Bringing Offbeat Home & Life's voice to Dwell, and overcoming my own impostor syndrome


arielmstallings

Dwell Magazine Ariel Meadow Stallings

In March, I got an email from a Columbia classmate who works at Dwell. "I have a Seattle house that will be featured in the July / August Smart Tech issue. Are you interested in writing it? It would have to be a reaaallly quick turnaround though — as in, two weeks from now."

I immediately said yes, and then was like "Wait, oh my god: what have I done?"

Despite the fact that I have been the publisher of a home decor website for five years, home decor is not my native language. Furthermore, this wasn't an article about home decor — this was an article about Design-with-a-capital-D. I'd need to interview the architect who built the house, and the founder of the startup that produces the technology. Me? Do interviews? But I'm a… blogger!

"This isn't written in the first person, right?" I confirmed with the editor, who laughed at me and was like, no dumb-ass: Dwell Magazine doesn't do first-person bullshit like your silly blog. (She didn't say that, but you know.)

I also had to research Passive Home certification, which gets pretty nerdy. I had to learn about heat pumps and argon-gas filled windows. A fact checker would be calling my sources to confirm every detail I included in the article. Summary: I'd need to dust off my freelance journalist cap and actually, like, do some real writing for a change. For someone else. In another publication's voice. (No swearing? WTF!)

I spent more time than I'd like to admit freaking out a bit. Impostor syndrome! What if my article sucks? What if my "real" writing has atrophied to the point that it's unprintable? Wait, when was the last time I wrote for a magazine? (Answer: ReadyMade, a magazine that stopped publishing five years ago!) What if the voice isn't right for the publication? Alternately, what if I pasteurize my writing so much for a mainstream publication that my writing is unrecognizable?

I dealt with all these anxieties in the way I usually do, which is violently overcompensating for my insecurities by working myself to the bone. The article was only 800 words long for fuck's sake, but I did four hours of interviewing, transcribed the interviews for days, chewed over my drafts over and over again, and submitted it all three days ahead of schedule.

"At least if it sucks, I'll know that I got it done early," I whined to myself.

Well, apparently it didn't suck because not only did it get published, but I even made the contributor's page… and they left in the first sentence, which is a wakka-wakka Seattle cultural joke.

Moral of the story? If you want to see what the publisher behind Offbeat Home & Life sounds like when she's doing Real Writing For A Respectable Home Design Publication, read the article on Dwell: The New Home On the Block That Uses 90 Percent Less Energy

ariel stallings in dwell magazine
It should be noted that my first answer about living in a smart home included my story about Alexa playing me vagina music, but that was edited out. HA!

 

  1. Congratulations! This was funny to read because the way you agonized over your article is the same way I agonize over anything I've ever submitted to OBB or OBH with the glaringly awesome exception that I'm able to swear!

  2. I love this! I am agonizing over a website launch and Impostor Syndrome is stalking me! Also, I loved your writing in Ready Made! I was so sad to see that mag go by the wayside. Happy to have found your fount of info here.

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