The Ambidextrous Travel Writer

The Ambidextrous Travel Writer:

The Ambidextrous Travel Writer is a monthly advice column for travel writers & bloggers, written by author Susan Farewell.

Are You Cut Out to Be a Travel Writer?

take the travel writer quiz
2 January 2012 Post Author:
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If you’re already an established travel writer, you’ve heard it dozens of times.

“Oh what I would do to have your job!” Indeed, the life of a travel writer can be an enviable one, but at the same time, it’s not for everyone. Take a few minutes and answer the following 12 questions. Jot down the letters of your answers and tally the results at the end.

1. You’ve missed your flight out of Cairo, the next several are booked, and the ticket agent says serenely, “Don’t worry. Allah willed this.” Meanwhile, you have three more countries to ‘”cover” in one week. You:

a) Scream irately at the ticket agent.
b) Head straight for the bar.
c) Secure a flight for the next day, go back into town and settle in for an obligation-free evening at your hotel.

2. You are terribly afraid of take-offs and landings, so you:

a) Drive, take trains and buses, or ships whenever possible.
b) Drink yourself into oblivion.
c) Bury yourself in a book or a conversation with the person sitting next to you during those times.

3. You’re in Caracas, Venezuela. A new-found pilot friend invites you on a private sightseeing flight to Angel Falls. “Guaranteed to give you a close-up view,” he says with a devious smile. You:

a) Say thanks, but no thanks.
b) Take a rain-check.
c) Accept with pleasure.

4. You’re up against a deadline with a major article about skiing in Scandinavia when an editor calls and asks if you can give her a quick 500-word piece on New England inns. You know both subjects very well. You:

a) Say no thanks, but I’m too busy at the moment.
b) Say yes and miss your other deadline.
c) Ask for a bit more time from both editors.

5. You have to write a piece on a place you absolutely hated for a magazine you never heard of before. You’re in no mood to work on it, yet it is due in days. You:

a) Procrastinate till after the deadline and then ask for an extension.
b) Write it half-heartedly.
c) Talk yourself into getting something out of writing it.

6. You get a call asking if you could lecture on a subject you just wrote extensively about. You can’t stand speaking in front of groups, so you:

a) Say no thank you.
b) Say yes, but change your mind later.
c) Say yes, definitively.

7. You have no work. You haven’t had work for three months. You’ve run up your credit card bills. You:

a) Try to find a “real job” at a publishing company.
b) Spend your time bellyaching to everyone on the phone.
c) Keep networking, send out pitches and proposals, call editors.

8. It’s 3 A.M. You’ve been at your computer for such a long time, your eyes hurt, your back aches, you’re feeling nauseous. Still, your article is due at noon the next day and the editor will not grant you an extension. You:

a) Continue working through the night.
b) Blow off the deadline.
c) Get a couple of hours rest before finishing up.

9. In ten years, you picture yourself:

a) You’re not sure.
b) As a lawyer.
c) Well-known travel journalist or author.

10. You’ve just received a call from an innkeeper. He is irate because you mentioned his inn on the same page as a group of seedy hotels in his town. How dare you associate him with such places. You:

a) Tell him to go you-know-where.
b) Cry.
c) Tell him you admire his integrity and explain that most innkeepers are thrilled to get any kind of publicity.

11. An editor calls with an immediate project. There is no way you could free up to do it and he asks if you could recommend another writer. You:

a) Lie. Pretend you can’t think of any body.
b) Recommend a writer you know is on the road.
c) Give him a few names, but explain that you have never worked directly with them (unless you of course have, and in that case, can highly recommend them).

12. You write:

a) Only checks.
b) Only when you have to.
c) Almost every day.

If you circled all As and Bs, you may have a difficult time supporting yourself as a travel writer. However, many of these traits evolve over time and through experience, so don’t necessarily give up.

If you circled most Cs, you already have what it takes.

~ Susan

Where did you score? Are you cut out to be a travel writer? :-)


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15 Responses to “Are You Cut Out to Be a Travel Writer?”

  1. A fun little quiz, Susan, thanks for sharing this! The only one I would change is number 4 – I think the a and c answers should be switched….call me a stickler for professionalism, but I really think honoring a commitment to an editor to meet a deadline should be a better answer than asking for more time in order to take on another job. But that’s just me…..perhaps a more modern-minded editor would not agree with me.

    Wishing you a successful 2012 over at FarewellTravels!

    • That is very professional and an excellent observation, Trisha. I think I’d approach Editor of Assignment #1. If he/she said “NO,” I’d go back to Editor of Assignment #2 and say “I’m too busy.” My reasoning for this is that unless you’re juggling deadlines left and right, chances are you need the work and should seize every opportunity.

      Then again…as an editor myself, I can’t always grant extra time. But of course there are times when I have lots of wiggle room. Can’t hurt to ask.

      Looking forward to another great year enjoying Travel Writers Exchange, Trisha.

  2. Laurel Egan
    Twitter:
    says:

    Your quiz was fun. Thanks. Happy to say I scored almost entirely C’s. The Venezuelan pilot seemed a little creepy. Now if only I were a much better writer. Still, I enjoy blogging about travel while begging the forgiveness of my readers for my lack of writing skills.

    • Hi Laurel – Congratulations on your score! I can’t disagree with you on the Venezuelan pilot, but of course I was imagining a tall, dark, handsome stra….uh, nevermind.

      Here’s my philosophy on writing: skills can be learned, but one must be born with a love of writing to be successful. If you love the craft, take a few courses at a local community college to improve your skills.

      Good luck!

  3. Deb
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love this quiz. Great fun.

  4. The first time for me where all “c’s” on a test earns me an “A.” What a trip.

  5. I disagree with your C answer on question 4. I would explain to the second editor about your first deadline, and ask her to give you more time since it’s a last-minute article.

    Or I’d just try to write them both. If you are extremely familiar with the subjects, you should be able to pop off the second article in an hour or so.

    If you’ve ever been a deadline reporter for a daily newspaper, as I have, you need to be able to write quickly and well, getting everything right the first time through.

    • You have a good point Cheryl…….500 words should not take much time or effort if it’s truly a subject you know well.

      For me, it’s about reputation – I’d rather have a reputation for always meeting deadlines (and not asking for extensions). As an editor, I’ve learned to treat some writers the same way I treat my brother (we invite him to meals or events a half-hour earlier, knowing he will always show up late)….so I purposely give certain writers an earlier deadline than needed, knowing that they will ask me for an extension. Other writers I’ve learned to just not work with, since meeting deadlines doesn’t seem to be their forte.

      So that’s a roundabout way of saying that I agree – a good option is to explain to the second editor about your existing deadline with the first, to see if there is some wiggle room on the last-minute article, before making a commitment to it.

  6. Kimberly
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great quiz! Happy that I answered all C’s:) Except #8 of course, if I tried to grab some rest I would have missed the deadline for sure! Not much of a morning person, so I had to go with “A”.

  7. Linda
    Twitter:
    says:

    Dammit! Knew there was a profession for me somewhere. All C’s with some provisos as outlined in other comments.
    Next challenge – where do I find these editors who are going to bombard me with all the work?

    Anyone struggling to come up with a name when facing number 11 – I’d be most happy to oblige!

    • Hi Linda – wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were this large pool of editors each of whom has oodles of writing assignments just waiting for an eager writer to swim by and snag one?

      Sadly I’m not aware of such a pool….Sigh. We you can do instead, and what every writer should do, is to network and develop good relationships with as many editors as possible, so that when a nice assignment is ready to be handed out, you may be one of the lucky writers they’ll think of first.

      Good luck!

  8. Bill Hasting
    Twitter:
    says:

    I liked your quiz. I scored 10 out of 12. Not bad for an old geezzer.
    Thanks for making it up, and i wish that I had looked into the This Travel Writing
    years back. I have worked and traveled all over the world, and just recently have
    found or taken the time to record some of those ventures. It has been demanding
    but fun.

    Thanks for the quiz. As i said it was fun to take.

    Bill Hastings,
    Black River, MI, and Mooca, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
    17th March 2012

  9. I’m glad I stumbled across this. I’m currently trying to break into the travel writing field, and finding it a wee bit hard. A 9 out of 12 isn’t bad, so I will take heart from my score and keep trying. Thanks!

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