How This Narratively Editor is Tackling The Journalism World While Being a Nomad

Farah Mohammed on freelancing, traveling the world (and getting grounded) and what it’s like being a woman of color in journalism.

How This Narratively Editor is Tackling The Journalism World While Being a Nomad

We pride ourselves on having a diverse network of contributors from around the world at Narratively, and one of the most global people we work with is our contributing editor Farahnaz Mohammed. Farah has edited articles on all kinds of topics, from the secret life of a cam girl to Paris’ spiritual scammers, all while working remotely from wherever she has internet access. Farah has studied in Argentina, Scotland, the U.S. and Canada, and taught English in Hong Kong. She’s spent time in New York as a grant recipient from the Knight-VICE Innovators Fund, led a startup in Berlin and London, and attended conferences in Denmark and Mexico City. Currently based in Kingston, Jamaica, she’s also the editor-in-chief of (the coincidentally similar-named) Narrative Muse, a site that highlights the work of non-binary and female authors and creators. Farah’s own writing has appeared in publications including JSTOR Daily, Quartz and HuffPost.

Narratively: When you started off as a writer, did you imagine that you would be doing all this traveling and remote work? 

Farah Mohammed: I graduated right after the recession — 2012. The traveling really just happened because I had to go where the opportunities were so it wasn’t really a plan. I was so incredibly lucky to get each opportunity. It came out of the recession and having to get the opportunities short-term in a different place. 

Narratively: As a woman of color, how has your experience been working internationally in the journalism industry?

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Mohammed: As a woman of color and a person of color you have to develop a very thick skin. It can feel like death by 1,000 cuts, in that so many of the interactions we have are not overtly racist, but the things that you encounter are. You see a colleague who hasn’t done work as well as you, objectively as a fact, get chosen for a better assignment, or you get reprimanded for the same behavior as your white colleagues, or you’re just not treated as well or you’re put into the back of the line.

Narratively: We’re lucky to have you on board with us at Narratively! What drew you to Narratively when you first applied to be an editor?

Mohammed: As much as today’s discourse is very open-minded and we’re talking more about certain things when it comes to day-to-day life, there’s still a lot of discomfort on many topics. But you go to a place like Narratively, they don’t shy away from brave conversations, a lot of honest conversations. I always really liked reading these in-depth, thoughtful pieces. They weren’t clickbait, they were genuine, thought-through. I just saw that there was a huge range of humanity and I didn’t feel so weird and I didn’t feel so alone. 

Narratively: Tell us about Narrative Muse, where you recently became Editor-in-Chief. 

Mohammed: It’s a platform that helps people and works to elevate non-binary women media creators: so authors, directors, screenwriters. It does this through matching people with content they might like, just like a recommendation engine. It matches you based on a test of things you like and things you don’t like, and then it’ll give you recommendations. My job is to basically find stuff to put in there. We have a group of curators who are just so great, from around the world – I’m working with them and I’m making sure that everything they pick fits our standards. I’m constantly talking to the communities that we’re interested in working with. Right now we’re making the recommendation algorithm much smarter, we’re adding more users and we’re doing our second round of raising funding.

Narratively: What advice do you have for writers interested in freelancing?

Mohammed: Don’t do it for the money. Straight up, the finances are tough. My first maybe five years doing this, it was not pretty. You’re going to have to deal with a huge degree of stress, you’re going to have to deal with a huge degree of loneliness – you have to have a high tolerance for those things. At the end of the day, don’t be a traveling freelancer because you think it’s going to be fun and glamorous. You have to do it because you’re genuinely interested in people or because you’re genuinely interested in the actual opportunities, because the actual lifestyle is very challenging and variable. Ultimately, I would say it’s rewarding, but I would also say it’s an over-glamorized kind of lifestyle.  

Narratively: How has the pandemic impacted your upcoming work?

Mohammed: It reached Jamaica a few weeks ago, but Jamaica is very, very community-oriented so it’ll shut down, and like everyone else we’ll quarantine. Luckily, one thing travel teaches you is that you have to think about the resources you have at hand. That’s gotten me through all my travel issues and it’ll get me through this, but I assume the nomadic lifestyle is over for now. 

I’m hoping to continue being able to help freelancers write and bring great stories into the world through Narratively and Narrative Muse. I might go back to school, get another skill set. I got into a program in the UK for psychology and mental health. I’ll keep writing and keep editing. I like to be on this side of it, helping people get published, so absolutely that’s what I’ll do.