At 12 years old, I pictured myself as a published writer, pushing through adoring fans at book signings and appearing on TV shows, sharing my wisdom with young Chuck Warren wannabes.
Then, I spent the next four decades doing absolutely nothing to accomplish that goal.
I did write a lot. However, I never dared to share a single written word with anyone who wasn’t a family member. While I couldn’t ignore the pull to write, my dream of getting published was crushed by my lack of self-confidence.
In my late 40s, I began to travel more, and I wrote about the places I visited. However, I still wouldn’t share my writing with anyone other than family.
The trip that changed everything…
Finally, on a trip through Italy in 2015, I found myself surrounded by incredible history, art, and architecture, and it inspired me to think seriously about writing again.
As I sat in a 12th-century Italian castle once frequented by Machiavelli, the pull grew so strong that I made notes on napkins, notepads, and anything else I could find. I just wrote. And wrote. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the notes, but I knew I had to write about the place and its rich history.
The feeling didn’t fade when I got home, and on New Year’s Day, I decided it was time to put up or shut up: my resolution was to become a published writer by the end of the year.
Overcoming my fears
I didn’t know how to write a query letter. I was afraid of the process, and of any interaction with editors. I had myself convinced that I had only one chance with each, and if I made any mistakes then that door would close forever.
Also, I received some well-meaning but incorrect advice from someone who had been published a few times—about how it was nearly impossible to break into print publications, and I was better off writing online for free. And, after that, I became frozen in place by fear.
However, after attending the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop, I went home with ideas, clarity, a more accurate understanding of how the industry works, and a plan. I also discovered that editors were just normal people.
I started to get more comfortable with the idea of sharing my writing, and after a long, nerve-wracking inner battle, I finally submitted an article.
One success led to another…
In September 2016, my first article was accepted by a print publication. I couldn’t believe it. I honestly thought I would be a “one-hit wonder,” with a dirty, dog-eared copy of an old magazine in his back pocket, repeating, “Did I ever tell you about…” at family dinners to exasperated relatives and their embarrassed guests.
But, I decided to try again, this time writing about boating—a subject I knew as well as breathing. When this next submission was accepted, I began to think I might have what it takes after all.
I’ve just had my 29th article published in print and now regularly contribute to several magazines. I’ve been able to write about things I love, like boating and animals, and I’ve discovered that travel writing doesn’t necessarily mean visiting exotic places. On a recent press trip to Milwaukee, I learned that there is a lot to discover right in my own backyard.
There’s something incredibly powerful and humbling about having an editor approve of your writing, and letting it represent their publication. I still find it hard to believe I’m lucky enough to experience that feeling.
The key to all of this is: Don’t let fear hold you back. If you can take that next step, despite any fear, your dream could be a lot closer than you think.
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