This is the second interview on the creative process behind writing and it was such a pleasure. Nichelle is really friendly and as you’ll read below doesn’t just have a blog but loves dance as well, which is very close to my heart too.
Who is Nichelle and what does she do?
Nichelle Suzanne’s dance career is like a diamond into which she keeps cutting new facets.
For over 30 years she has pursued dance, studying first at her local studio in Central Pennsylvania where she began assisting dance teachers from the age of only 10. Her experiences as a dance teacher have included instructing dancers at Penn State University-Altoona, Lone Star College, and in private dance studios, community programs, and more. She has performed with contemporary dance companies in Pennsylvania and Texas, her home since 2002.
A Writer has been the most recent cut in the gem. As the founder and editor of DanceAdvantage.net, a successful dance education blog, Nichelle has practiced the craft of writing for web audiences every day since April 1, 2008. In addition, she is a freelance performing arts journalist and a frequent contributor to the NYC Rockettes website. Her curiosity, talents, and intuition for relationship marketing make her a natural leader on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
In June 2012, Nichelle presented the whats, hows, and whys of blogging on a panel at the annual conference for Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance, to better equip artists and companies for engaging their audience and new readers through online communications and content, and is a former Marketing Committee Chair for the National Dance Week Foundation.
Nichelle holds a bachelor’s degree in Dance from Slippery Rock University and lives in Houston, Texas with her two young children.
DanceAdvantage.net is a website where dance professionals offer their expertise to dance students, parents, and teachers. With reliable, practical tips, advice, and insight, we provide solutions for all stages of your dance life.
What are you currently working on?
Developing an array of downloadable content on dance training and teaching at Dance Advantage in order to provide fast, and easy solutions on a variety of topics important to our core audience.We recently released a resource for bloggers: http://danceadvantage.net/start-a-dance-blog and we’ve got one for university dance majors coming out very soon.
Just finished a 2000+ word article for Arts+Culture Texas magazine’s June issue on tap festivals in Texas’ major cities that highlights some of the state’s primary contributors to the tap dance field throughout history.
Where is your preferred place of writing?
My preferred space is wherever I can work without interruption. As a now single mom to two young children (soon to be 8 and 4 years old), this is more difficult to carve out than it would seem. My default writing locations are my home workspace or Starbucks.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Because I have only small windows of time to write, I usually have no choice but to dive into it. However, I do find that I usually need to “warm-up” my brain a bit at the start. For informational blog posts, that’s often just a review of my notes or my (let’s call it an) ‘outline’, or I’ll briefly revisit the topic through any research I’ve done before putting fingers to keyboard.
Sometimes, especially for a large article or something more opinion-based, I’ll write strands or thoughts (kind of noodling around) until something clicks and then, the whole thing or a good chunk of it will just flow out. This is maybe not the most efficient because there are times when I’ll feel stuck in the noodling phase but it works eventually. Something always opens the floodgate.
What inspires you?
Dance inspires me. I can never say enough about it and there’s always something to investigate or share. I rarely run out of ideas. I run out of time.
My friend and frequent editor here in Houston, Nancy Wozny, has been a wonderful mentor. She’s been encouraging me and providing work since the moment I introduced myself to her in 2008. I’ve learned a great deal from her example as a writer and editor.
Do you write post to post? Do you schedule your posts? Do you write in advance?
I do schedule posts ahead of time and have overarching themes planned in a quarterly editorial calendar. However, there is always room in the month for more timely items or things not preplanned. I’ve scheduled some items as far as 6 months in advance yet have also published a post within hours of beginning its preparation.
Freelancing all depends on the publication. I’m given a deadline sometimes months in advance, sometimes only weeks (or a day if the job requires quick turnaround). From there, publishing is on their timeline.
Do you write or blog full-time, or do you have another job?
I still teach dance, though to a lesser degree than I did prior to starting the site and beginning my freelancing. I teach at a community college and a few classes at a local studio — around 10 hours per week. I like teaching and will probably continue to do that, but the goal is to make Dance Advantage my full-time job.
If you could write yourself a letter. What would you write?
It’s all worth it.
Your future self.
At the start, it seemed accidental insofar that I didn’t anticipate, upon starting Dance Advantage that I was taking my first steps on a new career path. Looking back, however, transforming my dance career into a writing career and even an entrepreneurial venture appears the logical result. Like stars aligning, various experiences aligned in such a way to lead me here.
I have always loved reading. And as a kid/teen, I enjoyed writing – verbal ‘doodling’ with poetry or stories and even school assignments. But, I typically felt there were others who were much better at it than I. I still feel that way but what I have now is a whole lot of practice. Daily practice — and really, I think that’s what makes a writer. It’s a lot like dance, actually. Talent only gets you so far and the rest is just putting in the time day after day.
How do you find time for writing? When do you schedule your writing?
As mentioned, I do have two kids and for the last three years, I’ve been on my own in parenting them. My writing and business life are kind of chaotic and messy for now because young kids are chaotic and messy. The week includes a lot of time spent in transition to jobs, to childcare or activities. My youngest goes to preschool a few days out of the week and I’d love for all of that time to be writing time but it’s not — I teach at the college two of those days. I am able to get some done during the week even when my youngest is with me but, like many work-at-home moms, a great deal of my work gets done after the children go to bed. This will change when both kids are in school full-time. Yet again, as with most moms, there’s a sense of not wanting to rush them through these younger years. You don’t get those back. The bottom line is that it’s a miracle that anything gets done. But moms are miracle-workers.
Do you journal in some form? If you get an idea while you’re not in front of your computer, how do you write it down?
I actually really stink at keeping a journal – always have. This is particularly strange because, you know… blogging. But I think the difference is that I’m good at showing up for other people and not so good about doing things for myself. That’s true of me in so many ways and in some of them, I’m working on making myself a priority.
My ideas and notes for posts or articles that come to me when I’m away from the computer could be found as notes on my phone. I’ve tried audio notes, but my ideas come out more coherently through my fingers. At my computer, I generally keep a post-idea dump list in a document and store notes, links/research for various projects in Google docs.
How do you hold yourself accountable to write?
On my own site, I have a responsibility to readers and to what now is an emerging business to show up. I also have a partner I work with frequently (Catherine Tully of 4dancers.org) and working with her provides tremendous support as well as that extra push of accountability.
As both a freelancer and entrepreneur, the paycheck is a great motivator! But ultimately, it’s more than just a paycheck that is my motivation. My family holds me accountable. I’m providing for them and I want my dedication, commitment, and passion for what I do to be an example for my children.
What tools make your life easier?
I write blog stuff directly in WordPress.
For other writing, I use Google docs (Drive). Sometimes Office for my Mac.
I don’t take a lot of my own photos for the site. I mainly use CC images from Flickr. Sometimes Pixabay. Or I just ask the photographer for permission to use a photo I like.
For images I alter, they must be CC licensed and attributed accordingly. I’ve edited such images with Picmonkey. And recently I’ve used Canva for creating covers or graphics.
I’ve recently converted to Coschedule for blog and social media scheduling. It’s awesome.
To keep track of my life, appointments, I use an analog datebook because I remember things better when I physically write them down.