Monday Musings: 6 Things for 6 Years (of Teenplicity)

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Welcome to ‘Monday Musings’!

A new segment from Teenplicity, ‘Monday Musings’ will explore personal interests and thoughts in a multitude of ways. Whether it be through lists, fan interaction, or discussion posts, each week will offer a different topic and new perspective from Teenplicity about what is on our mind. The range of topics, just like our interests, will be vast. Some might be familiar, as it could highlight previous feature stars, while others will discuss uncharted subjects for Teenplicity. They might be fun posts with a silly twist or a more serious discussion about something that could concern you.

The goal is for Teenplicity to become more engaged and involved with our readers. The Teenplicity Team is made up of fans, just like you. Let us know what you care about – a show, a film, music, an event or aspect of your life. There are no limits for what can be explored in ‘Monday Musings’ or how we present it to you.

Teenplicity turned 6 years old on July 24th! To celebrate, we thought we would share six lessons that we’ve learned from running this site all these years. Hopefully, this is helpful for anyone that’s interested in running their own websites/blogs similar to Teenplicity. It’s cliche but from the bottom to the top of our hearts, we want to thank everyone that has supported our website in any kind of capacity be it reaching out to us with feature pitches, giving us a yes when we reached out for a feature, reading our features, sharing our features, and telling us when you loved a feature we did. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for us as we continue showing what Teenplicity has to offer.

#1 – Shoot Your Shot (P.S. No Isn’t the End of the World) – Brie
Starting out running a website like Teenplicity is literally just shooting your shot and for the most part, getting no’s or getting left on read. Teenplicity quite literally got started because we shot our shot on a whim and got told yes. Before then, it was essentially an idea that we were just really interested in doing and developing. That said we still got plenty of no’s and was left on read a few times and in the beginning, it happened more often than not. Six years in and shooting your shot is still risky. One thing I’ve learned is not to take it personally. It’s hard to not immediately assume the reason you get told no is because of you personally. (I’m very responsible for thinking this a lot of the time.) But honestly, you don’t actually know why you might get rejected. Sometimes it has to do with unavailability, other times it has to do with them (the publicist, the talent, etc.) being too busy at the moment, and other times, yes, maybe your site is just not the platform they want to utilize (this could be temporary, fyi).

It’s not the end of the world to get a no or get multiple no’s though because that doesn’t mean you won’t eventually get a yes either from them or from someone else. Building a good relationship with publicists can be very helpful in getting a yes and shooting your shot to aim for more. If you reach out to enough people and prove yourself reliable, it’s more likely that you’ll receive more opportunities. I tend to brace myself for a no, but one of the things I’ve learned (definitely from Mary I might add) is that it never hurts to just try anyway. If you’re assuming they’re just going to say no or leave you on read, then you already have an idea for the worst-case scenario outcome so they can only really surprise you by saying yes. And regardless the response you get, you can still keep going.

#2 – Research Matters (For Your Features and Your Brand)

Just like those school projects you either loved or hated, research is a must. I mean, you always can do a writeup or interview with absolutely none to the bare minimum of research but then it’s bland, repetitive, easily skipped, and probably lacking or containing misleading information. The more you know, the better your content becomes. It is as simple as that.

Of course, your research will always depend on the topic. There will be points where you’re going to write about something you’re heavily involved with or a big fan of and in those cases, you don’t need to do as much. Just dive a bit deeper into fandom, read tweets responding to actors, actresses, showrunners, etc. concerning the show to see what people are looking for, rewatch an episode, or dive into Tumblr to see other theories or questions you may not have thought of yourself to address in an interview. Other times your research will be on something you know nothing about and the best way to cover your bases with that is to read all the promo releases, any interviews already conducted, and maybe even binging all the content that’s already been released.

Trust me when I say that I’ve decided to do an interview about a series that just dropped on Netflix that day or the day beforehand and my interview is two days from then. I’ll spend the time in-between not only reading up on previous interviews my subject did but also binging that series to get a more in-depth look at it, to feel like a fan and know what I’m talking about, and see if I can pull out some uncommon questions or theories.

Really, the more you know, the better your interview or writeup becomes. I’m able to bring up things that other interviews may miss and it brings a freshness to not only the feature but also the interview as it happens. I understand that it probably gets boring for those involved to answer the same ten questions over and over again so it’s like a breath of fresh air to get in a question they may not have heard before. That even points the conversation into another direction sometimes and opens up more discussions, providing richer and stronger content for all involved.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to read other interviews too as part of any research. A lot of times, the interviewee will drop a tidbit of information in one that I can expand on in my interview – of course, referencing back to the original source – and dive deeper into their thoughts. Sometimes those interviews spark new questions for me to ask or it lets me know how many times this one thing has been asked and answered and what I can do to spice it up or address this differently. Reading other interviews is important.

Of course, I’ve learnt too that sometimes my research may consist of rereading whatever information about the subject that the publicist sent me. At times, it’s a whole 27-page press packet. Other times it’s just three short paragraphs with two to four facts squeezed in among all their notable work. That’s okay and not all that uncommon, at least for me, as quite a number of people who are featured on Teenplicity are doing their first “big” project. One thing to do is ask the publicist for some more information. I’ve only ever done this once and in return, I got like a 16-page press kit that somehow didn’t attach in the initial emails. Another thing to do is just scour social media yourself. Practically everyone is an open book on social media and that’s great for us because it gives us an insight into their thoughts, dreams, and daily deeds. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I saw you posted about this on that social media site the other day – can you tell me more about that? How’d it go?”

Just go in as prepared as you can be with an idea of what you want out of it. Which brings me to the other half of this.

Knowing about your subjects is just as important as knowing your brand and your intentions. Teenplicity is selective in who we choose to feature and we even do research on them personally to see what they’re life and if they fit into the kind of website we have. If any red flags get raised, then we reevaluate if we want to step forward with the feature. It’s not an easy thing to do, when I’ve had to do it, to go back to someone and let them know that we would not be doing a feature. On one hand, you want to stay true to your brand and your audience in what you present to them but on the other hand, you worry about how this might affect your professional relationships. At that point you need to decide what matters more – staying true to your code and morals or just going for the clicks. It’s not easy.

You also need to know your intentions too. What are you intending on getting out of this? Why are you doing it? When I get the opportunity to do an interview in-person and record it for the YouTube channel, I always want to include a fun game or crazy questions. I know as a fan that sometimes I don’t want to sit and watch a fifteen minute sit-down interview. I also know that I would love to see my favorite actors, musicians, entertainers, etc., let down their guard, have fun, and be more candid and spontaneous. So I always look for new ways to create a fun atmosphere for those circumstances. Special note of credit to Kimberly Strong, my frequent videographer for these events and the brain behind quite a few of the fun games we’ve done.

To conclude: Research matters. The more you know – about your subject and your brand – the greater the content you present will be.

 

#3 – Professionalism 101: You’re More Qualified Than You Think and Nerves are Normal – Brie
When we started Teenplicity, I was seventeen. There is a lot of teen-centered media and media similar to Teenplicity that exists. To my knowledge, though, most of them weren’t started by someone of the intended audience. In all honesty, six years in, I still get that feeling of imposture syndrome where I think I’m not qualified enough to warrant a lot of the opportunities that I’ve gotten to do because of Teenplicity. But, I do think I’m slowly grasping the ability to acknowledge when it’s happening and go for it anyway. I’ve given this a lot of thought and one of the things I’ve noticed is that when you’re the younger one in an interaction or at the very least, feel like you’re the newer one, it’s easy for it to feel like it shows. And when it feels like it shows, you start to limit yourself and go far beyond your capacity to try and prove–to them, to yourself–that you look like you know what you’re doing. But, I think that either it (your youngness/your newness) doesn’t show as blatantly as we tend to think it does or that proper etiquette says not to comment on it. Especially because when you’re doing something like running your own website and managing all the behind-the-scenes work involved, you’re way more qualified than you think you are for a lot of things. You gain a lot of transferrable skills a lot of which I didn’t realize because I tend to undersell just about everything I do. Among the list of skills you gain are:

- Time-management (especially if you’re like us and are doing/did schooling and other–often multiple–jobs on top of this. I’m still figuring time-management out and I’ll admit it can be very tough and overwhelming juggling so many things at once, but you are allowed to be honest about your time and capacity, not just to you but to others involved–from my experience, they’re usually very understanding because they also have lives outside of their work–and this is an important part of not only managing your time but taking care of yourself and your wellbeing)
- Communication (talking to publicists, talking to artists, talking to the other people you work with)
- Branding (see: Mary’s explanation)
- Different forms of writing (it’s weird to say as a writer, but I had to be told by someone else that this was a pretty impressive skill and not just something I assumed everyone was used to doing because of different kinds of writing assignments we had to do in school)
- Collaboration (this depends if you work with other people which nine times outta ten, you definitely are)

On that note, if you get nervous throughout the process, that’s totally fine and normal–it doesn’t mean that you’re an imposter and aren’t qualified to do it. I’m consistently nervous and overthinking things. For example, phone interviews I think can be scary. I want to say that the more phone interviews you do, the better and more comfortable you get at it–that may be true for some people–but in my experience, it’s like just about everything else in life where some days you’re more or less ready than others. My ritual is that I try to be prepared at least 30 minutes to an hour before. I read my questions over and over, and if applicable, I look back over the stuff I’m interviewing the person/people for. It’s both preparedness and also nerves because I don’t want to mess up and I hope I leave a good impression where I can build trust and integrity to not only give a good interview but relay the information honestly and authentically. That’s actually a very good quality to have because people you interview genuinely hope that you’re interested in their stuff and what they have to say.

#4 – The More You Care About Something, The Easier It Is to Write (Passion Is Key) – Mary

This goes a bit in hand with my previous post about research. There is an old saying that has been rehashed a million times over that says if you do what you love then you’ll never work a day in your life. Let me be clear that this is a very rose-colored glasses outlook but it’s still fairly true.

I love what I do with Teenplicity. I have always been a writer (despite me faking sick to get out of English class multiple times throughout elementary school). Writing brings me joy and it’s incredibly freeing. As many people have probably guessed, when I write, I ramble and I just let my thoughts flow. But it’s easy to do because I love it and it’s a part of me. That’s not to say that it’s not hard work.

A lot of hard work goes into making Teenplicity what it is. It is work that’s been cultivated and curated over the years, sometimes through trial and error. Our style and formatting have changed a few times, our scheduling, our focus, etc. as well. But a lot of thought, care, and love went into each decision and adjustment. When you love what you do and what you have, you want to give it the best that you have. I have had features where it was over two thousand words and I knew I didn’t want what I wrote to end up on the site so I scrapped it all, sometimes the day of its’ scheduled posting, and redid it because I knew I could do better.

The thing about all of the time, focus, experimenting, writing, and more that has gone into this site is that as exhausting and, at moments, frustrating as it all was, I was still happy. That’s the key. There is a lot that you will go through to complete something if you love what you do.

When it comes to writing, whether a feature, interview, or review, caring about what you are writing makes a big difference. There have been times, mostly during my school days, when I did not give a single care for my subject. I dreaded having to do the research, having to format my thoughts, and having to make sure I hit all the points. It made the project drag on and I hated every second of it. With a lot of what I’ve done here, I’ve fallen in love with my post in one way or another. Whether it’s because the subject was really sweet, I’m a huge fan of the show, or I’m just excited to share with fans what that person said, it motivates me to keep going and get it done. I try to learn as much as I can, in whatever ways I can, beforehand so I can fall in love with it as much as fans and creators do.

Doing what you love isn’t always the easy road to travel. This doesn’t just apply to writing either. There are times when what you love to do isn’t financially stable or jobs aren’t readily available. But don’t let that passion dwindle.

The key here is passion. Bring passion forth in whatever you do. That doesn’t mean that it won’t feel like work or that things will come easily to you. What it does mean is that you’ll enjoy the process and/or the outcome so much more and that you’ll be that much more pushed to persevere through those difficult moments to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.

#5 – Consistency and Scheduling are Subjective to You – Brie
One of the things you may notice regarding Teenplicity is that some months we have more posts than others. A fun fact is that in the very, very beginning, this site was originally going to be like a (free) monthly online magazine. As opposed to the way it is now, Teenplicity was going to be like NKD Magazine or others where you could pretty much read an actual magazine online. Clearly, that’s not what ended up happening. I don’t remember all the exact reasons, but I think one was as a precaution in case we didn’t get as many interviews/article ideas one month as another. When running an online magazine in the form of a blog, it’s less daunting to manage in that way because the way you decide deadlines can be a little more fluid. If you were to look at Teenplicity strictly through how many posts a month we do, we could be considered inconsistent. But, in terms of the level of integrity in the content we produce, I believe we’re very consistent. Which goes to the lesson that consistency and scheduling are subjective to you. Our goal is quality over quantity because that fits best with our mission statement. And quality can take time.

To figure out our posting schedule for the month, we use a joint Google Calendar (this isn’t sponsored for the record). It took us a minute to realize how helpful this would be though. Originally, we would just text each other to check in on when we were planning for something to go up. My usual go-to’s for scheduling is that I try not to have posts go back to back unless timing requires that they be and that the earlier you can schedule something, the more helpful it’ll be in the long run so it’s easier to see what your month looks like. My other go-to is that because life is unpredictable and I always want the feature to be as good as possible, schedules can sometimes be a guideline instead of set in stone. It’s okay to push something back, ideally just let whoever needs to know aware that it’s happening and give them a new expected date.

That said, if you’re trying to figure out how to schedule things or what to put your focus on if you’re working on multiple interviews, I recommend looking at them as a list and then asking yourself to number them in priority. Which ones are the most time-sensitive? Prioritize those first. Which ones out of those seem like the quickest that could be written/that calls to you to write first? Maybe put those at the top of the list. Also, even though I’m not the best at this, but when you’re technically your own boss (and you’re not making money off of the work), you have the right to set your own hours and what days you’ll allow yourself to work on things are. It’s a lot more important and beneficial than you think–trust me.

#6 – Don’t Be Afraid to Be Critical – Mary

Want to know when I’m really in love with a show or movie, or a huge fan of someone? I am very critical. I’m not critical to a point where I can’t enjoy it, but I acknowledge the faults and mistakes within and still find a strong love for it. I find that I tend to appreciate and enjoy things more when I am critical of it, especially television shows, because I know it can be and do better. So when it falls flat or does something that is disappointing, I get frustrated.

Sometimes, that critical thinking doesn’t always transfer over when doing features. I know that I try my best to be polite and also critical, when the subject of my feature is a person. Putting criticisms in there in a respectable manner is fine, though some people might not always appreciate it. It still offers transparency. The major thing though is using your critical thinking when receiving something from a network, company, or publicist.

I have been giving screeners, whether for my computer or for a private viewing at a theater. With these, there is no guarantee that the review of the subject is going to be positive. It really falls under the “all press is good press” kind of mentality so even if you come out bashing it, you’re still talking about it and spreading the word. Anyway, when I am placed in these situations, I always try to look at things objectively.

At first, I totally understand the fear of “Oh no, if I voice my disagreements or any negative feelings then I might not get this again!” but it goes back to the idea of what matters more – your true feelings or a couple extra clicks. People are going to respect you more if you’re true to your feelings. No one is going to believe that every piece of film you see or music you hear is five out of five stars each time.

I always try to do a pros and cons list. What do I like and what do I not like? What stands out in a positive way and what stands out in a negative way? How did this make me feel at the beginning, middle, end, and overall? These are all questions to ask yourself. Did you get excited? Did it bore you? Was there a moment that stuck with you and why?

There are some people who will look at critiques and see it only as hate. But that’s not what critiques are. You are analyzing and processing what you just experienced and voicing how that made you feel. You can’t be afraid to voice your opinion.

I’ll admit, sometimes I still get scared to do so. And that’s okay. But it is important to be critical. I tend to get a broader perspective of things as well as notice more tiny details when I’m viewing something as a critic.

If you don’t know how to view something and be critical of it, start by writing think pieces almost. Practice by, after viewing something, write down how it made you feel, things that stood out, questions you may have had. Rewatch or relisten to things, see if your feelings change as you become more used to it and write down the results. If it’s a series, maybe watch a few episodes leading up to and including this one and write down the differences of how you felt regarding each episode. It’s okay if it starts out subjective and just about a certain aspect. It’s okay if you don’t get the hang out of right away. Just keep practicing.

The best way to be critical is to be true and honest to how this piece of media or performance makes you feel.

Did you like ‘Monday Musings’? If so, you’re in luck! Each week, Teenplicity will feature a new ‘Monday Musings’ post about things we are looking forward to, topics close to our hearts, or suggestions from readers!

Do you have a suggestion for ‘Monday Musings’? You can let Teenplicity know what you’d like to see on Twitter or anonymously on Tumblr! Or you can directly contact Mary Ayers on Twitter and anonymously on Tumblr or Brie Garrett on Twitter and Tumblr

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