“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”—Confucius
IT’S OKAY TO DO NOTHING, OR WHATEVER ELSE FEELS RIGHT TO YOU
As the entire planet works on adjusting to the new normal, which we’re all hoping is the temporary normal, it’s natural that we’re focused on figuring out next steps. For many people, this is becoming a time of either dealing with a forced reconfiguring of their lives—because of layoffs, job changes or the postponement of projects or trips—or a chance to slow down a bit and reassess goals and the factors required to continue pursuing them.
But as many helpful articles were pointing out long before the coronavirus reared its ugly head in our lives, it’s okay to do nothing, and in fact, that might be the healthiest course of action right now. It’s entirely up to you, though: No one else knows better at this moment about your needs than you do.
If you do want to keep moving forward toward realizing your dreams of becoming a freelance travel writer or photographer, however, that’s great—and there are some less-intensive moves you can make right now to keep that going. Unlike my previous list, however, my suggestions below are gentler steps that won’t feel as much like work, because they have far less urgency about them:
Brainstorm some stories about your hometown or shelter-in-place locale
I have several freelancer friends who are stuck in other countries right now, and one of the smartest things they’re doing besides quarantining is taking advantage of this time to fact-check and gather more information for their planned stories. They’re taking this opportunity to dig deeper on potential themes, or tracking down locals who can help them flesh out a more well-rounded article.
While it seems as though a lot of companies have shuttered, the reality is that many staffs of businesses such as tourism bureaus and adventure outfitters are just working from home—and they also may have less on their plates right now as they await reopening. That means that this could be the perfect time to reach out with questions, requests for more information, and any photos you need for a proposed story idea. These folks can be wonderful resources for helping you focus your story idea in a mutually beneficial way, as well. For instance, let’s say you live in San Diego, and you had been thinking about a story on restaurants. Because we don’t know how long it will take for those to open again, you might consider a story on farmers’ markets where visitors to the city could cobble together food to take back to their Airbnbs.
There will be plenty of opportunities to offer stories about how we’re coping the in the post-coronavirus world, and so spending some time right now trying to help come up with some ideas for how we can do just that likely will prove to be invaluable down the road.
Reach out to another writer or photographer
The Great Escape family is filled with writers and photographers of all backgrounds, and there’s bound to be someone on one of the Facebook groups whose experience and goals align with yours. Reach out to a stranger and make a new friend! You can email each other your stories for feedback and editing, and also share any insights you’ve made along this journey. It’s always nice to connect with another human to find that we share common questions and dreams.
In addition to providing another set of eyes on your work, you and your new email pen pal (or video chat buddy) could also share anything you have been doing to stay motivated and any new information gleaned from workshops or online programs that one of you have taken but the other hasn’t.
I have found that my writer friends have been my greatest asset at this time, because we are keeping each other going. If you don’t already have that in your life, this might be the time to find someone—especially since there are likely many people out there in the same situation who would appreciate the boost from you.
Catch up on your research in publication archives
Some of my favorite stories that I’ve had published came about because I read a story in another publication and immediately thought something like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe they missed this great thing to do!” Or, “This doesn’t really capture my experience; I have so many more things I would have shared.” And then I’m usually so fired up about it that I can’t help but write up the story my way.
I know it can feel a little like torture to read about your favorite beach spot (and see those inviting photos!) that you can’t visit right now, but going through the archives of a publication in which you’d like to see your byline appear one day may jog your memory or spark something about it that you realize will be an ideal story focus when you do feel up to writing and pitching again. An archive review also will give you a better sense of what has been selling and what publications are looking for in terms of story focuses and destinations.
Do absolutely nothing that’s related to freelance travel writing
In the same way that it can be helpful to step away from a story you’re working on or struggling with in order to gain a fresh perspective, stepping away from being a writer right now is okay. It can give your brain a break from chewing on the same stuff over and over; letting your mind wander around other topics often has a way of shaking loose an idea about something you felt stuck on.
As I said in the introduction, right now is the perfect time to do whatever feels right to you. Only you can be the judge of the best steps to take to keep you and yours healthy, physically and mentally. Know that you are not alone—we’re all out here trying to figure out the same things, and only together will we all get through this!
Quick tip: If you’re looking to connect to more tribes of writers helping writers find work, check out Gotham Ghostwriters’ Help Another Writer Out campaign (#HAWO), which is based on the more established Help a Reporter Out (#HARO) initiative that journalists started. A free setup, #HAWO just involves joining the Facebook group and then either posting any paid gigs you’re aware of or checking out the ones that others have posted. Several media editors have posted their emails to encourage writers to reach out, and while it’s not devoted to travel—right now there are posts about climate change, a request for photographers, and personal essays—posts from outlets such as Are We Europe are looking for stories that focus on a destination.
Media trip: It’s hard to imagine right now that there ever will be such things as press trips again, but I believe there absolutely will be! Many tourism bureaus have there employees still working behind the scenes, and while they have halted press trips for the foreseeable future, they’re all saying that they are hopeful for 2021. One such entity is the Slovenia Tourist Board, which is thinking ahead and inviting journalists to sign up for their press releases, which also gets you on the list for press trip invitations. Simply visit the Media & Press page on their site and fill out the form; be sure to check the box that asks if you want to receive invitations. Once the country is ready to start offering media comps and rates, they will send out a request for applicants.