7 For Seven: 7 Questions For ... Kirsten Spruch
"A week of unproductivity is nothing in the grand scheme of life. Relax, enjoy it, and realize that every thought and experience is adding up to your next thing."
Every second and fourth Friday of the month, Brady Gerber’s “7 For Seven” interviews writers talking about writing. This week’s guest is Kirsten Spruch. Kirsten is a New Jersey-raised, New York-based freelance writer who contributes to Billboard when she’s not exploring topics like music, lifestyle, and culture on her own blog. She also writes and produces her own music under the alias Kirsten Izer. And Kirsten wants you to check out … her newly launched blog, and her latest song, “Hunt Road.” Read this interview on your browser.
Tell us: What (all) do you do? Bonus points if you show us how you got to where you are today.
While I do a lot of different things, I consider myself a freelance writer and musician. It’s been a long journey that most people would deem untraditional. In 2014, I made the terrifying decision to not go to college. I was already enrolled and went to orientation but I knew I wanted to work in music since I was about 10. The idea of taking child development classes and being in forever-debt, all for a songwriting degree, just didn’t add up.
My parents were supportive of the decision, so I went ahead and got an internship at a music PR firm instead. That internship blossomed into my first full-time job -- I was a full-fledged music publicist who was commuting from New Jersey to NYC every day. After doing that for a year, I decided I wanted to be on the opposite side of the conversation, so I left to do another internship at a media site called Baeble Music. That internship once again turned into a job, where I managed the site’s social media for about a year until I eventually became their managing editor.
That was really fun but unfortunately, they folded (classic music industry!), so that’s when I involuntarily became a freelancer. I was desperate and took on literally any project that would swing my way -- helped with brands’ social media, hosted events, wrote scripts for makeup ads, wrote for other sites, etc.
Then there was an opportunity to apply for a writing internship at Billboard. You’d think I’d feel above internships at this point, but I didn’t care -- I swallowed my pride and it ended up being the best decision I’d ever made. I went to the office and wrote tons of stuff five days a week, and still freelance for them, along with a few other sites.
Regarding my music, I’ve been singing and playing guitar since I was 10. It feels like something that was built into me. I never made the actual decision to be a musician, I just started doing it at a young age and never stopped. I attended a special program for the arts in high school where I studied music and technology. I’d been in countless bands in addition to my solo stuff. I love playing shows and producing and it’s just something that has been naturally happening for ages.
Walk us through a typical day.
In quarantine, I wake up around 7 or 8 a.m., make coffee, meditate for 10 minutes, journal for 3-5 pages, and then do some sort of movement whether that’s a walk, run, or a virtual workout (I’ve specifically been enjoying these workouts). Then I shower, eat brunch, and start work. Since I’m a freelancer, I have several random things I have to do every day. The order in which I do each task depends on when they’re due and how much they’re stressing me out. I write for one particular site on a daily basis because they pay my bills -- I do about 4-5 posts a day, 500+ words each. I also do virtual assistant work for a content creator/influencer, so I like to put in about an hour into that every day. If I have any big features or interviews in the works, those are always top priority -- I like to get them out of the way since they take up a lot of mental space and I want them to be fresh.
After all of that, I’ll try to do something for myself, whether it’s brainstorming ideas for my own blog, posting on social media, taking photos, or making music. My evenings are dedicated to walking around the neighborhood, reading, painting my nails, drinking wine, eating food, and watching TV.
On the weekends, this regime goes out the window and I am very okay with that. I think, especially now, it’s important to differentiate between weekdays and weekends. I also think that if I were to do the same exact thing seven days a week, I’d burn out faster. Saturdays and Sundays can be nothing but relaxation or they can turn out to be productive. I let it happen naturally.
Describe more about how you work; how do you do what you do?
I have no idea how any of this is happening. I wake up at the end of each month absolutely amazed that I was once again able to pay rent. It takes a lot of discipline and prioritization but really, it’s just organized chaos.
What’s your trick for when you’re feeling stuck?
Do a prompt in your journal. Interview yourself. Answer honestly. Go for a walk. Sleep. Listen to a podcast. Listen to music. Meditate. Talk to a loved one. Write out a to-do list. Read articles other people are writing. Read your favorite song lyrics. Try to make something for fun, with no goal in mind.
Most importantly, let yourself be stuck. You don’t have to be creating 24/7. I used to think like this (and still do) and it is so stressful and unnecessary. Not feeling it? Cool, go watch some TV or take a nap. A week of unproductivity is nothing in the grand scheme of life. Relax, enjoy it, and realize that every thought and experience is adding up to your next thing. It would be crazy if you were constantly working.
List some of your notable influences, past and present: writers, books, works of art, lamps with lava in it, anything and anyone that has inspired you.
Music: Strange Mercy by St. Vincent. Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear. Grace by Jeff Buckley. Art Angels by Grimes. Blonde by Frank Ocean. Anything by Yves Tumor, Ella Fitzgerald, Tove Lo, Beach House, Philip Glass, Iceage, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Jay Som, Porches, Soak, Angel Olsen, Perfume Genius, The 1975, Bombay Bicycle Club, Sky Ferreira, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Hamilton Leithauser… The new Hayley Williams is nice too. I like a lot of music, this is just off the top of my head.
Books: How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, So Sad Today by Melissa Broder, How Music Works by David Byrne, Neuromancer by William Gibson, Cherry by Nico Walker, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betti Smith, Just Kids by Patti Smith, 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by Brianna Weist, The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein.
I recently enjoyed these two Vulture articles when the new Fiona Apple record came out:
I’m also inspired by bad hair dye jobs, hot weather, the suburbs, the ocean, thick eyeliner, Duncan Trussell Family Hour, homemade dinners, lava lamps, video games, crystals. The colors green, orange, and black also inspire me, but never together.
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Advice time: What’s a piece of wisdom that you wish you first heard when you were starting out?
Stop comparing yourself to others. Also, do something good for yourself. Like, don’t just work for someone else and have that be your identity -- have a life outside of work and learn to depend on yourself.
And on the topic of being independent, don’t be afraid to swallow your pride. Some of the most successful people are the ones who started out delivering mail and waiting on tables. If something like bartending pays your bills and also gives you the time to work on your passion projects -- isn’t that the dream?
“Art”: What the heck is it?
It’s literally everything. Or maybe not. I don’t know.
BONUS: Cats or dogs?
Dogs. I don’t like cats. It’s actually a dealbreaker.
Photo credit: Kirsten Spruch