Recently someone told me that Mick Jagger once said, “If I wasn’t a rock star, I’d want to be a travel writer.” While I haven’t been able to verify that quote, I can attest that nearly everyone I meet tells me I have the dream job.
Like most, I had to overcome my fears and take a leap of faith before I could achieve success as a travel writer. Here are the ones that hit me the hardest, and how I overcame them:
Fear of rejection
Rejection is inevitable. All writers experience rejection. The sooner you learn how to handle it and move on, the better chance you’ll have for success as a travel writer.
Rejection isn’t personal. There are a multitude of reasons why an editor can’t use your story. Perhaps they’ve just published a piece on that destination, or maybe it doesn’t fit with the magazine’s demographic. Maybe the timing of your story isn’t right for some reason beyond your control.
The key to handling rejection is perseverance. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off—and then send your pitch to other magazines.
Fear of not being good enough
Last month, I went back and read one of my first published travel articles in Ladies Home Journal—published in 2011. I cringed. Then I laughed. It was awful! My writing was self-indulgent and a bit too snarky. Obviously, I thought it was good enough to submit, and even more bizarre, LHJ thought it was good enough to accept for their (now-defunct) “Over the Kitchen Table” section.
Do you have these two basic qualities: love to travel, love to write? Don’t be concerned about getting invited on exotic press trips or getting plum magazine assignments—those will come. The most essential ingredients for beginners (as well as seasoned writers) is having a passion for travel and a desire to tell unique stories.
Remember, if “first drafts” were meant to be perfect, they’d be called “first finals.” Just start writing, getting your main ideas down, then fill in details—and edit, edit, edit.
Fear of finding stories
So many wannabe travel writers say to me, “But everywhere has been written about!” It’s true that there are a lot of travel articles out there—especially today with so many online magazines and blogs. But they’re not all good; they’re not all unique; and they’re not all from you.
A good writer can find a fresh angle. How? By researching what’s already been published and being curious while exploring with an eye for something different. Travel writing has taken me to places I probably never would have gone. Be ready to tackle a story from a different perspective. Ask questions and take notes.
Three tips for overcoming your fears:
1. Write what you know. Often, the most interesting stories aren’t in some exotic, far-flung destination. Take a walk around your hometown. Where you live could be a travel destination for someone else. Tell them where to go, what to do, where to eat. You may be a foodie, or a wine connoisseur, or a history buff—write about a destination from those perspectives.
2. Take a course. You can never go wrong investing in yourself. There are courses that teach you how to pitch, what to write, and even how to overcome the fear of trying.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others. I can tell you first-hand that whenever I do this, it derails me, and instead of being proud of how far I’ve come, I become envious and unproductive. The path to success is different for everyone. Take time to bask in every little victory.