February 22, 2021

Professional Writer at Work: Interview with Ilana Novick, Freelance Writer and Editor

Ilana Novick is a Freelance Writer and Editor with experience in journalism and nonprofit communications/strategy. She has written for AlterNet, Brooklyn Based, Garage, Gothamist, Hyperallergic, and Vice. Ilana writes about visual art, culture, activism, and the intersection of these three areas. She also writes newsletters, blog posts, and takes on other content marketing projects for companies and nonprofit organizations.

Q:  Describe your current role and your daily professional tasks and responsibilities.

A:  I'm currently a freelance journalist and content marketing writer based in New York City. My day-to-day roles and responsibilities depend on the types of assignments I'm working on, for example: articles, reviews, blog posts for a company, or other content marketing projects. A lot also depends on what stage the work is in, the deadlines, and whether I need to conduct interviews or research. In one day, I may alternate between interviews, research, drafting, editing, and admin work (like time tracking, invoicing, and staying on top of emails). If I don't have any upcoming assignments, my day is structured around doing research, pitching, and other outreach.  

Q:  What made you realize that writing was something you wanted to pursue professionally?

A: I fell in love with journalism when I was nine years old, at an after-school program for kids and teens called Children’s Express. I was a shy kid, but that training gave me the courage to chase grizzled operatives at the 1996 Republican Convention (Oliver North among them), travel to India to cover a 2001 earthquake, and even interview some notoriously-testy New York City politicians. That said, it took a layoff from a non-journalism job for me to actually make writing the center of my career rather than a side gig. In my full-time freelance writing work, I've also discovered content marketing and writing for companies and nonprofit organizations.  

Q: What advice would you give to a professional writer interested in a career like yours?

A: There is no one linear path to being any type of writer and I’m still learning that myself.  

In terms of practical advice, read critically and use other writers and their writing as guides and inspiration. That is, when you read a story you love (or hate), think about the structure, the pacing, the quotes. Why do you love it? What kinds of techniques is the writer using? Can you try them?

Also, for pieces with enough turnaround time, write a draft and then leave it until the next day. The breathing room might help you discover why your third paragraph is actually your first, and other fun insights.

Q:  In your role and industry, how important is collaboration? With whom do you collaborate?

A:  Collaboration is essential. Whether it's working with an editor to pitch story ideas; building relationships with sources for reported work; connecting with publicists for reviews; or chatting with fellow writers to compare work notes. Working with others makes the work more effective and more enjoyable. I'd say that's one thing that's been harder about full-time freelancing-- especially during the pandemic. I miss chatting with colleagues in an office and bouncing ideas off of each other.  

Q:  Is there anything else you would like to share?

A:  Whatever type of writing you do professionally, I wholeheartedly recommend joining Study Hall (@studyhallxyz), an online community of writers and media workers, for a source of excellent advice, shared joy, commiseration, and occasional job posts.


Thank you to Ilana Novick for sharing her professional writing journey with us. 

To learn more about the MS in Professional Writing program at NYU School of Professional Studies, visit sps.nyu.edu/mspw

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