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  • Writer's pictureAngina Herrmann

Who’s your mommy? My process for writing interviews

Have you ever wondered what it looks like to write an interview article? What do these glorified typists do to turn ordinary conversations into written text? Why do they charge so much money for putting down a few words? Get a sneak peek at my writing process, distributed across four action-packed days.

I have been writing interviews for over a decade, either as a freelance journalist, an in-house communicator, or an independent podcast host and Future Makers blog writer. My process for these has remained the same throughout the years, and this process also applies to many other lengthy and / or complicated texts.

Day 1

Meme: Great Gatsby toasting to end of Day 1

Kids, I was writing interviews before decent voice-to-text tools existed. So Day 1 used to be the painstaking transcribing of recordings into written text, with all the other days pushed forward. Hooray for the machine era!

Starting point: Feeling hopeless at the foot of a mountain.

Actions: Go through interview transcripts and notes to pick up all the interesting facts and organize them by themes. Try to recognize potential core messages that emerge from the noise.

Finishing point: Feeling invincible with an abundance of amazing lessons to share. After all, now all I need to do is write pretty sentences, and I can certainly do that, right?

Day 2

Meme: burning house at the end of Day 2

Starting point: Feeling cautiously hopeful about the inevitably pretty sentences.

Actions: Write a first draft (I call it “Ugly Draft”) following the structure of the notes. Select the core message and supporting arguments. Try not to get stuck polishing the text flow, only focus on creating full sentences and a modicum of a narrative. Make a stab at a title, knowing very well the final version will have nothing to do with this one.

Finishing point: Increasing unease about the complete mess I’ve left behind. Get a drink or watch mindless reality TV to distract myself.

Day 3

Meme: Office Space printer destruction on Day 3

Starting point: Telling myself it’s going to be alright; the worst will be over after today.

Actions: Write a nearly finished draft, or what I call a “Good Draft”. Go through the text with a fine-tooth comb, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, while completely restructuring it. Fix everything that doesn’t work, such as overall narrative, text flow, grammar and punctuation, word repetition, empty buzzwords, and unnecessary jargon.

And oh my lord, why doesn’t ANY of this work?! The entire text is utter garbage. The so-called learnings are banal, the sentence structures are an exercise in hide-and-seek, the few action words are all variations of the same one or two verbs, and why the %*&k does every single paragraph start with the interviewee’s name?

Hate-write 2–5 minutes at a time, then get distracted for 2–15 minutes doing anything BUT writing. Checking social media works, clicking refresh on email inbox suffices, going to the toilet is an evergreen, getting lost in the etymology of a word I already decided NOT to use feels almost like writing; staring out the window is a last resort.

Last to finish are a killer title and a punchy intro text that distill all the blood, sweat and tears.

Finishing point: F%*& yeah! I need a raise! I need to rule a kingdom, lord knows I’ve got the balls and the experience.

Day 4

Meme: Jason Momoa attacking Henry Cavill

Starting point: Who’s your mommy? Yeah you know it.

Actions: Read through the text carefully, fix the thankfully few remaining issues that still jump out. Send text to possible reviewers or schedule / publish it.

Finishing point: Let’s not do that again any time soon alright? Hey, I know who could have some interesting stories to tell, let me schedule that interview next.


Some learnings from the years of repetition

  • None of these days are full, typically they take up to half a work day. I can squeeze two of these steps into one day to shorten the overall time, but that will lower the quality. My brain needs a night’s sleep in between each step for the best output. At a minimum, the final check (Day 4) needs to be separated from the rest.

  • I have experimented with genAI tools to organize my notes and pick the core messages on Day 1, but the result has always been bland and boring. I’ve gone back to doing it manually for sharper and fresher messages.

  • I have felt guilty about the constant mind-wander and flood of distractions on Day 3, but trying to stay focused only results in slowing down my brain so much that in the end it takes at least as much time. Now I’m trying to insert more constructive distractions, such as doing planks or other short physical exercises.

  • If anyone were to hack my webcam and record my facial expressions on Day 3, they would get an entertaining reel of overacted Greek tragedies.

P.S. This post was created during a recent Day 3.



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