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The woman who makes it all look easy: Meet Hana Schank


Hana Schank

Hana SchankEvery once in a while, we come across writing that touches your core; and says things that you have always wanted to say. And it says things that you wouldn’t have said because the words just don’t do justice to the depth of your feeling. So you just let it go.

But then, you come across something written so full of depth, meaning and yet so simply that you think- whoa! That’s exactly what I would have said!!!

Meet Hana Schank, a writer who makes writing look, well- Easy! and Simple! and Beautiful!

She writes regularly for The Atlantic, The New York Time, The Washington Post, Yahoo! Parents, BBC Travel, Fast Company, GOOD, Smithsonian and many many more. Her recent article on Salon, “My Gen X Hillary Problem: I Know Why We Don’t “Like: Clinton” achieved viral status, because she touched such a raw nerve in many many women across the world.

Her Kindle Single,” The Edge Of Normal“, a memoir on her rasing a child with albinism, was selected for Amazon’s Best Kindle Singles of the Year, and has been featured in the SundayTimes Magazine (UK), Longreads, and OZY.

Her other book,”A More Perfect Union: How I Survived the Happiest Day of My Life ” – a wedding planning memoir was a Discover Great New Writers selection.

If you thought that’s all there is to us,  catch your breath- she also runs a full-fledged User Design Company called CollectiveUX.com. Oh, and she also parents 2 kids!

[su_note note_color=”#b64e14″ text_color=”#ffffff”]<img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-6526″ src=”https://www.kidskintha.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/137-hacks-book-cover-e1461033170426.png” alt=”137-hacks-book-cover” width=”64″ height=”83″ /> <strong>PUNCH POWER HOURS INTO YOUR DAY! </strong>BONUS: Download a copy of the FREE eBook “137 Proven Productivity Hacks for Millennial Parents “to your computer for your daily dose of inspiration or a handy reference to the best practices recommended by experts.<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”> <span style=”color: #ffffff; text-decoration: underline;”><a class=”manual-optin-trigger” style=”color: #ffffff; text-decoration: underline;” href=”#” data-optin-slug=”hdf2fu2mu1zkbcyt”><strong>GET IT HERE</strong></a></span></span>[/su_note]

I was awed by her writing and her accomplishments and decided to approach her for an interview for our Momspirations series. I have to add here that she was one of the most approachable people I have ever met!

Here are the some of the highlights of our interview!

Hello, Hana! We are thrilled to have you on Kidskintha. I have to tell you that your articles have that rare ring of honesty. I am a huge fan of your writing. Congratulations on your recent viral article on Hillary Clinton.

Thank you! I’ve had articles go viral before, but nothing quite like that so it was an interesting experience. It also showed me how universal my experience with oblique sexism is, which is sad but it’s also comforting to know that I’m not alone.

Tell us a little about the User Experience Design Company that you run?

User experience design is the human side of website and application design. We’re the people who think about what people really want or need from a website, which means we try to get inside users’ heads. So when you use a site and think, wow, that site almost knew what I wanted before I knew what I wanted, that’s usually the work of a user experience designer. My company is totally virtual – I have a team of about 15 user experience designers, content strategists and visual designers, and I pull together the right team for each project.

You write for sites like The Atlantic and The New York Times. How would you describe your journey into becoming a writer on some of the biggest publications in the world.

I think I went about becoming a writer a little backwards. I’d been working as a user experience designer when the dot-com bust happened in 2000. There weren’t any jobs, so I thought it would be a good time to go to graduate school. I’d always thought some day I’d get an MFA in writing, so I figured, there isn’t any work, this must be the time. While in the program I spent 2 years working on a book and I sold it shortly after graduation. Because I had an agent I was then able to get in touch with the newly-appointed editor of the Modern Love column in the New York Times. They’d just started the column and I thought, I’d better try to get something in there now while no one knows about it, because it will be harder to get in once the whole world starts submitting. I read the column religiously for a few months so I understood what they were looking for, and then began submitting essays to them. They took the second one I submitted. Having that credit and the book then helped open doors for other publications. So even though you’re supposed to start working your way up from small publications to larger ones and then a book, I did it the other way around.

You run a business and you write such eye-opening articles for some of the biggest publications in the world. And you have written 2 books. Your book “The Edge of Normal”, an essay about your own personal journey with your child with Albinism; has been selected for Amazon’s Best Kindle Singles of the Year, featured in the SundayTimes Magazine (UK), Longreads, and OZY.

Wait a minute, you are also a parent! Please tell us how you do it all? How do you divide your time to be so productive?

Hana Schank Family

Honestly, I’m not sure, and sometimes it’s exhausting, but all three things involve stuff I love doing (writing, digital design and hanging out with my kiddos). I try not to do everything in one day. When my UX work picks up I’ll stop writing for a while, and when it slows down I do more writing and scale back on childcare so I can pick my kids up after school and spend time with them. Part of the wonderful thing about running your own company is that it’s actually very conducive to a flexible schedule. If I have a big project and also get a big writing assignment at the same time, I can bring someone on to help me with the project. If I know I have a lot of writing assignments ahead of me I can scale back on my UX work. And sometimes it all happens at the same time and I’m a crazy person. I also write all over the place. I wrote my second book on airplanes and in hotel rooms on business trips. I’ve written articles during ice skating lessons and at chess tournaments. So, sometimes it’s not easy to keep everything neatly compartmentalized. Oh, and also, I work from home! Which gives me so many more hours in the day. If I had to commute on top of everything there’s no way I could make it all work.

Also Read: Timeless Parenting in the 21st Century!

In one of your articles, you mention that you are an extremely shy person. But, your article on The Big Roundtable tells us how you took on everybody(strangers included), to fight for your daughter’s inclusion into the Gifted program.How did you find the courage to fight your own inhibitions?

I think that when it comes to one’s children, everything else gets shunted aside, even shyness and a general dislike of talking to strangers. Also anger and feeling wronged are a great motivators. I felt so strongly that my daughter was being treated unfairly and underestimated that any inhibitions I had fell away and I essentially became a different person. It was great training, because I now have that take-no-prisoners persona to fall back on whenever I need to advocate for her, which happens frequently.

What are your best timesaving /productivity hacks? What apps do you use to organize your day?

For someone, who works in digital I rely on pretty low-fi stuff to keep organized. I use my email inbox to figure out what I need to focus on each day. I keep it pretty pared down and file absolutely everything, so the first part of my day is usually going through my inbox as a reminder for what I need to take care of. I also use the app Clear to help keep track of my entire life. I have a list where I jot down story ideas, a list where I track my business projects, and a list for all kid and life related stuff. Someone once told me that when you’ve got something on your list and it hangs around for a really long time it’s a good indicator that you need help getting that thing done. So I try to pay attention to anything that’s been on the list for like, six months (which is usually something like, “Order new pictures of the kids”) and then figure out a way to ask for help with it.

What does your typical workday look like? What is your writing schedule?

When I wake up I usually have a good idea of the main thing I want to accomplish that day, whether it’s getting a chunk of writing done or client stuff, so I spend the morning working on that because that’s when I’m most able to focus. Then, depending on the day and how much time I have and what my childcare situation is, I’ll go for a run or do yoga at some point. I tend to be extremely productive in the morning, and then I’ve kind of exhausted myself by around 1PM so I usually need some kind of a break by then. And then around 3 my energy returns and I usually have another burst of productivity in the late afternoon. Except that sometimes that coincides with meeting the school bus. So some days I spend the afternoon doing something fun with my kids, and some days I go back to work while they occupy themselves. Thankfully they’re pretty self-entertained. And then, sometimes I’ll do a third shift of work after they go to bed – something lightweight like billing clients or administrative stuff.

I don’t have a strict writing schedule at the moment. People always tell you to write everyday, but frankly I find that overwhelming, and then if you miss a day you feel like, oh, I suck, I should just quit. But for me, nothing motivates me to write like a deadline, and deadlines occur when you pitch articles. So I usually try to have a few things that I know I need to write or editors will be angry.

What are your favorite writing apps? How do you approach a new article/idea/book?

When I have a lot of articles going at the same time I use Streak to track where all of my writing projects are. And whenever a great first sentence comes to me I throw it into Clear. I’m all about first sentences. I can’t start writing until I know exactly what the first sentence will be.

What personal writing habit do you have that you recommend for other writers?

Two things. First, I keep a sticky note next to my desk that says, “This is what being a writer looks like.” I found it really helpful to use it as a reminder that even if I was spending my day doing a lot of non-writing activities, that in today’s world writers aren’t living in garrets funded by benefactors. Part of being a writer often means making a living doing something else. I’m lucky that I get to do something else I also love, but on days where I don’t love that part so much, it helps to have the visual reminder that even if I’m not writing, I still get to call myself a writer.

The second is silencing the voices in your head that tell you your writing sucks and your topic is stupid and no one cares. I just tell myself, “Just get it down and you can fix it later.” I probably repeat that to myself about fifteen times over the course of a page.

Oh! And also, I never read the comments. Otherwise I’d never write anything ever again. I learned that the hard way.

That’s really awesome advice all of us could use. What is the one thing you never miss in your day?

The UPS guy. Really, he’s the bane of my existence. He always rings the bell right when I’m in the middle of some really complex thought.

What’s the best advice you have received?

To say yes to everything and figure out how to do it later. Occasionally this doesn’t work out so great, but for the most part it leads to really interesting experiences.

One of your recent articles on Hillary Clinton went viral. Congratulations on that one. It really spoke to me on the hidden biases against women. If you had the power to change just one thing for women today, what would it be?

I don’t think I can pick one thing. I’m currently working on a project where I’m interviewing 40 women I graduated from college with, and that project has shown me that the challenges women face are really varied and nuanced. I wish the work world was structured in a way that acknowledges motherhood and doesn’t force women to often choose between being a present parent and a hard-driving worker. I wish schools were structured in a way that acknowledges that sometimes both parents work, and that our days often don’t end at 3PM. I wish that there were more women with me in my meetings. I wish I could work for more women in senior positions. I think that the more we get used to seeing women in powerful positions, be it as the CEO or in Congress, the easier it will be for other women to follow suit.

As somebody who has walked the path, what’s your advice to other writers about getting on the big publications?

I think a lot of people are afraid to pitch the big publications, but they’re certainly not going to accept your work if you don’t submit to them. So my advice is to submit. And also to only pitch places you read and love. If you don’t like the stuff they’re running, they’re probably not going to like the stuff you’re writing.

A few words on what you like about Kidskintha the most.

The Momspirations section! I love seeing all the different inspiring things mothers can do.

Thank you, Hana! It was lovely talking to you!

[su_note note_color=”#b64e14″ text_color=”#ffffff”]<img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-6526″ src=”https://www.kidskintha.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/137-hacks-book-cover-e1461033170426.png” alt=”137-hacks-book-cover” width=”64″ height=”83″ /> <strong>PUNCH POWER HOURS INTO YOUR DAY! </strong>BONUS: Download a copy of the FREE eBook “137 Proven Productivity Hacks for Millennial Parents “to your computer for your daily dose of inspiration or a handy reference to the best practices recommended by experts.<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”> <span style=”color: #ffffff; text-decoration: underline;”><a class=”manual-optin-trigger” style=”color: #ffffff; text-decoration: underline;” href=”#” data-optin-slug=”hdf2fu2mu1zkbcyt”><strong>GET IT HERE</strong></a></span></span>[/su_note]

 

About the Author:

Devishobha Chandramouli is the founder of Kidskintha- a site dedicated to helping millennial parents raise happy kids. She believes that growing up well and happy is a function of growing up with well-informed adults. This site aims to deliver research-grounded and bite-sized pieces of information on two important facets of a child’s life- parenting and education. You can find her voice on the Huffington Post, Addicted2Success, TinyBuddha, Citizen Matters , Nectar and Lies About Parenting.

Devishobha is the founder of Kidskintha- an online parenting resource repository dedicated to jumpstarting conversations around millennial parenting, encouraging parents to bring their attention to words, thoughts and actions that will enable them to raise a well-rounded, empathic and motivated generation. You can also find her on the Huffington Post, Parent.co, Entrepreneur, Lifehack, TinyBuddha and many other publications.

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