An experience I had on my recent vacation reminded me of what it takes to be a successful freelance writer:
We were visiting a lake in eastern Washington with our three kids plus one tag-along, 10-year-old friend of our middle child’s. We wanted to spend our last day hiking in the nearby mountains.
We had only sketchy, Chamber-of-Commerce maps to rely upon, but they seemed to show the turnoff to where we wanted to hike. I had a detailed trail map for when we reached a hiking trailhead known as Chaos Corner, so named because five different trails departed from the same point.
We drove out of the little lake town and found the turnoff. We passed farms, cows, and rolling hills.
Soon we came to a sign that said, “End of county road.”
The pavement soon ended and beyond lay a one-lane, dirt road. We began to climb higher and higher. Brown scrubby hills gave way to piney woods.
At some points, the road seemed a little sketchy and hung uncomfortably near the edge of a ravine. What would happen if another car came toward us?
“This doesn’t seem like the right way,” said my husband.
“It feels right to me,” I said. “Let’s keep going.”
We wound up and up. My husband started looking for a place to turn around. The kids were starting to get antsy. “This isn’t the way to the trail!” said my daughter.
Hubby found a spot and started to pull over. I let out a small, whimpering sound. I felt strongly that if we turned back at this point, we wouldn’t end up getting to do any hiking.
“OK, a little farther,” he said. Soon we neared the top of a mountainside. We pressed on, thinking we could get our bearings from the lookout.
And at the top was a small parking area, and a National Park signboard.
It said: “Chaos Corner.”
I leapt from the car before the dust had settled, arms raised. “Victory! I just knew this was here!” I cried.
We chose a trail and hiked in fields of wild white yarrow, purple asters, and yellow-blooming yucca, and took another trail back, overlooking mountains on mountains on mountains, back to far-off peaks still snow-capped. It was the perfect ending to our trip.
Freelance writing is like this.
When you decide to strike out on your own, you’re off the map of traditional career paths, cubicles, bosses, and predictable pay.
Sometimes, it may be a little scary.
The road could take unexpected turns, or not be very well-marked.
Maybe, like me, you’re a college dropout. At first, you have only sketchy ideas of how to do this and have to feel your way along. You might have to work twice as hard as everyone else to get there.
There may be a few wrong turns along the way.
Others will tell you to give up.
When you “arrive,” you’ll find only a new set of decisions to make among many possible paths. What type of writing should be your specialty. How to spend your marketing time.
It may take longer than you expect, and look different than you imagined. But if you believe you’ve made the right choice and follow your gut instincts about which is the right road, you will end up where you’re trying to go.
And it will be beautiful.
What’s your road to freelance writing success like? Leave a comment and describe your trip.