Workflow with Stephanie Eslake, Editor at CutCommon

In this edition of Workflow, we have Stephanie Eslake, Editor of Australian classical music magazine CutCommon, talking about managing her work and lifestyle as a freelancer.

Workflow is an interview series by Balance the Grind to get a glimpse into people’s working styles and workspaces. If you’re interested in sharing your workflow, submit it here!

Describe what you do: The short answer is that I write about the arts. The long answer is that I studied music, media, and sociology – and bundled all my passions together to pursue a career as an arts journalist.

I worked in the newsroom for a while, which taught me a great deal about the media industry. But I prefer the freelance life, and I now work as a writer and editor on my own or commissioned projects.

One such project is CutCommon, which I launched in 2014. It’s an Australian classical music magazine targeting a niche audience of arts practitioners and music lovers aged 18-35.

In fact, I was generously nominated to take part in this interview by one of our leading writers, Wendy Zhang. This gives me a good opportunity to tell you that in a freelance career, you get to meet some seriously impressive people – and occasionally, those people can become friends who you love to work with in the long term!

How do you like your coffee: Often, and with lots of milk. Each morning, I brew a pot of coffee that’ll provide enough for about four cups of pure enjoyment throughout the day. Also, no sugar. (That’s where the accompanying chocolate comes in…)

Device(s) you use: I was using an HP all-in-one, but it couldn’t keep up with all the functions (and Chrome tabs) I needed each day. So my partner, who works in IT, was kind enough to custom-build me a computer. I don’t know what goes on inside it, but it’s complex and impressive. Much like my partner, actually.

If I’m conducting spoken interviews, I’ll usually use two smartphones – one on speakerphone, the other for recording the audio. Or if the sound quality is important, I’ll swap out the smartphone for a Zoom mic.

When I’m out reviewing live music events, I’ll take a small notepad with me. Some people can remember everything they need to and then regurgitate it all into a Word document when they get home. But I don’t like using my brain for storage when it can instead be used for live observation and analysis.

So, I’ll write down what I need to remember, then forget it immediately so I can get back to active listening. (To be perfectly honest with you, this is an elaborate way to justify my horrendous memory: I really couldn’t survive without a notepad as my primary device.)

Describe your working style in one sentence: I’ll work only when I’m feeling most productive – and will step away from the desk if I’ve been staring at the screen without having produced work to a sustainable speed or standard that satisfies me.

What does your workspace look like: Outrageously messy. Papers from various notepads are sprawled everywhere, and on many of them will be displayed a ring of coffee. Who needs coasters when you have random documents?

I recently positioned my desk against the window in my home office, so I can glance out at Hobart’s River Derwent as a gentle distraction from all the stuff in front of me.

How does your workspace affect your creative process: The only time the messy desk bothers me is when I’m hunting for a particular note under the pile, which will be difficult to find. But in general, I prefer to spend my time working rather than tidying my workspace.

The clutter is peripheral and doesn’t stop me from doing what I need to do. Also, I don’t like blank walls, so I tend to put pictures up all over the place! I like to have the visual stimulation around me.

Do you have a favourite playlist for work: In the mornings, I won’t listen to any music at all: I prefer the silence so I can focus on my tasks. But after lunch, if I’m starting to feel tired, I will play cheerful music on Spotify to help maintain an energetic mood.

Although I spend my days writing about classical music, I don’t like listening to it while I work – because then, these beautiful pieces also become work instead of pleasure. So at the moment, I’m listening to an outstanding playlist of 1980s Japanese city pop.

Who would you like to nominate for the next workflow interview: Jacquie Liversidge, The Resume Writers.

Before you go…

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.