A Day of Work zooms in on the daily routine and work habits of Autostraddle team members. Read about the coffee, the cats, the Slack meetings, emails and minutiae that makes Autostraddle go.
Ok I have a fairly elaborate morning routine that I wasn’t sure about including in detail because what if that’s boring to read? And then I decided if it’s boring you can simply skip ahead! You could even go sign up for A+ right now if you haven’t already, then go read all the new A+ content you now have access to, and just save this letter for another day. Choose your own adventure here!
Every weekday begins the same way: waking up with the NYT Spelling Bee and listening to the Shine app in bed. (Sidebar: I LOVE The Daily Shine and feel like I talk about it way too much, but if you’re looking for a meditation/mindfulness app owned by women of color, I can’t recommend it enough!) I used to check Twitter and Insta too, but I’ve temporarily deactivated my accounts recently in order to get some space and feel a little more in control of my own attention and exposure. So far the only downside to this has been my Veda Sultenfuss joke that went unmade over the weekend; a real tragedy.
I start playing these morning news podcasts (What a Day and NPR’s Up First) while I make my bed and open all the bedroom curtains. Making the bed includes spraying my pillows with this Bright Ideas mist that came in the Aquarius gift box from Freefrom, with which I am obsessed. I made an essential oil blend to mimic the scent and that’s what I put in the morning diffuser right after this bed-making business is complete. I told you this routine was elaborate okay. The morning diffuser (not to be confused with the evening diffuser, naturally) runs in my bathroom while I make coffee and breakfast, so the whole space smells citrusy and minty when I go back in there later to shower.
Two new personal goals I have, which are very low bars as goals go, are reading more and spending more time in my living room. (I put all my energy and most of my existence into my bedroom after my divorce, and have been slowly making the living room a place where everyone can hang out instead of um, an empty room with a TV!) This means I have that coffee and breakfast with a BOOK on my SOFA for about half an hour. A charmed fucking life over here.
Then it’s Yoga with Adriene! (Sarah introduced us to Adriene several years ago at an editorial retreat in Big Bear, CA, I believe around the same time I contracted a minor cold and hallucinated the outline of my These Shirts series. None of this information is vital to share and yet share it I must.) This brings us to showering and then FINALLY at 9am I’m at my little desk looking at my little computer screens, ready to begin my little workday.
This also always starts more or less the same way: I read through all the Slack messages I’ve missed and the emails that came in since yesterday afternoon, making notes of anything that involves me and needs to be added to my to-do lists. I update the list I made at the end of the previous day with these new tasks and drop that into the check-in channel so the rest of the senior staff knows what I’m up to.
On this specific day, I needed to let all the editors know that I updated the Category and Sub-Category fields in the publishing calendar Airtable base to match our new organizing system (including color-coordination, because of course) and a quick note about how they should utilize the fields going forward. We use this Airtable base to keep up with our publishing schedule, among a thousand other things, and I use the records to set up invoices and track our publishing stats in Tableau at the end of each month. Everyone is so busy and overloaded, and I hate adding any more steps to their routines, but I need the datasets to be clean and up-to-date so that my reports are as accurate and useful as possible.
A brief interlude to say that I only barely — minisculely, microscopically — understand Tableau and what I could be doing with it. For anyone not familiar with this software, its most impressive feature is how interactive the reports and presentations can be, but that’s only true if you’ve paid for everyone on your team to have access to the private platform (or you could publish everything publicly, which removes, you know, our privacy). Because of those costs, I’ve had to figure out ways to show the context and depth of data without interaction, which, again, isn’t super intuitive for me and takes lots of trial and error, resulting in several pages/slides of reporting that I hope approximate the experience and understanding they’d have using the interactive features. There are Tableau courses I’d love to take, but I’ve put them off because I’m not totally sure whether the reports I’m creating feel useful enough to the people receiving them to warrant the time and cost associated with the classes, especially given our extremely lean budget. I want to spend your money wisely! But the truth is that other publishing companies have a dedicated department for tracking stats across multiple platforms and departments, and making recommendations and proposals based on those reports. When it comes to budgeting (whether it’s money or time) and advertising opportunities, they’re in a much better position to paint a whole picture of the company. We’re doing our best, running with just 6,300 current members (thank you!), with fundraising making up the gap between A+, ad sales, merch and affiliate sales. Our actual costs are still incredibly low compared to other publications, and I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to put together with so little, and for this long.
I also need to make an announcement in our Pride 2021 channel to explain the new vibe of our content this year. We’d started off with some solid plans that leaned more optimistic and fun, but the energy didn’t seem to be resonating with the rest of the team (and some outside solicitations had not received a response, stalling that content entirely). Carmen and I had spoken the night before and admitted that we were both feeling super exhausted and disillusioned by Pride this year, in a way we’d never experienced before. Like, 2020 was obviously So Much, but we both realized that at least that year we’d felt coalesced around a central set of goals and actions; this year felt so hollow and disparate. We decided to shift our vibe to an even more honest look at queer life this year, and I needed to let everyone working on Pride content know what was up. It was a relief to actually sit with those feelings and make decisions from a more vulnerable place.
Honestly, it can be mildly demoralizing to watch corporations slap rainbows and pronouns on their $12 koozies and rake in all that revenue, while we’re over here with a small team and a tight budget, working for and within the queer community all 365 days of the year. I think it’s even easier to support us, actually: we have cuter merch (and it’s available year-round), and an A+ membership starts at only $4 a month!
This is a Friday, so I finish putting together the AS Weekly so it can go out before noon. This newsletter isn’t a heavy lift at all, but I do find myself wishing I could turn it over to another writer, so that readers had an opportunity to engage with more of our team. For now it just makes more sense to keep it a cost-free item (meaning I don’t charge an additional rate for writing it; it’s just part of my salary!). Also, I get to comb through all these batshit search terms every week, and honestly what would I do without that? (I’d definitely have a more innocent idea of the exact kinds of porn people are searching for on Al Gore’s internet.)
Once this baby is out into the world, I move on to scheduling Sunday’s quiz! Turning this into a weekly column came about when Shelli ended Come Vibe With Me, leaving a hole on Sunday’s schedule. Whose idea was it? I don’t remember, but I do know that I volunteered to midwife it each week! This just means that I make sure we actually have quizzes to schedule, create the results graphics, and get them through the scheduling process. I worked with Sarah a couple of months ago to update the look of those graphics and taught myself some Photoshop basics so I could use her templates. We don’t have a standard number of results we make everyone create, which means I sometimes end up with extras in the template, and since I save over the file each week, I get to accidentally create weirdo hybrid graphics like this:
At this point I am TRULY STARVING so I make myself a little sandwich! Do I take a photo of that sandwich for you? I do not. It’s tuna salad with kimchi and sesame oil on this white bread that I wish was sourdough.
Next up is a meeting with Riese! It’s primarily just a standard little check-in, with a focus on clarifying my current role and making sure it’s the right fit for everyone involved. There are a handful of editorial jobs that have a tendency to swim around and dock themselves with whomever’s most available to take care of them at that time, and then that person sort of unceremoniously adopts that swimmer forever and ever amen. Which is fine but also means that sometimes we’re doing aspects of each other’s jobs out of pure necessity, and it’s good to occasionally do an inventory of what’s in everyone’s…. tidepools? I’ve lost the metaphor but I think you get it.
After the call I’m once again starving because what is life if not a seesaw of hunger and satiation? This time we’re going with a paper towel of potato chips and, because the call with Riese did in fact bring us to the edge of a Summer Friday evening, I go ahead and add a super chilled IPA to my chip snack and take this party to the patio. By “this party” I do indeed mean “emailing people who’ve submitted pitches to us” to let them know we won’t be accepting them. (If we are accepting a pitch, the writer will receive an email from their editor, not me.)
To wrap up the day, I check through my list, move anything that didn’t get done to Monday’s list, and let everyone know I’m out. This is usually preceded by another stroll through unread Slack channels and a quick inbox scan, answering any questions and forwarding whatever needs to be forwarded. It would be easy to keep working — there are always more things to get done, always opportunities to help the other editors with their workload, always other projects to get started on — but we all try to have good boundaries around work and life. I still feel weirdly guilty when I leave work while other people are still plugging away, though. I know that if we had the means to fill 2-3 more full-time senior positions, we could all — even the new people! — have more reasonable expectations of our own time, not to mention more actual time and energy to invest back into this community. I’m confident we’ll be able to make this happen, but without securing more A+ members this summer, I’m not confident when it’ll happen.
If you’re not currently an A+ member, I hope you’ll consider joining today, knowing that your money will be in the hands of people dedicated to spending it wisely and widely within the queer community. We’re really the middlepeople here, and while it’s the honor of a lifetime, I only wish there were more of you to answer to! Please join at the Cobalt level or, if you’re already a member (thank you !!), consider upping your plan to a higher tier. It’s truly an investment back into the things that mean the most to us: each other.