Learning From Failure: Find Freelance Writing Success
By the time I’d been the travel editor for The Denver Post for 9 years, I was ready for a change.
For those three years prior to my leaving in August 2014, though, I had spent considerable time and energy trying to save the Travel section and my role in it.
As anyone who’s been following the newspaper industry for any length of time knows, the world of print journalism has been struggling, not only with creating a digital identity, but also with producing a high-quality product with fewer advertising dollars and increasingly smaller staffs.
What that meant for me at the Post was more and more work with less and less resources.
I was tasked – not only on a professional level, but also I made it a personal goal – with trying to reinvent the Travel section in a way that cost a lot less money and also accommodated my new additional job as editor of the Fitness section.
With all of the best intentions and a heaping helping of optimism, I tackled that challenge with everything I had. In the face of continual budget cuts and a miserable work environment, I revamped the section, created new travel- and fitness-themed blogs, hosted a community night to engage readers, and started using my own dollars for travel so that the section wouldn’t suffer.
Ultimately, I failed. I just couldn’t seem to find the balance between having a life that felt as though I was being crushed by a vice clamped to my head from stress and being a travel editor forced to stomach substandard work – not to mention that these two facets were bleeding into each other like the red and orange mixers of a Tequila Sunrise cocktail.
The toughest decision, then, was the one to leave a career that had in many ways defined me – but also had been providing rather important things such as a salary and health benefits.
I did quit, of course. And after I gave myself some time to grieve, I threw myself into creating a new life and lifestyle. This has allowed me not only to travel even more than I had been toward the end of my tenure at the Post but also to pay more attention to my health and happiness.
Here’s what I learned from all of this:
That failure isn’t really a bad word, or a bad thing
There’s such a stigma around failure. But not only do most successful people have at least one tale of a failure that knocked them down and out… they’re also able to show how without that experience of failing, their lives would have turned out very differently – and usually not nearly as interesting or exhilarating.
That I have a higher tolerance for uncertainty than I thought
Coupled with a fear of failure, a strong desire for security governs most people’s decisions. Whenever I had imagined being without a steady salary or dealing with a health crisis without the same iron-clad insurance in place, I did feel a swell of panic. But because that panic was prodding me along, it wound up being instrumental in pushing me toward a sense of security. I came to embrace the panic, because it’s what spurred me into making good choices and standing my ground about things like fees for freelance and work hours.
That making a plan is important, but setting out to put that plan into action is even more important
I never would have considered doing what I did without fully exploring all of the options available to me. Would I freelance or try to find another, less stressful full-time job? Would I go into a different line of work, one that didn’t involve journalism at all? Or, would I abandon conventional employment and travel around the world working on organic farms and housesitting? Eventually, I settled on freelancing and set about making it happen.
That I have it in me to just close my eyes and make the leap of faith
One day I was the travel editor for a major daily newspaper, and after putting in my notice, two weeks later I was not. It was heart-wrenching, and it was especially tough to leave behind some amazing pros who had been my co-workers for more than a decade.
But I finally realized I was just going to have to jump.
So, I did.
And not only did my failure pan out well for me and my freelance writing success, it also allowed a novice editor to step into my old role and continue her own journey.
She’s happy, I’m happy, and there’s still travel content in The Denver Post so the readers are happy.
Failure, schmailure, I say. This feels more like a win-win for all.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can fund your travels and make an extra income with photography, travel writing, blogging, and more in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Five Fun Ways To Get Paid To Travel: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]