So, I’ve decided to make a magazine. Great! Now what?
Although I’ve done writing in my past, both in university to acquire my minor in English, I’ve not truly written any original long form articles, etc.; everything I’ve written in recent years have been text translated from Japanese. Moreover, personal writing or even maintaining a blog is quite different from actually publishing a magazine, digital or not.
One of the goals for the magazine is to offer a subscription plan to readers. If the subscription promises 4 issues per year (or quarterly releases), then you have to deliver. To do so, there were a few principles I have had to learn or improve upon.
(Learning to Walk cont.)
One of the most, if not the most important aspect of producing a periodical is effectively managing a schedule. I was never part of the high school newspaper or yearbook thus never worked in an environment in which writing assignments are given and must be completed, edited, layed out, etc. to meet a fixed publishing deadline. So I have had to learn-by-doing. Moreover, instead of a team of people comprising the editorial staff, I alone must decide who to feature, make the offer, research the subject, conduct the interview, write and edit the article, then repeating this for each individual. Ever single phase requires time. Just how much time has been a matter of ongoing trial and error. If at any point in the process one phase depletes too much time, the proceeding phases as well as the remaining interviews will gridlock.
For a quarterly publication, for example, there are only three months to turn a plan into a magazine app on the App Store. I have been experimenting with 90 day workflows and from my brief experience already, three months can quickly pass without accomplishing very much. A director not responding to the interview offer for weeks or failing to return the questionnaire within the timeframe I’ve asked have exhausted the schedule. In fact, one or two interviews have taken three months to complete by themselves and even now, an interview currently in production has already cost six months time. Naturally, as a side project, paid work will move this to the back burner for given periods complicating matters further, but I still need to make every effort to conceive of and produce articles within a strict timeframe. Whether a quarterly production schedule is tennable or not sadly remains a nagging problem.
I am introverted by nature, maybe almost anti-social by way of upbringing, thus conversing with people does not come naturally to me. However, interacting with others cannot be avoided when you’re running a publication. I have turned to friends and clients for the first set of interviews, but making offers to people I do not know will be the only way to continue creating issues. And while my chosen method of interviewing through questionnaires solves a technical problem (which will be a topic of a future post), it unfortunately takes away any opportunity to personally interact with the interviewee. In fact, someone has suggested I meet potential interviewees casually at first in order to build a level of trust, thus making possible more in-depth interviews. Therefore, improving my interaction skills is very important. Keeping in touch with creators, gaining their trust, and even being firm with deadlines all depend on capable communicative skills.
Then there is networking. Socializing, building relationships, and maintaining them are major pillars of any endeavor, but particularly very “people-centric” ones like an interview magazine. When you reach out to others, others will reach out to you, resulting in the most unexpected connections, but only if you have a strong network of friends, acquaintances, and clients. Maintaining such a network is still a challenge for me, though starting this project seems to have accelerated my desire to be more engaged. I understand this is not a matter of simply “keeping in touch.” True engagement means supporting others’ endeavors just as much as you wish they support your own.
Social media seems to fuse both of the above into a final “Boss” like in a videogame. After learning to interact with individuals, the next level is building a network of individuals. The final test of whether I have acquired good social interaction skills is social media engagement. All my worse “social fears” lie in wait for me to conquer in the tools which have become part of our everyday lives. Communicating with unknown people is multiplied exponentially–on a global scale you might say. Taking part in and maintaining a network of followers or readers also scales up considerably. But audience building, community engagement, and creating traction are now absolute essential activities for a product or service in the digital age. It is a discipline now taught in schools and a legitimate profession today. For someone educated prior to the digital age, the only way to acquire the skill is to do it.
Writers, directors, among other creators always want to hold on dearly to their ideas and use them if at all possible. However, the best filmmakers know when to let a sequence or even characters go. They don’t try to justify a scene’s existence because it came out of a great rehearsal with the actors and took three days to shoot. If it doesn’t work for the movie as a whole, they have the resolve to leave it on the cutting room floor.
For this particular publication, I have to be able to quickly resolve problems with the questions I write or the answers I receive, be it rewriting or simply cutting them out without remaining beholden to them because of who the interviewee may be or how “relevant” or “interesting” I may have thought the question. Likewise, I need to have the firm resolve to move on from filmmakers who don’t seem interested in or at least available for an interview no matter how much I would love to feature them. Despite seeming obvious, this is an easy pitfall to tumble into. Distancing yourself from your own creation and the motivations behind it is, I think, an eternal struggle. However, in the documentary, The September Issue, American Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, is shown displaying the qualities required to run one of the most influential fashion publications in the world–thus also engendering her “intimidating” reputation. While going so far may not be appropriate for my little magazine–a ‘zine really, I certainly was in awe of her seemingly instinctive capacity for throwing out (or putting back in) photo shoots, features, or essays which are not benefiting the issue no matter how far into production they may be. I can only hope such instinct is as much learned as it is innate.