MEET

SANDRA BEIJER

 

Blogger and writer based in Södermalm, Stockholm. Sandra started niotillfem in 2005 and with 14 500 weekly visitors she has one of Sweden's most read blogs. She became a published author in 2014 and has released two books, with a third on the way.

 

September 7, 2018

When did you start writing?

Really, I’ve always been writing in one way or another, especially Storytelling. When I was in kindergarten I wanted to become a writer and in my teens I wanted to be a journalist. I’ve always felt comfort with my writing, it has always been the place where I felt somewhat confident.

What stopped you from going into journalism?

I realized that I wanted to make things up. I didn’t want to write about things objectively, I wanted to tell stories. As a Copywriter that's what you do, it fits me very well.

You’ve also worked as a Copywriter in New York. How was that different from working as a Copywriter in Stockholm?

It was very different. I worked in Stockholm for three years and almost three in New York City and it was kind of a shock to move there, it’s incredibly hierarchical and they have enormous budgets which kind of meant that ….nothing ever became anything. That was also the main reason for me to finally quit the business, I was working and working but never got to produce anything. You were an idea machine til you didn’t have any ideas left in you.

And I guess you weren’t prepared for this before moving there?

I knew it would be difficult and different, but I didn’t know that you would stop being a person. That's when I decided to work on my own book after hours. If it got accepted by a publisher I would quit and go for my writing and blogging. A year later thats what happened and I quit my job the day after and left. I have never missed it since.

Was there any difference in how your were treated as a female Copywriter?

Oh my god yes, there was a big difference in being a female Copywriter. There weren’t that many of us. There’s probably more now, but when I worked in New York, my creative partner Nina Åkestam and I were the only female creatives in the entire firm. They didn’t want us to work with sport accounts, even though the male creatives easily worked with female conditional accounts.

 

As a female Copywriter you were paid less. I checked with my male friends that worked as creatives and they earned almost double the amount I did. The way you were treated, all that stuff, that’s how it is. But I think by just being aware of it, you come far.

Aware as in speaking up or aware as in just accepting the situation?

I don’t think you ever accept something, but you build an understanding about the business and how it impacts you as an individual. I mean, I couldn’t do anything about the fact that there were only male creatives, but you can learn to speak up and maybe above it all - do something else. I was tired of it. But the women that are still in the business, - this is a battle. But by just checking with your male colleagues and keeping informed is important. Slowly things change, but it’s problematic in every different way, there’s almost only white, heterosexual men everywhere.

You work with Storytelling in different mediums. What's the difference between working with text and photos on your blog as opposed to working strictly with words when you write.

I don’t really see it that way, I mean the blog is like a diary, or a combined notebook, diary and magazine. I never see it as “how great to use photos” but instead,” now I’m going to tell you about my day”. My blog is more like the way I talk, whilst fictional writing makes me use a different kind of writing, because then it’s a book. Words have to marinate and I twist and turn the letters so that it flows well, just like music. The blog is more of me, like it’s me embodied.

Do you gather inspiration the same way for you blog and books?

Since I see my blog as a magazine, I have a schedule of what I’m going to write during the week, for example, two posts on what I’ve done during the week, one fashion related, one food related and one longer post. When I go into something fictional it’s an enormous project that takes years, one single story is told - that is made up - so I would say it’s very different. But writing a chronicle is similar to fiction because you have the same dramaturgy with a beginning - middle - and end. The blog is more journalistik.

When do you feel most creative?

I’m not sure… maybe when you’re done? Maybe you feel the most creative when you already have produced something, when you’ve succeeded writing a good text, when you feel like - this is good, I got it right. And then you leave it and do something else. It’s almost like a kind of high, to walk away and feel like you executed something.

To find creativity, is almost a job in itself. When I’m in a writing process, I constantly try to read, watch good movies, listen to conversations in a more thorough way and have my notebook open in my phone to write down things I come up with. I think it’s really important not to think that it just “comes to you” but rather be active in seeking your creativity.

How do you keep your “spark”? Is it your structure you have that gives you the time to focus on the execution?

I think that the key is to realize that it's not “a spark” you’re looking for, it's a job and you have to do it regardless, even when you're uninspired. Sometimes it's bad and sometimes it turns out better, but you have to deliver - always. You can't sit around waiting for it to happen.

Right now I’m in a writing process and then I schedule three hours a day, three days a week and it doesn’t matter how I’m feeling for those three hours that day, I still have to write. Sometimes it turns out really crappy, and sometimes really good!

So maybe one should be more ok with the fact that your performance goes up and down?

I think so… or rather I realized that to be able to do what I do, it has to be like that. You won’t get anywhere by searching for your “inner creativity” you have to be brutal and just deliver like anything else.

Did you have the same approach when you where an employee?

Absolutely. I think you need to get rid of the “creative shimmer” and the male creative genius - that’s not what it’s about. It’s about hard work, a lot of practice, time and fortitude. It could be a lonely and in many ways a boring process, but I love it anyway!

I am so happy I’m working with something I enjoy - now. I know how much this is worth and I think work is something that’s important in life, since it’s the biggest part of my day. But I also respect those who don’t think that way and live for their spare time, but I’m not like that. I’ve always wanted other people to think I’m good at what I do and that’s why I have to do something self-fulfilling.

"I will always write about the Emo-girl,

she is needs to exist."

So how did you end up writing a book?

I’ve always wanted to write a book and become a writer, but it felt like a big and lairy dream. It just happened to be the right timing; I wasn’t happy with my job, my blog was going very well and I realised that I could live on the blog, but I didn’t want to “settle” for blogging. To become a freelance I needed a kind of recognition, and for me that was a book contract. So it became very important for me to write this book and write it well. The story had been in my head for some time, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

Do you have a feminist approach in your writing?

Absolutely, being a feminist you have that approach regardless. You always wear your gender-glasses and it was vital for me in both my books, to write from a gender positive perspective and let the female characters be dirty and annoying and not be “good girls”. I will always write about the Emo-girl, she is needs to exist.

Have you been approached differently after being titled a writer, since it’s still male dominated scene?

No, on the contrary I felt I was approached differently than when I was a Copywriter that is considered more of a “real” profession. Especially during the time I worked in New York at one of the worlds most prestigious agencies. I feel like you as a blogger always have to fight to justify your profession, and also as a writer, since so many people call themselves writers. It’s not seen highly upon and people have to know which publisher you have and what reviews you’ve got to see you as a serious writer

Is there something you are extra proud of career-wise?

When I got the email about my first book to come and sign the contract. It was one of the biggest things that has happened to me. It was also very important to get good reviews on my first book, so many people said - a blogger writes a book, of course you got a contact and that made me want to prove them wrong. It was a huge deal to get a full page in Dagens Nyheter and it was such a nice spread.

To be a guest on Babel was also mind-blowing and to be a part of that - which my haters never thought -  was really important for me. It was important for my writing to get that validation.

Follow Sandra on Instagram and visit  www.sandrabeijer.elle.se


 

Photos by Annie Hansson

Text by Jennifer Borge

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