Information gathering is fine but experience teaches us the best travel writing lessons.
I know plenty of aspiring writers with superb writing skills and all the right education, who never quite get to the stage of putting pen to paper and pitching and writing travel stories.
Instead, they keep attending conferences and workshops, buying “how to” books, and gathering information from the Internet on how to break into freelance travel writing.
It’s easy for us to fall into the “information gathering” trap, versus actually sitting down to generate story ideas, create magazine distribution lists, write and send out query letters, and write our articles.
The reality is, there’s such an abundance of information on travel writing (and all other forms of freelance writing) that we’re never quite going to catch up with it and absorb it all.
Information gathering, or overthinking a topic, is a procrastination technique. It stems from a whole suite of reasons related to entering a new, unfamiliar field like freelance travel writing like fear of failure and rejection, and lack of confidence. Not to mention the fact that travel writing is actually hard work and requires a certain amount of daily grind. Sometimes a lot of grind!
Information gathering is fine and dandy, but there comes a point where we’ve just got to sit down and start working through the freelance writing process to get some of your stories published.
I tell you this because gathering information is only half of what we need to break into travel writing successfully. The other half is a valuable and vital thing called “Experience“.
It’s only through the experiences we gain while attempting travel writing that we discover the freelance travel writing arena is messy and has no consistency.
There are no gold standards in freelance travel writing. Take pay rates for example: I’ve written a 5,000-word article for $300 and a 500-word piece for $500! Where’s the consistency in that?!
Experience means realizing that travel editors differ tremendously in their preferences for stories and writing styles, and that many editors are great to work with, while a few are not-so-great.
And, experience means understanding that our work doesn’t need to be perfect to be publishable. I make no claims to be a Hemingway or a Steinbeck, yet I’ve managed to get more than 1,000 articles published in 200+ regional, national, and international magazines, newspapers, trade journals, custom publications, specialty magazines, in-flights, on-boards, and online travel magazines.
We need to understand that we’re going to learn as much from our experiences when we try freelance writing, as what we’ve learned from our MFAs and journalism degrees and the “how to” books and workshops and conferences.
Most importantly, we gain experience by confronting the demons of rejection and failure head on, and learning from them.
Rejection and failure are integral parts of the travel writing learning process. We learn as much from our mistakes as we do from our successes—maybe more!
We’ve all heard of the “School of Hard Knocks”. Those hard knocks are derived from experience. There are few better ways to learn than by attending the school of hard knocks. Heck, it’s a full blown university!
I’ve learned more from my experiences in the school of hard knocks than I’ve learned from my combined years of higher education and self-study. From my freelance writing experiences, I’ve evolved dozens of actionable and practical marketing techniques that have helped me sell hundreds of articles to paying print media around the globe—and score some marvelous regional, national, and international press trips and Fam Tours.
Until you temporarily put your information gathering aside, and start putting pen to paper, you’re never going to learn those other valuable freelance writing lessons that will help you get your work published.
Does this mean you should cease your information gathering? Of course not! But as you gain experience, any new information you encounter will be more meaningful because you’ll be able to apply it to your experience.