Anne T. Donahue; Cambridge, Ont.;
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I’d say that I’m a writer and a person. I write for websites and magazines—including this one!—and I’m writing a book that comes out next year. I also talk in person and on-camera sometimes, but only ever as myself.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I’m still in school, technically! I dropped out of college and then out of university, and then started writing. But last year I realized how much I missed learning so I began distance ed at Wilfred Laurier to finish my history degree. At the rate I’m going, I will graduate in 2054.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
I technically dropped out of university to make between $5 to $50/piece on average. But I worked all through high school and throughout my twenties in retail and in restaurants, which paid much better.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
You know, I never had one. I just wrote and wrote and pitched and pitched and finally ended up piecing together something that resembled a career. There have been exciting moments, but those mostly serve to balance out the not-so-exciting moments.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
I’m only now starting to think that way, honestly. I’ve been writing since 2008 and for a good part of these nine years, I’ve been driven by fear or the anxiety of it all being taken away. So now I’m trying to train myself to feel like it’s actually going to be okay. And sometimes it works!
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
I mean, I moved to Toronto earning maybe $500/month and ended up going tens of thousands of dollars into debt, losing my apartment and moving back home. So there was that. It was bleak and terrible, but also necessary because hitting bottom pushed me to get my mental health together and eventually led to my sobriety. During that time I kept writing, though. I didn’t stop, so I think it helped me work through a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. 2011 to 2013 was very hard, but it also needed to happen—and it taught me that I like writing, and not just because it’s something I can do well.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Work hard and keep going. The most boring career advice of all.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
I’ve never asked for any! Isn’t that embarrassing? I’m stubborn and the worst, so I immediately think I know better. I am also usually wrong.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
There were a few things I remember coming up when I started as a music journalist—sexist bands, or shitty dude journalists who were dismissive and condescending. But I think they may have just been dismissive and condescending in general, regardless of gender. I think now, it’s mostly men on Twitter who try to put up barriers by being sexist or abusive. And they can absolutely go to the devil. But my editors have never put up barriers of any kind, thank goodness.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
I’m really lucky in that I do make a fair income for the work I do. Or what I at least consider fair. So that’s exciting!
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
Every millennial stereotype is terrible, minus the ones that connote that we work very hard and are also likely going to be unable to buy and own property in the wake of our dying middle class. WE’RE ALL JUST TRYING OUR BEST.