Photo: Priscilla Du Preez
My earliest memories of involve lots of books strewn around the house. I suspect that it was my parents’ way of getting me to read. If it was, it definitely worked, and it’s probably the reason why I write for a living today.
Of course, after graduating from Enid Blyton and R.L. Stine, I found myself flipping through the Zig Ziglars, Dale Carnegies, and Napoleon Hills. As a sixteen-year-old, I never could relate to the lessons in those books, so for me, self-improvement was only something I’d read for fun.
But when I found myself alone and crying in Thailand more than a decade later, a snippet from How To Stop Worrying And Start Living popped right up from the recesses of my mind, like a piece of turd that refuses to be flushed down the toilet. It was a father’s letter to his son, and it went something like this:
Who’d have thought travel writing would exist? You get to experience something you otherwise wouldn’t, and they pay for it? What is this, a writer’s wet dream?
When I flew to Boracay for my first travel assignment, I couldn’t believe I was doing it. Here I was, a writer that had stumbled across various dead-end jobs before finding this gig, and I was well on my way to collecting passport stamps and magazine bylines.
That honeymoon period lasted barely two months though, because while travel writing was fun, it also offered what any other job did—the potential for it to suck.
Photo: Ben White
“Maybe your writing sits better with westerners than with Asians,” Nick said, comparing my blog posts (read: more than five readers) to the Facebook shares (my sister being the sole reader) I occasionally put out.
I nodded with reluctance. It wasn’t as if Malaysia lacked a thriving reading community, but there was also no denying it: I get more traffic and engagement from the USA than anywhere else, all things considered.
As much as I’d like to believe that hard work and talent trumps all, it’s becoming real apparent to me that getting your work seen by the appropriate audience seems to be a more effective way of approaching things than just blindly churning out content week after week.
Photo: Averie Woodard
Some people say writing’s the only thing that feels natural to them. Others call it cathartic. You’ve even heard people claiming that they’d die if they couldn’t write. You, on the other hand, do away with such frivolities. After all, you’re doing it just to earn a living.
Photo: Lucas Favre
“So I’ll need you to do a travel assignment for like a coupla weeks,” an ex-friend said.
“Well you came to the right guy.”
“I’ll need sixty articles total.”
“That’s, a lot.”
“You’ll need to write two articles a day, about five hundred words each…”
“I guess I can manage.”
“… while on the road, for like eight hours a day.”
“Expenses aren’t covered.”
“Food’s pretty cheap in Myanmar,” Jess said. “So what’s your price?”
I did a quick calculation and quoted the average market rate for 30,000 words.
“We can’t pay you that much.”