Phoebe Robinson Breaks Down Her Diet Coke Writing Process

Photo by Makeda Sandford.

It is Disorganized, in which our favorite writers get to the bottom of their own craft. From favorite drinks for writing to whether or not you need to carry a notebook, we find out all the ways they beat writer’s block and do it.

Actress, writer, multiplatform powerhouse, Phoebe Robinson is without a doubt a jack of all trades. Her meteoric rise began in 2016, when she and fellow actress Jessica Williams launched the acclaimed podcast 2 dope queens, a show that became so popular that it spawned a two-season HBO series. In the same year, Robinson published his first collection of essays, You can’t touch my hair (and other things I still have to explain). His second book, Everything is trash, but it is OK (who was recently shot as a pilot for Freeform in which Robinson starred and wrote) arrived two years later, solidifying his status as New York Times Best-selling author. On October 14, Robinson will return to HBO for his stand-up comedy special, Sorry, Harriet Tubman. Today, she celebrates the release of her latest collection of essays, Please don’t sit on my bed in your outerwear, published under its imprint Tiny Reparations Books. The essays tackle important and topical topics with Robinson’s lightness, covering everything from the woes of being quarantined with a boyfriend, to reasons why “self-care isn’t a candle and therapy isn’t. not a notebook ”. Below, the prolific artist reflects on her writing process, which includes a little too much drinks and plenty of quotes from RuPaul.


JULIANA UKIOMOGBE: What’s your ideal writing atmosphere?

PHOEBE ROBINSON: Good question. It definitely changes depending on the project, and it has transformed as I get older. When I was younger my peak writing hours were 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. when the world is calm, but now that I run multiple businesses I have to be present and awake for my employees, which means that things have changed.

Now my ideal writing atmosphere is a desk, a burning candle, music, my laptop, and a second monitor that I can use just to find things related to whatever I’m working on. Music is the key to the atmosphere, and it depends on the mood. When it was the critical moment Please don’t sit on my bed in your outerwear, I was listening to Incubus, Linkin Park and Biggie. Just stuff that made me vibrate. But other times it’s smooth jazz, 80s Top 40s or independent artists like Amber Mark and Nilüfer Yanya. I also use the Pomodoro app which helps break up writing because I’m definitely the type of writer who won’t budge from my chair for six hours straight. It’s just ignorant. Now I give my butt a break and take the time to pee.

UKIOMOGBE: What are your favorite snacks?

ROBINSON: If only you could see my office! I tend to have four to five drinks on hand at any given time: green juice, hot tea, an 80oz jug of water, soda water, and maybe a Diet Coke if I’m feeling sassy. It usually takes all day to absorb all of these drinks, but I like to stay hydrated. I have a habit of eating potato chips, nuts, and cured turkey meat, but I don’t eat full meals while writing.

UKIOMOGBE: Do you smoke or drink alcohol while you write?

ROBINSON: I’m a Sober Sally when I work. I don’t usually smoke anything anyway. I feel like writing is so difficult and demands so much of you that being your best makes it easier. I don’t want to have to go through tons of crappy paperwork because I’m typing while drunk. I don’t have time for that!

UKIOMOGBE: Do you keep a notebook and / or diary?

ROBINSON: Yes! I have about 30 notebooks, but honestly? I tend to jot down my thoughts on post-it notes, slips of paper in the apartment, the backs of envelopes, and draft prints of everything I write. It’s organized chaos, but it works!

UKIOMOGBE: Do you prefer handwriting or typing?

ROBINSON: Typing completely. I love the ASMR click-clack of the keys. Handwriting takes too long for me. Mainly because I tend to write freely before actually writing, I like everything in one MS Word document and sort my notes that way.

UKIOMOGBE: What’s your favorite quote?

ROBINSON: “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else?” – RuPaul. Timeless!

UKIOMOGBE: Who do you always come back to when writing?

ROBINSON: I don’t know if I’m going back to anyone’s writing. Rather, if I like someone’s book, I’ll buy all of their stuff. Like Roxane Gay, Caitlin Moran, Rupi Kaur and Rebecca Solnit. I really love watching how a writer’s style and his use of language change as they change as human beings. It’s a really cool trip that readers can take in.

UKIOMOGBE: What books did you read as a child / teenager? Has your opinion of writers changed?

ROBINSON: As a teenager I read what a lot of schools teach as classics—Farm animal, 1984, Shakespeare, etc. — and I think they hit their mark. My thoughts on writers haven’t changed. I just think kids / teens would benefit greatly from reading / teaching about work outside of the literary canon, which is predominantly white, male, and straight. The more types of voices and stories people are exposed to, the more likely they are to develop a deep love of reading.

UKIOMOGBE: Do you read while you are writing?

ROBINSON: Yeah, but definitely less. Often times it will be a different genre from what I write. So, while writing my last book, I was reading a lot of poetry. When I was working on my screenplay, I read books of essays. Reading is so happy for me, so I never want to give it up. At the same time, I don’t want my writing to be too influenced by what I’m reading, which is why I mix things up.

UKIOMOGBE: Which writers inform your current work the most?

ROBINSON: It’s hard to say because I’m so into it. I just gravitate towards writers with unique voices, but I don’t think I sound like one of them. I love Samantha Irby, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Celeste Ng. They have a distinct style and I believe so do I. So I just like to read this kind of material, but I don’t know how much they inform my work, to be honest.

UKIOMOGBE: How many drafts of a piece do you usually write?

ROBINSON: Whether it’s a book, an essay, or a screenplay, it’s usually five drafts and a minimum of two finishes. That’s why when I talk to someone who just wants to write a rough outline of something and be done with it, I say, “Think carefully about whether you want to be a writer, because a big part of this process is. to refine and refine. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then writing probably isn’t for you.

UKIOMOGBE: What would be the title of your memoirs?

ROBINSON: Could have been an email.

UKIOMOGBE: Who is your favorite screenwriter?

ROBINSON: Nora Ephron was pretty awesome. Spike Lee. Charlie Kaufman. Love me Scorsese. Michaela Coel.

UKIOMOGBE: Do you see writing as a spiritual practice?

ROBINSON: It’s possible. It really depends on the intention, you know? Writing is one of the great forms of expression, to understand and question the world, to reflect on the human condition, or simply to connect with someone. There are many things he can do, and for many people, writing – whether it’s a journal or the next “Great American Novel” – is an activity that can bring peace and be meditative.

UKIOMOGBE: Which writers would you choose to dine with, alive or dead?

ROBINSON: Kiley Reid. Brené Brown, Adam Grant, Sam Irby, Austin Channing Brown, Simon Sinek, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison.

UKIOMOGBE: What advice do you give to people who want to be better writers?

ROBINSON: Double your voice. Sure, learn the rules of writing and develop a work ethic, but please, for the love of Michelle Obama’s arms, have a unique way of presenting your ideas and ideas. stories. The idea of ​​creating authors who add nothing to the tapestry, but are content to imitate those who came before them, is boring and limiting. We should add to the conversation, inspire others and ourselves. Swing for fences. Write badly and learn from misfires.

UKIOMOGBE: What are the unconventional techniques that you defend?

ROBINSON: I don’t. I just wrote. Rewrite and rewrite. Make sure I’m having fun and making myself laugh along the way.

UKIOMOGBE: Can good writing save the world?

ROBINSON: Ooof, if it could have done it already, right?

Scott R. Banks