Wing Sze Tang is a freelance writer/editor living in Toronto.
What is your morning routine?
I’m a night owl. I tend to write when the world is quiet and I’m less likely to get distracted, so my wake-up call requires coffee, stat. While I wait for my brain to switch on, I catch up on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, emails and the news.
Tell us about your career path.
I’ve been in love with words for as long as I can remember, so I majored in english at the University of Toronto. Shortly before I graduated, I got a part-time job at a little publishing company. The gig wasn’t glamorous at all – it was basically data entry – but it was a baby step in the right direction toward my ultimate goal of becoming a writer/editor.
After graduation, I spent about a year applying for editorial roles. Most places ignored me, but that’s normal when you’re starting out. To burnish my résumé a bit, I took a night course in copy editing and another one in copywriting. Shortly after that, I was hired as the copy editor at a small fitness magazine. Writing wasn’t in my job description, but I pitched ideas anyway. That’s how I got my first clips. I went on to work as the health editor at FASHION, the beauty and health editor at FLARE, and the editor of Cosmetics, with a couple of freelance stints in between.
A few months ago I rejoined the freelance world, which keeps life interesting. When you have your own business, you have to balance the creative side with the more pragmatic #hustle. You have to wear all the hats. The media business is also going through a period of massive transformation right now, which is unsettling but also exciting for content creators. There are so many ways to tell a story today beyond writing a magazine article.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
Women in media face challenges big and small. For one, there’s a gender gap and general lack of diversity when you consider the voices telling the stories. A recent study from the Women’s Media Center found that overall, men generate 62.1 per cent of news. It also noted that women journalists are more likely to write about softer, “less-serious” topics like culture, health and lifestyle. Some people assume if you’re interested in lipstick, you can’t also care deeply about politics, for instance (see the recent reaction to Teen Vogue’s political coverage).
Having worked in fashion magazines for most of my career, I feel lucky that I got to learn from so many strong, brilliant, multifaceted women. Still, I know some people think my niche is fluff and judge my skills accordingly. I once interviewed an executive on a technical business topic, and he was surprised I was covering the subject because he’d seen my website full of beauty clips and made assumptions about me.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
It sounds obvious, but always do your best because effort is what sets you apart. Plenty of people are passionate about getting into an industry; fewer people have the work ethic necessary to stand out from the competition (especially when the grind is kind of boring, as it can be when you’re starting out). Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – or feel the fear, and do it anyway.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
I fantasize about one day going on vacation and never checking emails. The idea is enticing and terrifying. Realistically, sometimes deadlines just have to take priority. But overall, I’m much less of a workaholic now compared to early in my career. Making time for whatever you find fun isn’t frivolous, it’s crucial to avoid burning out. I also fit in some kind of workout every day, including five runs per week, to ensure I’m not forever sitting in front of my laptop.
What inspires you?
Innovators in any industry, especially those who’ve developed their winning ideas from scratch. I’m really into hearing startup stories right now, so I’m listening to podcasts like NPR’s How I Built This. It’s totally inspiring – and reassuring – to know that even mega-successful entrepreneurs had to overcome self-doubt, skeptics and setbacks.