[Chapter 6] Walkin’ with Joaquin: The Writing Process with Dana Iskoldski

The interview is done. My notes are ready. All I need to do is to turn it into an article – the final product. It sounds simple, right? Somewhere in between this process, I change my Spotify tunes, grab a quick bite, contact a friend, and the procrastination list goes on. The night dawns. There is always tomorrow. Tomorrow comes. I’m faced with the same demons. Rinse and repeat.

I need help.

While going through my LinkedIn news feed, I came across an article where one of my connections was featured. It was a great interview-style article – clear and on-point. I decided to connect and reach out to the writer. It turns out that she has plenty of other publications on her sleeve working as an Editor-at-Large at Student Life Network and runs her own blog. She responded back and showed interest – the reason why this article was born.

I am beyond excited to introduce to you my guest for today’s post, Dana Iskoldski! I touch base on her background, education, writing process, favorite app, and her favorite advice!

Dana moved to Canada at a very early age. She has Eastern European roots but was born in Israel. Her mom is a school teacher. She is currently studying at the University of Waterloo with a degree in Business and Environment. With this degree, I wondered why her experience worked around Writing and Marketing. “Your degree does not define you. I believe that having one degree does not give you only one direction,” said Iskoldski. She enjoys the data-oriented and multi-faced world of Marketing. “I enjoy it when the content I create has affected or resonated with someone else.”

It was during high school that her interest in business began. During those formative years, she envisioned herself working at marketing agencies. “I am fascinated by human psychology and how it applies to businesses,” she said. How about the Environment degree, the other side of the coin? “Businesses should also be sustainable. I believe that we should be aware of environmental risks when starting and working on a business.”

Business, environment, and marketing – An interesting career trifecta!

Before our interview, we exchanged a brief conversation about how impressed I was on achieving a 4.0 GPA. I thought that she might have an interesting productivity tip or strong willpower to eliminate the ubiquitous distractions. Dana quickly clarified things. “It does not mean that my grade is spotless! I’m currently on borderline 90% and might go lower soon,” explained Iskoldski. Despite this explanation, my high praises still remained intact and asked her about it. She considers herself fortunate to have great professors and take courses that she is actually interested in.

She motions to her phone and shows me something that she read online last night. “It will make you emotional!” she warned. The post talked about a teacher’s confession on how he has failed his students. The post continues with an unfortunate incident of a student who committed suicide because of too much pressure that the school imposes on its students. The post ends in a heartfelt note that he loves and treasures each of his students. “Students tend to attribute their intrinsic worth to a GPA or their performance in school activities,” said Iskoldski.

Book Recommendation. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. “I read it for a school requirement in high school. It is 600-pages but I definitely recommend it to you.”
Favorite app. “I’m always on e-mail!” As for social media, she prefers Facebook over Instagram. She does not use Snapchat. “My friend told me, ‘Dana, I sent you something on Snapchat!’ I replied with a weak grin, ‘that’s great!’”
What she thinks of ‘clickbait’. “It’s not clickbait unless you deliver on the promise.”
On Gary Vaynerchuk. While talking about branding, I said, “Attention is a currency”. She stops me mid-point and asked whether I followed Gary Vaynerchuk, an American entrepreneur, LinkedIn influencer and author. “You should definitely follow him. He said something like that,” added Iskoldski.

Dana holding a jar of #ChefJoaquinPaolo Oatmeal Raisin cookies!

“Oh, I start my day early in the morning with a glass of water with lemon!” she says jokingly. Despite the popularity of self-help books and articles that promote ways to have a great morning, she admits that her routines are quite common like everybody else. “I wake up, take a shower, eat, and then leave the house. It’s difficult to do work at home.” As for her evening routine, she also had a common response. “I’m just on my phone before I go to bed. It’s tough to start a routine to slow down. I’m not there yet.”

I decided to end our conversation with her writing process. I ended with a three-part question: how do you overcome writer’s block? What scares you the most? What is your best advice for people who love to write? After careful thought, she shared her two cents.

“It’s easier to edit than have nothing at all,” advised Iskoldski. I remembered Tim Ferriss’ routine of writing “two crappy pages” a day. Also, Iskoldski admits that she hasn’t had the time to maintain her blog, The X Class. “I do not stress about it. It’s okay if I am not writing,” added Iskoldski. With thousands of content generated every second, it’s difficult to get noticed or even have your article clicked. “Self-promotion is difficult!” However, she encourages anyone to spend more time in ideating and creating. “Just remember that the ones who pay attention will do so,” said Iskoldski.

With the last question, there was a brief pause (perhaps for dramatic effect). Her advice was simple and could be applied to whatever aspect of life. “Take on feedback with a grain of salt. We have different scenarios. What works for me might not work for you,” said Iskoldski. “At the end of the day, it is your life”.

Add pause for another dramatic effect.

On y va!

(11/4) Cloudy Saturday Afternoon at Aroma Espresso Bar at North York, ON. Dana visits Toronto for the weekend. Thanks for being part of my itinerary!


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