Black, how long does your research process and the drafts and all that go into your columns?

– Jay J.

Since my column is weekly, I don’t have a lot of time to just sit back and admire my work like my readers do. This isn’t to say that I don’t but it can be difficult to remove myself from writer-mode just to simply read my work without worrying if it is grammatically correct, with sound logic or simply doesn’t come off as crazy talk. I’ve only just been able to read Black Witch on its mobile site (on my phone) just to seperate myself from writer-mode. Plus, once a post is up, the first thing I think is, “Okay, what’s next week’s going to be?” It’s an endless process kinda and I’m glad I have kept up with it thus far.

I actually have a bank of unpublished and roughly written columns that I made back in the summer when I was waiting for AfroPunk to put my column up. I figure if I had a selection to choose from, I would be less stressed in the long run (and it works!) and it’s always good to have a bit of a backlog when life wants to go upside down for a bit so that no matter what happens, I’ll always have a fairly decent post up every week. I still add to the bank because my mind never really sleeps, I always think of new ideas that I haven’t touched on and would like to write about in the future. I may have up to three or four new columns being written in a single week because I had a mental slew of material but there are weeks in between I barely touch the computer, save for the column I’m writing for that very week. In other words, you may see a column that’s looks fresh but has been in my computer since July or it was penned and completed on Monday, it depends on how I feel (or what the reader response is) but  hopefully the reader will never know the difference. It ebbs and flows but I thankfully haven’t really been stuck yet. I’m a chatty person so it isn’t too tough for me to think of something to write about. If I felt I was drying up, I would simply ask about and have conversations to see where that gets me.

I have an app on my phone (yay, android!) called Documents To Go that I use to write columns when an idea strikes me and I’m away from my laptop. It helps me jot down ideas – be forewarned, as of this writing, their capitalization feature sucks rocks They’ve fixed it! Pretty perfect now! – and the starts of future columns so I won’t forget. All I have to do when I get home is upload them to my computer to polish and complete, it really is useful. If I can’t use my phone (because apparently it looks like I’m doing some heavy duty texting) I just jot down the column piece in a journal I always have around. I’m a writer so I’m used to toting about writing instruments. If somehow I’m without my journal or a pen or with limited use of my phone, I will put a simple note on my phone titled “BW idea:” so I won’t forget.

When I write a piece that needs research such as “Okay, Mr. Illuminati”, I actually plan pieces like that out weeks in advance because I have the opportunity to. Countless times I have pushed back or pushed around pieces because there simply isn’t enough Fridays in a month to cover them all. I thought up “Okay, Mr. Illuminati” roughly around when the column began but didn’t type anything until October when the mood to continue that piece had hit me again and I had the resource (Watkin’s Dictionary of Magic) to make the proper definitions. Otherwise, it’s all from my own experiences and knowledge. I don’t have to worry much about research because I’ve been practicing Paganism and Witchcraft for almost ten years, I’ve wracked up enough books and knowledge so far to buoy this column for the longterm. So I could write a piece that needed research with less than a week’s time and it wouldn’t bother me any, I have all the resources needed so far.

I’m very tidy when it comes to writing columns and storing them away, I have a folder for each thing on my computer from the bank of potential columns to the folder of published columns (so I don’t post the same thing twice) to a separate folder for The Arts! and Ask Black Witch and more, all inside a Black Witch folder. This is so I don’t confuse myself and keep everything where it’s supposed to be. Otherwise I would be super frustrated because when it comes to electronics, I prefer simplicity. I also have a sticky note gadget on my laptop that tells me what columns are being posted for the next few weeks so I don’t forget what I’m doing and lose direction or have an installment post sneak up on me. Whenever a new column is posted, I move the Word file to the “published” folder and erase the title from the sticky note.

As for drafts, I write out all my columns in Microsoft Word and look them over a few times before posting them up to WordPress and then to AfroPunk. That way I can avoid most careless errors and misspellings instead of my readers seeing what may look like a result of smearing my hand across a keyboard. I try to have my columns completed and uploaded to WordPress by Wednesday so I can have ample time to catch any further mistakes, do coding and corrections in addition to actually seeing how the column will look on the website before it goes live. Because I’m a terrible perfectionist, I may look over a piece at least ten different times to make sure there aren’t any major errors and it reads okay.

When it comes to coding, I don’t see what the rest of the world will when Friday midnight strikes. I have a lot of brackets in my pieces as place markers to remind me where links and videos are supposed to go. Here’s a snippet of “’Tis the Holidays!” before it goes to WordPress:

“Yule marks the first day of Winter, the Winter Solstice. Following an astronomical calendar, the holiday falls on either December 20th, 21st or 22nd. It’s the last festival and harvest before the harsh winter and a call for the sun to return. Yule is often referred to as Saturnalia when actually the festivals are very different. The quickest distinction between the two solstice holidays is that Yule [link] is Germanic and Saturnalia [link] is Roman. I have seen The Boondocks history of Christmas [link] and the clip says that it stems from Saturnalia but actually it has stemmed moreso from Yule. (Yule logs and evergreen trees anyone?)”

See all those [links]? That’s my place marker to let me know that a link is supposed to go there when the column goes to WordPress and AfroPunk. Anything I put in brackets are directionals for me so I know what I’m supposed to do when the column leaves Word. When I’m done working on that piece and feel satisfied for it to be scheduled, I work on the next column. For example, right now as I speak, The Arts! for November is about to go live in two hours and I’m currently answering an Ask Black Witch question as well as writing all the columns for December (installments included) and the first week of January.

The Arts! take up the most time because I have to contact people and get them all together and let them know they’re being featured, if at all possible. I have to think of who is being featured almost two months in advance. I actually have planned The Arts! as far as five months in advance with some wiggle room in case I discover someone I want to feature right that very month (such as Human Machine this month, I found that out the very week of The Arts!). I even have a list written down in my room hanging on a wall so I can keep up and figure out what’s going on. There’s people on the list who I have been meaning to feature for months and those who I just happened upon and want to feature immediately, it’s a jumble that I only iron out solidly when the month in question is upon me.

Ask Black Witch takes up the least time because it’s just me answering questions, not too much work needed. In addition, ABW lets me know what readers may want to know or don’t already know. I’m a bit embedded in the Pagan world so I don’t always know or remember that not everyone knows what a esbat is or that Harry Potter is simply a well-written work of fiction, not a training manual. ABW is around for the reader to have a chance to speak and be heard. I have so many different methods of contact (email, twitter, submission form, comment, FB fanpage) because I don’t want anyone to say, “Oh, Black Witch ignored me” or “I wanted to ask a question but I didn’t know how to get in touch with her.” Can’t say that now, ha ha! They all come to the same place, my inbox, so my readers can always reach me without issue.

Since this is the very first year of Black Witch (this column is almost seven months old), there’s a lot of non-column writing work that goes into this as well. I have to keep up with the Twitter, learn Facebook and how to manage a Fan page, set up a formstack for Ask Black Witch, have pictures taken, get business cards, keep in touch with the maintainers of AfroPunk, continually trim the Black Witch inbox, figure out WordPress and promote, promote, promote.

In other words, Black Witch is kinda like a full time job. But I least I love it so it never feels like work. The trick to doing a good job is to like the job, I guess. Works so far for me.

That’s all the Ask Black Witch for this month! Remember, if you have a question you want to ask me, fill out the Black Witch submission form on the right, email me (with “Ask Black Witch” in the subject line), tweet me on Twitter, comment below or even comment at the BW fan page on Facebook!