How to Become a Freelance Writer

I’m excited to write this post today because it’s long overdue. I regularly get emails from people who are looking for advice on how to break into freelance writing. While I’m happy to help other writers, I’m sometimes hesitant to give advice for two reasons. 

1. I started writing for magazines and websites in 2010. 

A lot has changed. My freelance career is the direct result of the blogging boom of the mid-to-late aughts. I also lived in Toronto, a major media centre and was able to do a lot of in-person networking. So, I fully recognize that my experiences aren’t necessarily relevant to 2020. 

2. A decade in, I’m still trying to figure this shit out.

I’m not an expert in pitching magazines. Instead, I’ve managed to get most of my writing jobs through people I know either directly or indirectly. If you’re looking for a magic recipe to get into The New Yorker or guarantee a cover story with the Atlantic, I’m not your girl (I’m pretty sure this isn’t a thing but if you manage to crack the code let me know). 

The short and super transparent story of how I started freelance writing for magazines and websites. 

I started this blog in 2009 as a portfolio with the end goal of writing for magazines (it happened!) and eventually penning a memoir (still working on it!). I wrote voraciously and within a year, I’d developed a readership. In 2010, I connected with a friend of a friend who was the beauty editor of Elle Canada. I wanted to learn more about writing for magazines. Familiar with my blog, she offered me my first gig writing for 29Secrets. This led to me writing pieces for Elle Canada. I also had a friend who worked as an editor at Slice and Food Network Canada, who assigned me some writing work. I did all this while still working at my former day job. 

In 2013, another acquaintance that I’d met at Toronto media events recommended me as a relationship expert for a video event with the Toronto Sun. I loved the experience and clicked with the editor. She didn’t have any writing work for me at the time, but a couple months later she reached out and offered me the Toronto Sun Sex Files column, which I’ve been writing ever since. Writing for the Sun has allowed me to build up a body of work which I’ve been able to leverage into other opportunities. 

I make it sound easy, but it wasn’t. There were a lot of late nights and bleary eyed mornings at my day job, alongside the usual blood, sweat and tears that come with side-hustling your way into a career. With that said, I also networked my ass off and was very, very lucky that I already knew a few people in the media. 

[I also think it’s important to acknowledge my privilege here. I’m a white, straight passing woman. Because of this, I was able to access certain media spaces with relative ease. I know this isn’t the case for everyone.] 

I can only share what I know based on my own experiences, which in some ways are atypical.

So without further ado, here are a few things that will may help you launch a freelance writing career. 

1. Start writing the stories and creating the content you want to see. 

One of the smartest things I did when I first started out was use my blog to showcase my skills as a writer. While blogs don’t have the same cachet that they did back in the late aughts, you can still use your online presence to create a portfolio and show the world what you’re capable of. 

Create a personal website or blog and regularly post things you’ve written. Publish on Medium. Don’t wait for permission. Whether you want to write about the local food scene, beauty products or your personal obsession with iguanas — just start writing and creating content about the stuff that interests you. This is a great way to sell a potential client or editor on your writing chops even if you don’t have any bylines yet. 

A great example of this is one of my favourite writers, Kate Kaput of Greatest Escapist. She has channeled her love of Cleveland, Ohio into an engaging & ultra long-running blog, personal essays and articles for local and national outlets. 

2. Take a pitching class. 

Not sure how to pitch publications? Looking to improve your pitching skills? I feel you. One thing that really helped was taking a version of Pitch Like a Honey Badger with Julie Schwietert Collazo. Not only did I learn the ins and outs of pitching, but it gave me a much needed confidence boost (the cost of the course paid for itself once I landed my first assignment). It also provided really great insight into the industry and how editors actually work. 

If you have budgetary restrictions, there’s a lot of free info online like this piece on freelance writing pitches that worked

There’s also a handful of writers online that regularly share pitching and freelance advice on Instagram. I love to follow travel writer and beauty editor, Kristin Corpuz for this reason. She’s another creative that’s used her platform in a really lovely way to showcase her skills as a writer and content creator. If you sign up for her newsletter, she sends you a quick guide to pitching. 

3. Use the resources available to you. 

While going to in-person networking events isn’t realistic during a pandemic, there are still many ways you can connect with fellow writers and editors online. Start by follow writers and editors you like on Twitter to get an idea of the kinds of stories people are looking for. They’ll often share bylines and calls for pitches. 

There are also a host of Freelance Writer Binder groups on Facebook. I don’t know what their current joining criteria is but Binders Full of Global Freelance Writers is the one I frequent the most. It’s where you can connect with other writers, ask for advice about stories and see editor’s calls for pitches. 

4. Ask yourself why you want to write.

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you have a desire to tell your stories in a big way and get paid for it — and that’s totally valid. Just be aware that if you’re looking to make money quickly, freelance writing isn’t necessarily where it’s at. Yes, you can make money doing editorial work but outlets typically don’t pay as soon as you turn in your assignment. While there are exceptions, on average don’t expect to receive payment for an article for at least 4-6 weeks. Which brings me to my next point..

5. Don’t limit yourself to publications and editorial work. 

Only ⅓ of my income comes from editorial work (writing articles for other media outlets). The majority of my monthly revenue comes from “behind the scenes” writing (copyediting, ghost-blogging, copywriting, curating and managing social media feeds) for a small roster of regular clients. While it’s less glory than a bunch of splashy bylines, doing this kind of work ensures that my bills get paid on time. The editorial work I do get is a fun bonus. This is true for most of the successful freelancers I know. 

If you’re looking to make money writing I’d suggest looking beyond magazine writing. Can you help a local business or brand revamp their blog or social media? Do you have a friend that needs editing help? Are there other ways you can get paid to write? Reach out to your contacts and put yourself out there! This is where having an online platform that showcases your skills really comes into play. 

6. Don’t be gross about “networking.”

It’s alarming how many times I’ve had aspiring writers reach out to me and straight up ask for my rolodex of editor contacts and clients. Do not do this. This isn’t how you network. Freelance writing is a precarious, unpredictable line of work that’s all about relationships. Most writers have spent years cultivating relationships with editors. No one wants to hand over their contacts and potentially jeopardize these relationships and their paycheque. So, don’t do this. Ever. It’s gross. 

Instead, do the work. Start writing. Set up your portfolio. Ask writers and editors thoughtful questions and be mindful of their time. If someone declines your offer to “pick their brain” don’t take it personally. As freelancers and/or editors they’re probably (like me) juggling a bunch of different projects and deadlines that are all time sensitive, while also trying to maintain a semblance of a personal life

(With that being said, if you’re friendly & respectful I will always try and help in whatever capacity I can — even if I can’t meet up in person or virtually.) 

Is there anything I missed? What else are you curious about? 

Drop a comment or feel free to send me a private message on Twitter, Instagram or via email. I’d love to hear from you. 

Two Months Ago I Started Co-working with Strangers on the Internet & it’s Changed Everything

It’s the start of pandemic in North America (March, April, May? Who the heck knows because the days seem to be blurring together). I’m sitting at my computer in my bedroom office trying to coax myself into writing something — anything — that isn’t for one of my regular clients. 

With upcoming work travel plans on hold indefinitely and more time on my hands, I tell myself that should  be able to finally buckle down and finish the book I’ve been writing (on and off) for the past few years. But every time I sit down to do the hard thing, my brain feels too foggy. 

I’m temporarily soothed by articles and inspirational Instagram posts that remind me that it’s normal to have problems focusing during a pandemic (we’re all just trying to stay alive!) And yet, I can’t escape the feeling that I’m a loser and a failure.

(Did I mention I can be a jerk to myself sometimes?)

I mean, people are out there creating albums and launching super cool side projects right now. I’m not making the most of my time! I should be creating! I don’t have the excuse of not having time! What the fuck is wrong with me?

Sound familiar? 

(In other words, if you consistently find yourself sitting down to do work only to be distracted by similar thoughts paired with doom scrolling, a Pinterest addiction and places like JackpotCity online casino, then this post is for you)

When people ask me what I miss most about my pre-Covid life, my answer usually surprises them (hint: it’s not travelling — I’m tired and my body is a mess — more on that later). Instead, I yearn for the long writing sessions that I used to regularly enjoy at a handful of local coffee shops. 

As a self-employed person for 10+ years, I like to think I’m pretty good at getting stuff done while working from home. With that being said, when it comes to the big, important stuff — things that clients aren’t paying me to do — like writing a book or penning emotionally vulnerable blog posts, I’ve always found it easier to do this kind of work outside of my home. 

I was the same way in university. I did nearly all of my homework at the library and when it came time to write papers, I opted to do my work in the computer lab (even though I had a PC at home). When I walked through the doors, I knew that I could (mild human distractions aside) focus and get stuff done. In my post-grad life, the coffee shop filled a similar role, as an almost sacred place for writing. When the pandemic hit, it felt like I’d been kicked out of the flock. 

My local coffee shop scene looks like a weird mash-up of a Portlandia episode and the movie Cocoon. It’s a motley crew of stereotypical hipsters armed with sticker-covered Macbooks and Moleskines, patchouli scented didgeridoo carrying white guys with badly maintained dreadlocks and octogenarians who insist on watching YouTube videos on their iPads at max volume without headphones. It’s noisy and a little smelly, but it’s this exact blend human chaotic energy (cue: a Glass Animals album playing in the background) that has allowed me to zero in and focus long enough to write the first two drafts of my 250+ page book. 

Unable to shake my brain fog and struggling to get anything beyond the bare minimum done, I started locking my phone in my bathroom cabinet for hour long sessions. 

While being without my phone definitely helped me get stuff done without the constant temptation of scrolling through Instagram or falling into an eBay/Etsy black hole in search of the perfect pair of tiny cowboy boots for Joe the Intern, sitting alone at my computer in my quiet bedroom turned office lacked the just-chaotic-enough “backstage at the Muppet Theatre” vibes that my coffee shop consistently delivered. 

I’ve learned that I do best work when I’m in the presence of other people doing work. I also crave accountability. 

Then, through what can only be described as serendipity, I discovered the two words that would change everything: 

Silent Zooms. 

Working from home

Two months ago, I started co-working with strangers on the internet and it’s been life altering. 

The process is as follows: 

Log onto the platform. Schedule a co-working session. Get matched with a partner or a group (depending on the platform). Join the video conference and introduce yourself. Share your goals for what you hope to accomplish during the session. Work silently on Zoom together for 1-3 hours before checking in at the end to see how things went. 

If you’d told me a year ago that I would be paying a service to work quietly with strangers on Zoom, I would have rolled my eyes — but oh my god, that tiny bit of accountability and human contact works wonders for my workflow. 

To be productive, I need other humans close by and I need a place to go — even if it’s virtual. 

If you’re wondering where to find virtual co-working online, I currently use two different virtual co-working platforms that I love equally for different reasons. 

Focusmate is a one-on-one virtual co-working space where you can schedule 50 minute video conference sessions with a virtual coworker. The goal is to hold each other accountable and keep each other company. I use this one for doing all of my task oriented client work — writing articles, scheduling social media, answering emails. It’s been a huge help in focusing on key tasks and limiting distractions. I’ll frequently book multiple sessions in a day — especially if I have a lot to get done. 

Caveday is a group virtual co-working space that’s designed for deep, focused work. Sessions are longer (1-3 hours) and lead by a guide who keeps them upbeat, relaxed and motivational. There’s also a little more interaction and sharing, which is nice. I love using Caveday for creative, personal writing. 

Why pay for two separate memberships, you ask? Well, for me it’s crucial  to create different spaces for different kinds of work. Similar to walking through the library or coffee shop doors, when I log onto Caveday, I automatically associate it with working on book related tasks — and nothing else. 

I’m somewhat of a perfectionist and could easily spend all day tinkering at one piece of writing. Scheduling virtual co-working sessions has allowed me to be more mindful of how I spend my time, so I can work smarter not harder (I’m on a virtual co-working sesh as I write this!) 

It’s also helped calm down the negative self-talk (that I’m an unproductive failure, incapable of writing) because I know if I show up, I’ll at least get something done that I can feel good about. 

Also, I think it’s important to note that whatever you’re feeling — too tender, scattered or angry to focus — is totally legitimate. This isn’t a solve everything cure.

But if you’re looking for ways to add more structure to your days or simply need a push to get over procrastination, I highly recommend giving virtual co-working a try. 

Even Joe the Intern is a fan of our virtual co-working sessions. 

By the way, you might be wondering why I decided to use a photo of me on the beach for a post about productivity during the pandemic

Craving extra accountability, about a month ago I joined a Cave Squad through Caveday. You can read more about it here but basically it’s a supportive accountability group where you can set and track goals. 

In August, our team leader encouraged us to also add some fun goals to our list. One of mine was “walk down to the beach after work and enjoy a canned cocktail.” The photo above is me doing exactly that. I only stayed at the beach for about an hour — just long enough to enjoy a drink and take a photo — but it felt good.

I look at that photo as a reminder that even when the world is going nuts, it’s still possible to carve out time — to do the hard things, but also the stuff that brings you pleasure. If you’re lucky, sometimes the two overlap. 

Has anyone else been struggling with concentration lately? What’s helped you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

On Time, Vulnerability and Approaching 40

 

 

 

 

 

When I first started this blog in 2009, I was 29. I knew I eventually wanted to write professionally and publish a book. I also had lot of emotional baggage I needed to write my way through. This blog served me well and provided a place for me to write about breakups I’d kinda-sorta-not-quite-healed-from, share bizarro dating stories, talk about sex and (hopefully) make you guys laugh as I journeyed into the world of comically strange products. I wrote openly about my mental health and experiences with heartbreak. I rode the wave of balls-to-the-wall personal blogging, until, well, things changed.

The internet landscape changed (with Instagram taking the place of deeply personal blogging), but I changed too. I always tell people that I chose the blog name Skinny Dip because it’s good metaphor for sharing your life on line. When I started blogging, I wanted to strip away outer layers of myself; shed my figurative skin if you will, in hopes that I would eventually arrive at the most “me” version of myself. Ten years ago, I felt so full of angst and feelings that I couldn’t envision a time in the future when I wouldn’t have things to get off my chest in a very public way. But then I arrived at that point.

The stuff I needed to let go of got let go of. Sex blogging stopped feeling fun and I started to save my time, energy and juicy stories for my book. But then, even book writing became challenging.

The problem with shedding your skin is that eventually you reach a point where you hit actual flesh and bone. It’s raw. It’s tender. It’s uncomfortable. Self-preservation kicks in and you instinctually tell yourself to pull back.

This is basically the point I reached sometime in 2018. After nearly ten years of personal blogging and several years of working on a book project (and watching it shift & transform) I hit a wall. I was suffering from a vulnerability hangover that I had no cure for. So, I switched my focus to travel writing and went on a bazillion work trips. Okay, it was more like seventeen — nearly half of which were to Mexico — but still, it was a lot. I needed a break and travelling provided that.

While I’m super grateful to have travelled so much over the past two years and have no plan to abandon travel writing (or blogging) any time soon, eventually my “break” started to feel like I was running away. In my gut I know its time to slow down and get to work.

The idea of “time” is something that’s been on my mind obsessively for the past few months. How should I spend my time? Is it better to go with the flow? Am I better served by sitting still and doing the work? These are questions that have been on my mind obsessively since I turned 39 in September.

Looking ahead at 40 is such a weird feeling. On one hand, I’m much happier and in a better place mentally than I was at 29. I’ve also accomplished some major goals and had some amazing opportunities. On the other hand, there’s still so much that feels…in progress. Things that (society tells me) I should have checked off by now just aren’t. While my friends are closing on houses and renting out a gender reveal smoke cannon to honour their third kid (yes, that’s a thing), I’m here — still single, still living at the same spot, still working on a book that isn’t quite finished yet. I’m happy and healthy but all the external stuff that I just assumed I would have taken care of by now — the fat bank account, the home, the committed relationship with plenty of hot sex –are still works in progress.

It’s so easy to let my thoughts spiral into an anxiety-driven maelstrom start thinking of the what-ifs. What if things never work out? What if I fail? I’m neutral on children, but what if I never even get the chance to veto a gender reveal cannon because I end up ALONE, BROKE AND LIVING IN MY MOM’S BASEMENT FOREVER. While there’s literally no evidence that any of the above will happen, the FEAR takes me to some really dark places (literally. Hello, Mom’s basement?)

(I have a friend/colleague who’s in a similar situation and I was joking with her that maybe because we’ve spent our thirties sorting out our internal selves & living our lives on our own terms (with plenty of freedom), that we’ve preempted a 40-something mid-life crisis where we go out and randomly buy a speed boat to fill some kind of deep emotional void. Here’s to hoping!)

I know my writing has the greatest impact — both for myself and others — when I allow myself to be vulnerable. But guys, I’m kind of fucking scared to dig into that tender flesh. Every day I have moments where I think of just escaping (saying yes to a press trip, running off to visit a friend, etc) just so that I don’t have to sit down and feel the things I need to feel so I can write the things I know I have to write.

So, while I work my way through to the other side of this vulnerability hangover, I’m reclaiming this space for my writing. While I can’t promise a return to the no-holds-barred blogging days of yore (in fact, it likely won’t look anything like 2009 or even 2013), I do plan writing things that feel honest, true and (ahhh) vulnerable, while I work through all these feels.

Maybe people will read. Maybe they won’t. But if you’re interested in following this journey, you know exactly where to find me.

How to Pack For a Press Trip in The Caribbean

 

Since October 2017, I’ve gone on five separate press trips to the Caribbean (Mexico 3x, Jamaica and The Bahamas) and I’d like to think that I’ve got packing for tropical, work-related travel down to a fine science. Well, maybe not a science…but I have learned a few things along the way. Lately, I’ve had a lot of questions about my recent travels. So, before I head out on another trip, I thought I’d share a few of my packing tips for press or FAM trips in the tropics.

[Note: at some point I’ll write a comprehensive post about the ins and outs of press trips, but for now, this is a post about packing and preparation]

Bring a bathing suit, sundress, sunscreen and sandals in your carry-on.

Depending on where you’re flying from (in my case the west coast), if you’re on a red eye flight that arrives in the morning, you’ll probably get to your hotel or resort well before check in time. This means you’ll have a few hours to kill before your room is ready. I usually eat (I’m always starving) and then head to the pool/beach, however sometimes you have to hit the ground running. Literally. On my last trip I arrived from the airport and immediately had to do a 2-hour long (OUTDOOR) site tour of the property after flying all night. To save the hassle of rummaging through your suitcase in the hotel lobby bathroom (which, I’ve also done) I’ve just started packing my a bathing suit, sundress, sunscreen and sandals in my carry-on, along with anything else that I need to freshen up (face wipes, moisturizer, deodorant etc).

Checked baggage versus carry-on.

This is totally personal and I may change my stance on this, but I’m one of the rare people who prefers to check their baggage — especially for slightly longer trips. I like being hands free in the airport, plus in my experience, you tend to accumulate a lot of swag & souvenirs on press trips that you may want to take home (i.e. bottles of champagne, full size sunscreens, toiletries etc). Once again, this is totally a personal choice.

It’s not a fashion show.

In my experience, most of the journalists you meet on these trips are from large urban hubs like NY, LA, Miami, Atlanta, Toronto etc. I was worried that coming from the west coast of Canada (where we’re on “island time“) I’d look and feel like a country bumpkin in comparison to my peers. Not the case at all. Unless you’re going on fashion themed trips (like the kind described in Cat Marnell’s book How to Murder Your Life), most of the people you meet are going to be other (often underpaid) lifestyle and travel journalists like yourself.

Pack stuff that you feel good in and don’t bring anything too precious, as drinks get spilled and well, shit happens. With the exception of an Alice + Olivia dress, most of my tropical clothes are from the clearance rack of H&M, Forever21 or one of my favorite designer consignment stores in Vancouver (an excellent option for finding unique pieces for a great price — especially off season).

Now onto packing…

1. Sundresses that can easily be dressed up or down.

The key here is versatility. You want to pack things that can be worn with flat sandals to lunch/breakfast but can also work at night with a pair of heels (if that’s your jam). On my trip to Mexico and the Bahamas this summer, I brought two leaf-print dresses similar to the one above and wore them constantly. Tip: if you can wash a dress in the sink & it dries easily — even better.

2. Lightweight LBD.

Every press event is different, but in my experience there’s usually one night that requires you to be a little bit more dressy. A simple black slip dress like the one above has been a wardrobe godsend. Breezy and comfortable, you’ll look polished without being overdressed for the tropics.

3. Nude heels.

When it comes to heels, I try to only pack one pair. Maybe two. A great pair of nude heels is an easy solution here, as they go with everything. I actually own the exact pair of Dolce Vita slides featured above and I love them. They’re comfy and go with almost anything. If you’re looking to buy shoes online you’ll just want to make sure they’re comfortable enough to withstand a lot of walking. Caribbean resorts are deceptively large and you’ll likely clock some serious distances just going back and forth from events to your room.

4. Metallic or neutral colored flat sandals that you can walk in.

It all comes down to versatility and comfort here. While you’re able to find a ton of
women’s shoes online, you’ll want to make sure that your shoes don’t chafe and/or give you blisters.

5. Large clutch.

If the resort you’re visiting is all inclusive you’re probably not going to need to carry around your wallet all day, everyday. Instead, I like to use a large envelope clutch to hold my room key, phone & sunscreen. You can toss it into a beach tote for the day and/or pull it out for evening activities.

6. Fun jewelry.

Just because you’re there for business doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with your accessories. While I’m loyal to my go-to large gold hoops, I use trips to the Caribbean as an opportunity to experiment with bold & bright jewelry that I might not wear at home. Same goes for clothing!

7. Bikinis.

While I love a good one-piece, when you’re drinking a lot throughout the day — even if it’s just water — bikinis are just easier to get in and out of. Bring at least two so that you always have something to wear when the other one is drying.

8. A cover up that you’re not embarrassed to wear in public.

I didn’t realize this about resorts, but people wear coverups in public areas — not just by the pool or beach. While I generally don’t put much thought into what I wear to the pool when I’m at home, I’m glad I invested in one or two coverups that I can wear without feeling raggedy.

9. Good quality flip flops.

Instead of buying overpriced flip flops when you get there (that will probably need to be thrown out sooner, rather than later), minimize your waste by investing in a pair of decent quality flip flops. I’m partial to my Havaianas (that are now 10 years old!) because they seem close to indestructible.

10. Sunscreen.

Pack more sunscreen than you think you’ll need. I almost always run out and hotel gift shops love to charge extra for it.

11. All purpose tote.

I have a large Longchamp tote that I use as my travel bag but also does double duty as a beach tote that I can take on day trips.

Now onto the really fun stuff…

12. Earplugs and anything else you’ll need for a comfortable sleep.

You can never really predict how noisy a resort will be at night or where your room will be situated in relation to said noise. For example, I never would have guessed that at Temptation the party at the outdoor club rages until 3 or 4am, nor could I have anticipated how noisy the birds & bugs were in Jamaica. Moral of this story: ear plugs are your friend. I’ve also started using them for sleeping on planes.

13. All the hand sanitizer.

On my second press trip to Jamaica, I got strep throat. It was awful. This goes without saying, but use hand sanitizer always and liberally.

14. Bikini zone gel.

There’s nothing worse than being en route to your destination and realizing that the bikini wax you just got has turned into a hot mess of bumps and irritation. This cooling, healing gel has saved my life on numerous occasions.

15. Probiotics.

I have a sensitive digestive system, but I find taking probiotics everyday — especially when I’m traveling — really helps.

16. Diarrhea medicine.

As luck would have it, the one time I neglected to pack Immodium was the time I absolutely needed it (and was forced to spend $25 USD at the hotel gift shop to get some). Now I like to keep a package in my suitcase at all time.

17. Pepto Bismal.

Between tons of food and drink, and just being away from my usual food/environment, I’ve yet to go on a trip where I haven’t had to use something for my stomach at least once. To avoid the risk of spilling, I prefer to pack the chewable tablets.

18. Bug bite relief.

If you forget to pack bug spray (in my experience I’ve only needed it 50% of the time), it helps to have some topical bug bite relief and Benadryl on hand.

19. A hat that you’re not particularly attached to.

On recent trips, I’ve had sun hats fall in the pool, get rained on and even fly off a boat into the ocean. You’re going to need a hat, but maybe consider packing one that you’re not super attached to.

20. Lip balm with SPF.

Pack some so you don’t spend the entire trip complaining that your lips hurt real bad. 

To save time, I’ve taken items 13-21 (along with a bottle of bug spray) and put it in a zipper pouch, so I can just grab my “tropical survival kit” whenever I’m preparing for a trip.

What are some of your traveling essentials?

Five Things I’ve Learned About Sex From Writing About It

I was speaking to an editor I work with recently, and she mentioned the post I wrote announcing my semi-retirement from sex blogging. “It seems like you started your blog to work out stuff about your sexuality and now you’ve kind of done that,” she said. Sometimes all it takes is a simple comment like that from someone else to make you realize that yes, that’s exactly what you’ve been doing all along. I started this blog in 2009 so I’d have a place to share all of my bizarre dating stories and showcase my writing, but it became so much more than that.

Through Skinny Dip I’ve been able to sort through my feelings about dating, relationships, my body and my sexuality. While I’ve mostly retired from reviewing sex toys and no longer feel the need to share so much about my current love life on this blog, I still thought it would be fun to look back and share some of the things I’ve learned about myself over the past nine years (oof) of blogging.

1. Explore and experiment to your heart’s content.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on my body and self-pleasure before I started this blog, but trying a bazillion different sex toys for the purpose of writing about them has definitely expanded that knowledge in positive ways. I can now look at the shape of a toy or feel it’s vibration patterns on my fingers and make a very good educated guess as to whether I’ll enjoy it (and while I’m occasionally still surprised, I’m usually right). The point here: don’t be afraid to experiment with different gadgets or props — even the really weird looking sex toys. Worst case scenario, you’ll learn more about what you do and don’t like.

2. If you don’t like something or it doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean you’re broken.

There are plenty of stores online that claim they sell the best sex machines but not all toys are created equal or are designed with every human body in mind. What’s mind blowing for one person, is going to be a flop for someone else. For example, I’ve learned through trial and error that wand vibes like the ever popular Hitachi Magic Wand, just don’t work for me AT ALL. I’d much rather use something small and precise like the Crave Duet (a vibe that another blogger hailed as a flop). Long story short: not everything is going to work for everyone and that’s okay. Life would be kind of boring if everyone got off in the exactly same way. Keep trying stuff until you find what works for you.

3. You’re not required to define your sexuality for other people.

When I decided last spring to finally explore my bi-sexuality, I felt pressure to define my sexuality for other people. I thought it would be easier to explain myself and fit in with the queer community if I gave myself a label (queer, bi, hetero-flexible etc) — and I wasn’t totally wrong about the first one. People like clearly defined labels because they’re easier to digest. However, like Justin Bobby from The Hills, “I’m just not into labels” — at least when it comes to my sexuality. It wasn’t until I was on my first really great date with a woman and my date told me, “no one in the gay community is going to force you to define yourself,” that I felt comfortable just letting things be. The truest thing I can say about my sexuality is that I am a woman who mostly dates and loves men, but sometimes has romantic and sexual feelings for women.

4. You know yourself better than anyone else and it’s okay to like what you like, however kinky or vanilla that may be. 

I’ve written about the ridiculous assumptions people have about me because I write about sex. For example, that I must be super kinky and/or sleep with evvvvveryone (I mean, really guys?) Nine years in and I’m really tired of having to explain on a weekly basis that I don’t have my very own sex dungeon (however, I’d kill for some more shoe storage space). While writing about sex has definitely opened my mind to new things and encouraged me to explore my sexuality, it’s also helped reconfirm what I’ve known to be true about myself all along: that I can enjoy different kinds of sexual experiences, but the kind I crave most isn’t necessarily very kinky. I want sex that is super passionate, but also includes a great mind-body/emotional connection. This isn’t always easy to find, which is part of the reason I don’t have as much sex as people probably think I do. Like #3, I also used to feel the need to explain this to people, until I realized that it’s no one’s business but my own.

5. Stay open.

Not only am I more open-minded when it comes to my own desires, writing about sex has given me a greater appreciation for the diversity of human sexuality. While I know myself a lot better than I did nine years ago and I still have some “hard passes” when it comes to dating and sex, I’m also open to those beliefs and desires changing. Sexuality isn’t static. It’s okay to evolve and change over time. In other words, know yourself but never say never.

 

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