“What’s it like to be blind?” the boy asked me.
I had been selected to speak to a group of teens in an Atlanta juvenile detention center. The hope was that I might inspire them to make better choices when dealing with adversity and challenges.
These were tough kids, and a Pollyanna-style answer would have sent any credibility I had earned down the tube.
“It sucks,” I replied. “But I have a choice. I can either play the hand I was dealt or throw it away. The choice is always mine.”
When I fell in love with travel writing in 2013, I picked up a mixed hand. First came the decision to buy the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program and work my way through it. I later decided to meet everyone by signing up for the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Boston. By the time that three-day program was over, I emerged with heightened enthusiasm, butterflies in my belly, and a king-sized headache from trying to process all I had learned.
I knew there would be challenges. Writing wasn’t a problem. Between my background in public relations and community outreach, as well as my experience as a staff writer for a local newspaper, transitioning to travel writing was a no-brainer. And my husband had taken up photography, so he could support my writing.
These things seemed easy. But frustration and fear crashed the party. Although many websites are accessible with text-to-speech software, others are so loaded down with graphics and fancy formatting that the software can’t make sense of them. So, I end up with gibberish coming out of my speakers. This made researching publications painstakingly slow.
Then there was the pitch paralysis that constantly reared its ugly head. “Your writing isn’t good enough to be accepted by a print publication and get paid for it,” was the bullet I used to shoot myself in the foot. But eventually, with the help of a supportive writing community, I made it past the roadblocks.
Playing my hand
I like to think that I drew four “aces” when I joined the Travel Writer’s Café:
- The ace of diamonds was the goldmine of roadmaps and bonuses on the Café web page.
- The ace of spades was the sample publication spreadsheet that helped me finally get organized and match article ideas to appropriate publications.
- The ace of clubs was the advice I solicited from my fellow Café members. Based on their feedback, I cut my blog posts down to every other week, leaving me more time for pitches and freelance work.
- The ace of hearts was—and is—the encouragement and camaraderie I find in the Café every day. The abundance of caring, sharing, and inspiration from the successes of fellow members is often what keeps me going.
Thanks to the Travel Writer’s Cafe, assistive technology, and my hefty dose of born stubbornness, I’ve had articles published outside my blog, my husband and I have taken some amazing press trips, and opportunity awaits me at every turn.
I’ve traveled to remarkable places, done things that made me step outside my comfort zone, and met some of the kindest and most fascinating people. None of this would have been possible had I not chosen to play my hand in order to live this travel writer’s life I love.
Going forward, I’ll continue to play my hand, see my glass as half full, turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones, and strive to be a better writer. I’ll also share whatever resources I have with fellow travel writers. And I’ll pitch my little heart out, because I am good enough.