongside letters, sketchbooks, and…
What issues do you care about most as a writer?
What’s gotten more interesting for me is figuring out where my place is in the writing world. What stories should I be telling? What stories should other people be telling? I think a lot about women’s health and reproductive health. Since the election, too, I’ve been feeling hopeless like my work doesn’t matter. As easy as it sounds to crawl up in a ball, that’s unappealing, because I want to make a difference and use my voice.
What message do you have for the Millennial Freelancer’s audience?
Be prepared to get screwed over, because you will. You’ll spend a lot of time working with nothing in return, like researching things an editor might not care about and preparing pitches no one will take. Know that’s part of the job. You won’t get every pitch accepted and often, it’s not about you.
Don’t feel the need to share all your secrets to get public.
If you’re not comfortable sharing something you’re struggling with, it’s not worth the vulnerability. Don’t think writing about your problems is the only way to get published.
If you enjoyed this interview, contribute to the Millennial Freelancer’s Patreon.