I’m a writer. And in the age of the Internet, that’s a great thing to be.
I didn’t plan it that way, of course. In my case it was just dumb luck. After a dozen years as an undergrad searching for something to hold my interest long enough to actually get a degree, I stumbled on journalism.
My journalism degree gave me two important skills…the ability to do research, and the ability to appreciate and meet deadlines.
With these two skills, I’ve been able to write a lot of stories on a lot of different topics over the years. (And, incidentally, pay off my student loans and earn a decent living.)
And the fact that I can now do research and meet deadlines from anywhere on the planet that has an Internet connection…well, that’s why I say a writer is a great thing to be right now. It’s what we call a transportable career.
For example…at this moment I’m writing these words from a small leather craft village in the northern Andes mountains of Ecuador. Over the past 13 years, I’ve done the same thing from a lot of other exotic locations around the world…beach towns in Nicaragua, provincial capitals in Laos, chateaus in Normandy, Amazonian jungle villages. More places than I can remember, actually.
And I still look up from the computer every now and then, shake my head, and wonder how I got where I am at the moment.
Technically, the answer isn’t writing. It’s my wife, Suzan. She’s a writer, too, and she loves to travel. She’s the one that steered us in the direction of our current work with International Living almost 14 years ago.
But it was writing that allowed me to join her on our ensuing merry chase around the globe. With our training as writers—and with the Internet—we can work as partners and, almost literally, write our own tickets to travel around the world.
We know other people doing the same thing. Many of our current and former International Living colleagues earn their living as writers. Several of my friends from journalism school are writing great stuff back on the block in Omaha, Nebraska. A good friend from my graduate school days just did a book tour of France with his latest novel. Another is the James Michener Chair of Fiction in the University of Texas at Austin English department.
Another good friend of ours, John Forde, earns his living while traveling through the U.S. and Europe—Paris, London, and the like—doing copywriting, which is writing letters that get people to buy things. Seriously. There is a huge market for people who know how to write effective sales letters.
Not only that, but John also writes about copywriting: He produces his own newsletter about his craft, and I get it every week. I don’t even do much copywriting…it’s just fun to read, because John is a great writer.
But what most of the other writers I know have in common is a lot more direction than I initially had. They knew what they wanted to do, and they took conscious, purposeful steps to do it. For me, things just stacked up right: writing training, Internet, footloose wife, market for stories from around the world, desire for some adventure. It all kind of fell into place.
If I had it to do all over again, I would probably do exactly the same thing, but I’d do it on purpose…and probably without the years in college stuck in there. I’d have done a shorter, more focused writing course, done a few articles on spec, gotten an assignment or two, and taken off.
That all would assume, of course, that I’m capable of effective long-range planning. Suzan has her own thoughts on that.
But I do know lots of people who are capable of that kind of planning and have done just that…followed the same basic path I followed, but in a much shorter time frame, with much more purpose, and with much more immediate results.
And maybe even with a footloose spouse in the bargain as well—although I can’t imagine too many people getting as lucky as I did on that count.
But any way you get there, being a writer is a great thing to be nowadays; I don’t think there’s much doubt about that. I know I knock on wood every now and then.
If it’s something you can do, I think it’s something you should do. You never know where it may lead.
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