Honoring the Process - One writer’s uncertain path to certainty

Photo by Simon Bruty

Photo by Simon Bruty

Alyssa Giacobbe has been writing and editing for magazines since 1998, when she landed her first job gratefully fetching lattes and editing the Table of Contents as an assistant editor at ELLE. She’s since held staff editing positions at Harper’s Bazaar, InTouch Weekly, Teen Vogue, and Boston Magazine, and is currently editor-at-large for DuJour. She lives in a beach town north of Boston with her husband, stepson, and a couple of cats.

Q: Of all the forms of creative expression, why writing?

Writing is a necessary part of who I am. It’s how I process information and make sense of everything, both professionally and personally. As a journalist, I like telling other people’s stories and the thrill of the chase. My dad was a journalist early in his career and told me that it gives you permission to ask anyone anything. I was always shy so this idea really resonated with me and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. It’s unpredictable; every day, every year, is different.

Q: Share your creative process.

I tend to work best close to deadline and in the morning, sitting at my kitchen counter because it is comfortable, but not too comfortable. If I’m struggling with getting into a flow or need a change of scenery, I’ll go to the library or a coffee shop, but I don’t really cater to the notion of writer’s block. Writing is hard, even if you do it every day, even if you’ve been doing it your whole life, and some days are easier than others; that’s just part of the process. Plenty of places inspire me, but I believe writing is more internal than anything else. I never sit down and write a story from start to finish; I always write in bits and pieces and then puzzle-piece it all together. My biggest motivator is often panic.

Q: It seems like you knew what you wanted to do from the beginning---starting with your assistant editor job at ELLE. Did you ever have doubts about your path? If so, when/why?

I was offered the job at ELLE while I was still in college. I’d interned there the summer before and I was fairly certain that I wanted to pursue magazines and live in New York. Once there, I definitely had escapist fantasies - I loved New York but also felt trapped because that’s where all the jobs were. I toyed with the idea of law school and half-heartedly took the LSATs, figuring as a lawyer I could live anywhere. I didn’t do well on the test, but I feel grateful because I turned the career I had into the one I wanted, independent of place.  I would have been miserable as a lawyer.

Q: You have a prolific portfolio. As entrepreneurs, we know that doesn’t happen overnight. Can you describe how your writing and editing career advanced over the years?

Like most people in magazines, I started out as an editor. I eventually left ELLE to help launch In Touch Weekly just as celebrity magazines were becoming a thing. It wasn’t my cup of tea, so after a year there I went to Teen Vogue as Features Editor before leaving for a new job (and new city) at Boston Magazine. I probably grew the most during that job. The staff was small, leaving a lot of opportunity to do work beyond the scope of my role. After three years, I left Boston Magazine to go freelance. That was ten years ago.

I’d say it’s been seventy five percent hard work, twenty five percent luck. I still hustle and I never say “no” to work. I’m definitely not the most talented writer, but I know my limits and I’ve worked to find the outlets where I fit best. As magazines change (and go away) I’ve learned to diversify—ghostwriting, branded content, some copywriting. I stopped being super precious about most of my work a long time ago. I think of my editors as clients first and foremost, and my job is to please my clients and as best I can.

Q: How do you define entrepreneur?

I’m self-employed, and I very much work as though I’m running a business (because I am) but I’ve never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I don’t feel as though I’m creating or doing anything new or innovating in any way. I’ve taken some financial risks, but when I quit Boston Magazine to go freelance I did so with a contract and with a solid foundation of other work.

Q: What is something people might be surprised to find out about you?

For a creative who spent most of her career working in fashion, I’m actually quite sporty. I just ran my first marathon and love CrossFit. I also teach yoga.