One of my most famous moments, thank you Gawker

In 2008, while I was still a reporter at the New York Post, I was also two years into an unpaid freelance stint as one of the "Fashion Police" peanut gallery bobble heads in the back of Us Weekly. Every couple of weeks, we'd get an email with a bunch of photo attachments of celebs wearing bad outfits—and we'd have to reply to the assigning editor with quippy one-liners, preferably no more than seven words long, describing each picture. They'd wind up picking a few and running them alongside the celeb photos in the back pages of the weekly.

On the first day of fashion week that February, I was backstage at a men's show—it might have been Duckie Brown, but I can't remember now—when I started getting texts and emails on my Blackberry (the blue one with the grey buttons and the scrolling wheel—remember those?) from people I hadn't heard from in years, like friends from college and stuff. All of them were asking: "Are you the writer Kirstie Alley is trying to get fired?" So I started to panic, thinking I'd somehow accidentally slandered Alley and was about to lose my job at the Post. Cell reception was terrible backstage (and this was before 3G, I think, so we were still on like GPRS data speed), so I couldn't Google anything on my handheld. I tried to call some friends at work, but it was 9 a.m. and no one was in yet, so I shot off a few emails and stayed at the Bryant Park tents doing my fashion week reporting—all the while pretty sure that I was about to get canned by my editor over something I didn't remember writing.

When I finally got my friend Raakhee on the phone later that morning—she and I wrote a weekly fashion column together at the paper and had sat next to each other for five years, so each of us always knew what the other was working on—she scrolled through our CMS looking for any mention of Kirstie Alley. Turns out we had never written anything about her. So I was super-confused. It wasn't until later that day, when I got back to my desk and checked Gawker that I saw what Alley and her lawyers were upset about—some random, totally un-funny off-the-cuff thing attributed to me in the back pages of Us Weekly.

In the end, nothing happened, Us Weekly wasn't bothered, and I was just super-pleased that I'd been written up by Gawker. Most. Famous. Moment. As. A. Journalist. Ever. Thank you for the good times, Gawker. I don't know what site I'll go to 15 times a day, out of sheer habit, after today.

Monday morning thoughts and some new things

We're winding down the summer, now. Every year around this time, things get really quiet in the media world—with most of Europe on vacation for at least another week. It's been blistering hot and humid in New York City for the last few weeks, so I decided to escape and booked myself out for a few weeks starting this weekend. All shall be revealed soon. In the meantime, some food stories from the last week:

Food & WineCelebs hit up their favorite chefs

Food & WineIkea's new $169 kitchen

Food & WineDonut walls are a thing now

Food & WineMcDonald's gets into wearables

Two weeks and two days into this freelance thing

Two weeks plus back in the world of full-time writing and so far so good, I think? Time to start getting my long-lead pitches in order. I also want to shoot more YouTube videos, so I'm figuring out ways to be more organized in planning them—I'm especially interested in doing fun and random talky videos with some good friends who have very specific/niche interests.

Conde Nast TravelerWhat Americans are REALLY doing with their vacation days

Conde Nast TravelerBurkinis banned in Cannes

Food & WineClick-to-buy cooking shows come to Japan

Food & WineWhy Kendall Jenner is afraid of pancakes

Food & WineThe talking food prank

The one question I always ask in job interviews

Over more than a decade of interviewing candidates for editorial jobs, I've almost always asked them this one question. Over the past few months, I started asking myself the same question. Coming to terms with my own answer has really helped shape the decisions I've made about my career.

How I get ideas

— Read everything on the internet all day long
— Watch hours of YouTube on my iPad, constantly refreshing my "Recommended" queue
— Drink black coffee, stare at the wall
— Take long showers, talk to myself
— Read Twitter in the bath
— Only watch really bad fictional films like romcoms
— Only watch documentaries (I'm obsessed with the documentaries feed on YouTube)
— Browse my bookshelf and reread the first five pages of a few different books
— Go to Whole Foods at 7 a.m.
— Read interviews with famous writers who have won literary prizes
— Read the Guardian's books section
— Go to Best Buy. There's hardly ever anyone there and nobody bothers you.
— Browse the Colette website
— Check vacation package deals on Travelzoo
— Chew gum
— Go to England, walk around in the countryside and eat large breakfasts for a week
— Order things from Marks & Spencer
— Think about absurd and impossible everyday things and where they came from

Some food and travel stories from this week

Rounding out my first week of full-time freelancing, here are some stories I wrote in the food and travel worlds over the past couple of days. New projects TBD! This has been the best week ever.

Conde Nast Traveler — Why Celebs Are Heading to Sardinia This Summer

Conde Nast Traveler — CDC Issues Zika Travel Warning for Miami

Food & Wine — How to Make Unicorn Fuel

Food & Wine — Can You Taste This Song?

Food & Wine — Police Are Pulling People Over to Give Them Free Ice Cream

Food & Wine — Jonah Hill Accidentally Emailed His Food Diary to Drake

Sweatpants of the Day: League brand "Chelsea" pants

I have two pairs of League sweatpants, and they are two of my favorites. Sure, both pairs are Dartmouth sweatpants, so I'm emotionally biased based on decoration and collegiate allegiance alone, but objectively they are also just great sweatpants: not too thick, not too thin, soft and fleecy on the inside, and constructed of a cotton-poly blend that never gets too stiff after a wash. Also great: the not-too-tight ankle elastic, and smart details like the lie-flat (not puffy) waistband, a non-contrasting drawstring, and cute sporty branding that looks a little retro. And while I do like the newfangled sweatpants movement that's been on the up-and-up, mostly in SoCal, since around 2004-2005, when I'm home in the northeast, I prefer a more traditionalist sweatpant silhouette. I also find that the more traditional collegiate sweats wash well and last longer than their more expensive California nouveau-sweat cousins—which usually run 200 to 300% higher in price, pill and fade faster, and sometimes come apart at the seams.

These Dartmouth women's "Chelsea D" sweatpants are $48.99 at the Dartmouth Coop

Why I quit my full-time job

I was going to make a "Why I Quit My Job" YouTube video, but it was too hard to organize my thoughts on camera. I put on makeup with lipstick and everything and tried to film it four or five times, but it just wasn't coming together in the way I wanted.

Last week, I left my stable, director-level, twice-monthly paycheck digital editorial job at a century-old fashion media company... to go freelance. I resigned July 1st and my last day in the office was last Friday, the 29th. While there are a whole lot of personal reasons I have for leaving, far and away, the most important reason I left was so I could go back to doing the thing I love: being a full-time writer. What's funny is that sometimes, you don't even know you love doing the thing you love doing for work until you stop doing it. It took me six months to realize how much I missed it.

5 reasons I love writing:

1. Writing helps me think and organize my thoughts.
2. Writing helps me solve problems.
3. Writing is the best way I know to communicate clearly.
4. Writing is hard. If it were easy, I don't know if it would be as fun.
5. The kind of writing I do is very project-driven. I like projects that have a clear beginning and ending.

On a more abstract level, I've been thinking a lot over the past few years about what my "dream job" is. People ask you about dream jobs all the time, especially when you get to a certain level and you have meetings with senior execs. The more I thought about what my dream job looked like, the more I remembered a question I always ask job candidates when I interview them for entry and mid-level editorial positions: "What does your ideal workday look like?" I love asking this question because day-to-day stuff is something not a lot of people think about. But the reality of performing well at work— especially in a media office environment that's somehow both ridiculously over-structured and, at the same time, total chaos—is to know exactly what you want/need/should be doing at any given hour of the day. I heard somewhere once that Oprah's days are scheduled in 15-minute increments five months out (or was it five years out, I don't remember). So I've been asking myself that question over and over again—"What does my ideal day look like?—and after thinking about it a lot over months and months, I came up with the freelance daily workflow I wrote about a few days ago. And when I pictured myself in that workflow, I saw myself wearing my favorite sweatpants (I have many favorite sweatpants, actually, more on that later), working at home.

So, over the past few months, when people ask me what my dream job is, I've started to answer, sort of tongue-in-cheek (but mostly truthfully) that my dream job is to type at home wearing sweatpants. And now, here I am.

In the video that will never be made, I also wanted to offer advice to anyone thinking about quitting their full-time job and going freelance. I'm not sure I have any solid/true/real/empirically successful advice three days into this adventure (yet), but here are some things I thought a lot about before leaving my 9-5:

— It takes a long time. Quitting and riding off into the sunset doesn't just happen. I thought about making the move for months–and never mind just making the leap, there's a whole bunch of practical stuff that needs to happen, too. I saved money, I made sure my budget was in check, that I had a safety net just in case, and I also made sure to line up a few regular gigs ahead of time so I wasn't going out blind.

— You're not trying to launch Buzzfeed. I think sometimes, especially working in media, we have this notion that going out on your own means that you're going to have to make a bazillion dollars to stay afloat. Whether you're going freelance or starting a small custom content business, chances are the first few months, you won't need to be supporting a company of, like, 150 staffers. I had to keep reminding myself that I am a company of one. And I'm the only person I need to support. Of course, this changes if you are married, have dependents, or have children.

— Know who you are. Believe in yourself. Throughout your life and career, there are always going to be people you meet along the way—friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, Twitter trolls—who will tell you that you can't do the thing. If you know yourself well, if you've made a plan, if you've thought things through and are realistic in your approach, don't listen to them. You should believe in yourself and don't let anyone ever tell you any differently.

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite books (the first Patrick Melrose book by Edward St. Aubyn) is spoken by Melrose's father, who was a sociopath and pedophile. Still, it's a good line, and I sort of live by it:

"Observe everything. Always think for yourself. Never let other people make important decisions for you."

My first 24 hours as a freelancer

I can't even begin to describe how liberating it feels to write again. I was trying to explain how I feel to an editor friend and I think I said: "Writing sentences literally gives me life." For six months I wasn't able to write. Here's what I've been lucky enough to do in the first 24 hours of freelance life. Needless to say, I'm pretty pleased with how things are going so far.

Elle — Style profile on Christina Caradona

Marie Claire — All the stone accessories your heart desires

Food & Wine — Matthew McConaughey takes the reins at Wild Turkey

Food & Wine — The new GMO labeling controversy

Food & Wine — The at-home 3D food printer that could change your life

Food & Wine — Ikea takes on food Instagrammers (good luck meatballs)

Conde Nast Traveler — The CDC issues a travel warning for Miami

Conde Nast Traveler — Horses on planes

Conde Nast Traveler — Australia's on the move. Literally.

Proposed daily workflow schedule

Now that I'm a full-time writer, I thought it would be a good idea to establish a daily workflow—you know, just something to make sure I don't bunk off to the movies for four hours every afternoon or whatever. So far, this is what I've come up with.

5:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Morning writing. I tend to wake up early most mornings and spend a few hours in bed reading the news and catching up on social media and YouTube videos. I do my best and most efficient work in the mornings, when everything is quiet and I've only just had a coffee, so I'm going to try to avoid taking breakfast meetings, because they're distracting and I can't focus for at least an hour after I've eaten carbs and made small talk with other people.

11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Me whatever time. I'll probably do my press appointments, take some lunch meetings, run errands, go to the gym, stuff like that. Makes for a natural break in the day, plus I'm usually hungry by then.

3 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Taking care of emails, corresponding with editors, personal writing projects, brainstorming, maybe more meetings. Late afternoon is a good wind-down time for me, energy-wise. I'd like to have a longer-form personal project (read: book) in the works starting sometime in the next few weeks, too.

New and improved and more cheerful mani!

Here's a topic I spend far more energy thinking about than I should: my nails.

I go through these seasonal/annual/semi-annual cycles where I'll switch between regular weekly manicures, gel manicures every other week, nail art that's probably inappropriate for someone my age, and no-polish-ever (during this latter phase, the thought that actually runs through my mind on a daily basis is: Anna hates nail polish. You know what I'm talking about.). The cycles depend on the weather, my mood (happy = more color and experimentation), and whether I have any important travel or events on the horizon and/or am looking for an easy conversation starter at my fingertips, literally.

Over the past few weeks, I've been in a gel mani mood—my nails have been healthier this summer than they have been in a while (I'm chalking it up to all the wild Alaskan Copper River salmon I ate in May—I dunno why, I go through intense food phases too). The last few weeks I've just been doing solid color OPI manis at my local nail salon. Today, on my way home from a 10 a.m. AbFab showing (favorite thing: seeing mid-morning movies, also seeing AbFab at Cinepolis in Chelsea was only $8!) I stopped by Valley and got this glittery star manicure. And I'm obsessed with it. I can't stop running my fingers over it and looking at it. It feels weird when I type.

Anyhoo, if you're looking for a great nail art tech, I booked Xue at Valley. She's A+ (and also hilarious).

Questions my reflexologist asked me in the last hour

— How many police officers were killed in Baton Rouge?
— What is happening in America?
— Do you have a boyfriend?
— Why don't you have a boyfriend? 
— Are you going to try to find a boyfriend?
— Do you want to have kids?
— It's not too late to have kids in your 40s!
— Do you have a Ph.D?
— What were you so busy doing in your 20s that you didn't get married?
— How much did you pay for your apartment?
— How many square feet is your apartment?
— Do you like your new job?
— What are you going to do next?
— What do you do? (Cue: me trying to explain what a "Digital Director at a fashion news B2B" is in Mandarin, a language I speak at the conversational level of a 5-year-old)
— Do you work out?
— Aren't there a lot of gyms around here?
— Why don't you run outside in the mornings?

Now I need a nap.

I have reached peak stuff

I've unintentionally/intentionally sort of been on a spending detox since early June—partially because I've known for months that I was planning on resigning from my full-time job in July (more on that later), but also because it's summer and every year when I overspend on fun summer clothes, shoes, and accessories, I regret it, because, well, let's face it, by late September I'm back in boots and sweaters. Another, and perhaps the most important, reason I've seriously cut back on buying things is: I think I've reached peak stuff.

Remember this part of Up In The Air?

It goes something like this:
How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel ’em? Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things. The things on shelves and in drawers, the knick-knacks, the collectibles. Feel the weight as that adds up. Then you start adding larger stuff, clothes, table-top appliances, lamps, linens, your TV.

The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. And you go bigger. Your couch, bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in there. Your car, get it in there. Your home, whether it’s a studio apartment or a two bedroom house. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it? This is what we do to ourselves on a daily basis. We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move. And make no mistake, moving is living.
I love that movie. And, whether or not it's a sign that I'm a secret sociopath or wannabe-hermit, I really identify with that character George Clooney plays in the film—even more the older I get.

There's an idea that I've been turning over in my mind for the past few weeks. I've been secretly calling it "The Freedom of 38." More on that later, too. But since 2016 rolled around, I've had a bad case of cabin fever. Maybe it's because I've hardly been able to travel at all this year, or I haven't had the creative outlet this year that I've been so lucky to have all throughout my career, or I'm just not satisfied with the current state of my life. It's probably all of those things, but right now, at this moment, all I want is as much intellectual and creative freedom as possible. I've never felt so strongly about anything career-related before; if I don't have freedom, if I don't get out of this box I'm in, I feel like I'll go crazy.

Somehow, freedom from spending on stuff has become symbolic in my own mind of discipline, disconnecting from a corporate culture, and maybe something having to do with temperance of, like, the lifestyle I lead, which I'm trying to re-approach in a quality-over-quantity way. Don't worry, I'm not doing anything extreme. I still bought a $32 mascara last week—I just didn't, like, on a whim buy the $2,000 handbag. For August I'm thinking about doing something so cliche I'll never say it out loud at a dinner party: spending money on experiences rather than things. It makes much more sense at my age (literally do not need any more handbags, at least in the foreseeable future) and I'm pretty sure "experiences" is what's been missing from my life over the past six months.

So yeah. Tl;dr: I quit my job and I'm not buying as much stuff. I'm dreaming big, but first I'm taking baby steps.

Thing I've been doing every morning

I watched this video today and I liked it. Every morning this week I've woken up at 5:30 a.m. to write. Mostly because I miss writing and I don't get to do it during the day, but also because I want to exercise that part of my brain again. After five months of not writing every day at work, I feel myself getting rusty—words don't flow as easily, sentence construction is starting to feel stilted.

In my first year at Dartmouth, my SAT Verbal score placed me out of freshman writing and directly into a writing seminar—where I proceeded to bomb in the most spectacular manner. My professor gave me a D and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I should never attempt a writing course again. So I didn't. I think I took one history of English class as part of my Linguistics major requirements, but other than that I steered clear of the English department, and any kind of writing, because I thought I couldn't do it.

Now, as a full-fledged grown-up, I've been a professional writer for more than a decade—I've written for major outlets and nearly every editorial platform I can name (magazines, newspapers, books, web, social)—I know myself better than to still believe what one man told me more than 20 years ago.

Tl;dr Make Better Stuff

I went to get a pedicure today—the Marine Spa Pedicure at Rehoboth Spa Lounge is my favorite, ask for Maya or Katie—and while I was sitting in the massage chair (massage chair!) I found myself deep in a Yahoo-Tumblr-Marissa-Meyer longread, probably 2,000 words in. At that point I got distracted by a noise or something, looked up, picked up my Starbucks iced tea, and was looking around the nail salon when it occurred to me (yes, I have a short attention span) that even though I'd read thousands of words of a good deep-dive feature, I had no idea what site I was reading it on, had no idea who the byline belonged to, and had no idea how I got there.

This surprised me because, well, I work in digital media, specifically content, and everywhere I've worked over the last six-ish years, we've all spent a whole lot of time, energy, and money trying to figure out how to bring readers to sites through side doors (the vast majority of readers of any site I've worked at don't come through the homepage—they come from search, social media, newsletters, etc.). Usually I pay attention to what I'm reading—I'm fairly selective about what sites I click on, I like to scan lists and stories, and I'm always looking for new writers, so I almost always pay attention to bylines. But that one conscious moment in the salon where I realized I was reading something just because it was good and the universe and muscle memory had colluded to bring me to that page without a second thought—it kind of threw me for a loop.

What does this mean to me in my day job besides continuing to do what most digital publishers are all already doing: putting as many clever/touching/informative/teasing/best practice social posts and links out there as possible, optimize the heck out of newsletters, and hope readers at large share compelling content on their own social platforms, of their own volition (the most powerful endorsement)? I guess the most reductionist takeaway from this is that to get new eyeballs on your site and to keep people on your site for more than six seconds, you have to make better stuff: write better stories, produce better videos, create better editorial. (I know that seems like a master-of-the-obvious statement and super-unprofound, but if we look around the internet, it seems that "making better stuff" is something lots of publishers aren't really prioritizing these days.)

Aaaaand this post is pretty much 100 percent tl;dr.

Epilogue: I backtracked. This is the Tumblr-Yahoo-Marissa Meyer story I was reading. It lives on Mashable and the byline is Seth Flegerman. I got to it via the Digg daily newsletter, which is the email newsletter I open most. Second is the Medium email newsletter.

How I write

I don't really remember writing my first book. I remember everything before the writing and everything immediately after the writing, but trying to remember the writing process itself, I draw a complete blank.

Here's what I do remember: I procrastinated finishing my proposal for weeks and weeks (six, to be exact) before my ever-patient agent, Mel Flashman at Trident Media Group, called me one Friday and asked, "What are you doing on Sunday?" Nothing, I replied. So she summoned me to the bar at Eleven Madison Park where, over the course of the afternoon and many, many, many cocktails, she asked me questions and I answered them as she took notes on a yellow legal pad. In the evening, as we exited the bar, she ripped off the dozen or so pages she'd jotted down, handed them to me and said, "Type this up."

After the book was sold and contracts were signed, I had about five months to turn in a manuscript to my editor, the amazing Kathryn Huck, who was the executive editor at HarperCollins at the time. I was still working full-time at the New York Post and am a procrastinator by nature, so didn't start writing until about a month out from the due date. The night before my manuscript was due, I really only had about 72 pages down. But that was when my computer (a blue Toshiba PC) bit the dust, died, fried itself, never turned on again. I was up all night totally freaking out, and at 10 a.m. the next morning was at the Apple store in SoHo buying a new laptop. I emailed my agent, who emailed my editor, who gave me a five week extension, which pinned my final manuscript deadline on the last day of September 2005's New York Fashion Week.

Now, during fashion week at the New York Post that season, I was not only covering shows all day and writing show reviews in the afternoons and evenings, I was also writing a daily fashion gossip column—I can't remember what it was called in its first iteration that season, but in later years it was renamed "The Hi-Lo" for no good reason except my surname is Lo and my editor thought the title was amusing. So that meant that after a full day at shows and filing reviews to deadline, I would go out to events and parties, gather items, file for first, second, and third deadlines (the Post was printed in three editions at the time, with closing times of 8:30 p.m., 11:30 p.m, and 1:30 a.m., respectively). By the time I got home after attending my last party of the night (sober because I was meant to be writing a book) and phoning in my last items, I was beat—but would stay up until three or four in the morning writing, to finish my manuscript in time.

No wonder I don't remember the writing process.

Somehow it all worked out. I handed my manuscript in on the last day of fashion week around 3 p.m. and immediately went home and passed out for 15 hours. My book was published on May 6, 2006 and that morning I did my first live TV segment ever when I was interviewed by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America.

Recently I've been thinking a lot about the times in my life when I've been most productive, longform writing-wise. There are really only two time periods I can think of: the first, when I was writing my first master's thesis and spent ten hours each day for months on end reading and writing in the Bodleian Library; the second, when I procrastinated my book twice and basically wound up writing it between midnight and 3 a.m. during fashion week. I guess the takeaway here is that, for me, it's not the circumstances and environment that matters when it comes to being productive—it's a looming deadline that, if missed, would result in scary consequences.