Today’s interview is with with Margarita Tartakovsky, an associate editor of PsychCentral, as well as the creator, author, and curator of PsychCentral’s body image blog “Weightless.” Weightless is a blog right after my own heart, covering concepts ranging from weight, to dieting, disordered eating, the culture of thinness, eating disorders, and emotional eating. From topics like “5 Things Not To Say to Someone With an Eating Disorder” to weekly Body Image Boosters, anyone that has struggled with food or their body will undoubtedly find comfort and wisdom in Margarita’s writing.
There were a few reasons I wanted to talk to Margarita here on Blogging Fearlessly. First of all, I’ve been following her for a long time and absolutely love her content. She produces a TON of it, so as a writer I’m fascinated by her productivity and how prolific she is. More than anything, though, Margarita has taken my two main interests in life (psychology and writing) and turned them into a real, adult career – one, I might add, that allows her to be creative, dictate her own schedule, and work from home.
Our Skype interview turned into a 2 hour talk, which felt exactly like talking to an old girlfriend. Let me just say this: you guys will love her. So, I’ve decided to break this interview down into 3 parts. This is the first of the 2 that I will post here on Blogging Fearlessly, sharing what we talked about related to blogging, writing, turning your passions into a career, and making money online. The third part I will post on MsMorphosis, since we also talked a lot about body image, eating, and weight stuff (which is right up the MsMorphosisian alley). To stay up to date on all of the interviews and articles on both MsMorphosis and Blogging Fearlessly, check out the Facebook Page, which is where I put a link to every new article.
Blogging Fearlessly with Margarita Tartakovsky
J: Thank you so much for talking with me, Margarita! It’s an absolute honor to talk with you and spend this time together.
Basically, the interview series on Blogging Fearlessly is about illustrating new, creative ways that we can make make fabulous lives for ourselves. Although we might be in a time where the economy is making it harder to find what we traditionally see as great jobs and opportunities, today we can begin to overcome those setbacks using the tools available, for the first time in history, on the internet.
So let’s start there. You have your own personal blog and you work as a writer and associate editor for Psych Central. How did you get involved with this? Why did you decide to take your psychology degree and put those credentials towards writing online?
M: Yes! I graduated with my bachelors in psychology and thought that I wanted to be a psychologist or a professor, so I went to grad school for a Ph.D in clinical psychology. Eventually, though, I realized that wasn’t for me and graduated with my masters.
Then, when I got home, I had no idea what I was going to do with myself! I had always loved writing and imagined it’d be part of my profession somehow. But then, I slowly realized that nobody really cared about my masters, or thought it was as impressive as I did (laughs).
So I started realizing that I was going to have to take a less than traditional approach, and that’s when I began looking into freelance writing. At first I remember thinking to myself “wow, I’m really limited here.” But the thing is, thanks to the Internet, you’re really not.
Right now I’m an associate editor for Psych Central, which is really a fancy way of saying I write alot of articles and blog posts. I also write “Weightless” which is my body image blog on Psych Central.
In addition, I have my personal blog, which I love writing. It’s where I’ve carved out my little space, my own home, on the Internet. It’s just sort of my quirky “me” outlet. I don’t post as regularly as I’d like to, but it means a lot to me.
J: So how did you get to where you are now? Did you start with a personal blog or did you just apply to Psych Central?
M: When I started looking into freelance writing, I checked out websites like Craigslist and Mediabistro. I also did my own research, and came across Psych Central, which has been around since 1995.
I loved the site, so I emailed my resume and my very official/professional-looking cover letter (which, looking back was entirely inappropriate! I was coming from my professional psychology/journal-writing background). I started by writing one article, and it just went from there, and that was about three years ago now. (By the way, that first article needed tons of editing, but thankfully both the managing editor, Candy, and my boss, John, were super supportive, understanding and patient with me.)
Over time, I kept asking for more responsibilities and eventually came up with “Weightless.” I’d always been interested in body image and disordered eating, and many of my posts for our main blog, World of Psychology, already focused on that, so it seemed like a natural next step.
J: Speaking of all of these articles, I have to ask – how are you so prolific? You write a ton of consistently great material. I’m curious how you are able to pull that off!
M: Well, it helps that I have a little bit of a push. I have to write four times a week for Weightless, it’s part of my contract, and I have to write 20 pieces for Psych Central. That helps! But I have to tell you there are many days when I’m behind, and unproductive, and can’t come up with any ideas. I think what helps me is definitely reading – if I have zero ideas then that’s an indication that I’m not reading enough.
Honestly, sometimes, I don’t know how it all gets done. Some things get put on the backburner – like my personal blog, or personal reading. But I really try and stick to a routine – work out in the mornings and keep a regular workday.
I also read a lot of inspiring blogs and subscribe to many psychology and science magazines. Plus, there are always interesting books coming out. So in that way I’m rarely out of ideas. I’m also very fortunate because my boss is incredibly flexible. I get to write what I’m most passionate and curious about. When you let curiosity drive your work, it’s that much easier to get things done.
While I try to maintain a routine, I still end up working right through the day, and I’ll find myself up and working at 10 pm. It’s funny because just last night I was emailing experts at around 10 p.m., and they got right back to me! It made me feel better knowing that everyone was up working, too!
J: That actually brings up another great part about the Internet and opportunities: the ability to network and connect with industry experts. I think a lot of people go to college and study something they’re really passionate about and love learning/being surrounded by. Then, suddenly, you graduate and find yourself pushing papers somewhere, living on minimum wage. So you start asking yourself “how do I break into that industry without being in grad school or having any amazing connections?” And that, I think, is one of the greatest things the Internet has to offer – you can email people, and they will email you back!
M: I think that’s one of the greatest things that’s happening today. Today so many experts, and authors, and bloggers are just so accessible! There are some bloggers I’ll email and I can’t believe they get back to me. It’s amazing that you can interview almost anybody. I would say the majority of people are happy to talk to you and are very generous with their time. It’s just unbelievable how the Internet is able to connect you with people all over the world.
J: I love how that environment really fosters what I believe is an abundance mentality- for instance, by us doing this interview it helps my readers because they get to discover you, and it helps me because your promoting it will hopefully help me find some new interested readers. It’s a world where cooperation is more valued than competition, and we can all leverage our successes to help one another rather than take away from one another.
M: Absolutely! I try my best to get good information out there, and that’s what I love about collaborating with others – you’re brainstorming together, there are more ideas floating around, and you’re also delivering reputable information. That’s one of the things I love about writing “Weightless” – It has exposed me to this amazing, inspiring and positive community, which has taught me that there are alternatives to dieting and hating my body. I’m constantly learning so much.
J: Also, I feel like in any area it’s easy with popular media, or even with textbooks, to just study the extremes. As a psychology student, you’re always studying the extremes of personalities and behaviors that gradually become maladaptive. When you look at magazines it’s the extremes of thinness or beauty ideals. Even in our personal life it’s easy to gloss over the day-to-day insecurities we feel. Often I think catching up with friends, or how we present ourselves on Facebook, becomes more of a highlights reel than an authentic bonding opportunity.
But then, the Internet and blogging give this beautiful middle ground to the whole spectrum of what’s inside of people. I really have been able to find role models through the blogging world in unexpected places. Even talking to you – you’re so together, and I would never expect you to struggle with the same fears and insecurities as I do. I’m pretty sure if we had met in a super formal psychology setting we wouldn’t have ever gotten to talking about those real feelings and experiences that we both share and how we each cope with them.
M: Absolutely. Not only are you exposed to so many different perspectives, but you get a peek into other people’s thoughts and vulnerabilities. And that’s so refreshing. I’ve always felt the pressure to be very polished, professional and put-together, especially in grad school. And this sort of spilled over into my writing. With some of my articles and even when I first started writing Weightless, I tried to maintain a professional neutrality, and be more formal and even less myself.
But I’ve let myself shine through a lot more. For me, it’s been awesome meeting other people and learning about their struggles and experiences and being honest about my own. So often I get those same feelings of shock and surprise, knowing that these super put-together people know what I’m going through, that they feel the same way, even though at first glance I’d never expect it. It’s an incredible feeling to know that you’re not alone.
Want to Find Margarita Online?
Visit her at PsychCentral
… or on her body image blog, Weightless
… or on her personal blog, margaritatartakovsky.com
… you can also e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org