finding freedom

birdsAnd another thing . . . Why would anyone want to go into a field where half of the people you work with are jerks?

As many of you know, I am currently freelancing for a couple of papers in my area. It started out with an article last November. I’d recently moved home from Hong Kong and was trying to break into writing in print. I contacted the editor of my local paper and asked him if he’d be interested in a feature on a WWII/Korean war vet of my acquaintance for Veteran’s Day. Much to my delight, he said yes.

The article went to print almost exactly as I’d written it, and since then I’ve been writing fairly consistently for that paper and, now, a second one—a position I got because of my connection with the first paper. But at both papers, I’ve noticed a not-so-surprising but somewhat annoying trend: The editors and other staff are often . . .

Take this email exchange for an example:

Hi _____!

Here is the Bye Bye Birdie article! I hope it’s okay. :)

One thing I wanted to clarify (before I forget), do I need to send you an invoice for each article in order to get paid?

Thanks so much. I hope you had a nice 4th!


And here is the editor’s response:

You’ll get paid on a monthly basis and don’t need to send an invoice. Articles are $30 each unless otherwise specified.

No salutation, no sign-off, nothing.

Now, I understand that journalists are busy people. I know it’s a cut-throat environment in which dog eats dog or gets eaten. I get it. But, still. When the world is too busy and too self-absorbed to take two seconds to return simple gestures of good will, something is wrong. Seriously wrong.


I wrote in my last post that I wanted to write about SOMETHING. Something that matters. And I think that that’s the key for me. All good writing—writing that touches the heart and is etched on the mind and has the power to move mountains—comes from passion. The minute I am forced to write about something trivial that, in the grand scheme of things, won’t matter tomorrow, the magic of writing is lost.

I don’t want to be a puppet.

And so I will find my own way. It’s somewhat freeing, honestly. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought I wanted to find a “normal” life. I thought working my way up from a $3/hour position writing things I didn’t care would be the key to my success. Now I see I don’t have to “sell myself” (something all freelancers must do, which I detest) in order to find myself . . .

All I have to do is follow my heart.

You, my dear readers, have shown me that.


“Journalism largely consists in saying ‘Lord Jones is dead’ to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.” ― G.K. Chesterton

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
Maya Angelou

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway


Note: This is not to say that I don’t think there is a need or place for journalism, or that journalism isn’t important. Not at all! It’s just a personal epiphany that it might not be the right fit for—my own dad has said I’m too creative to write news stories . . .

Image: Pinterest

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51 thoughts

      • Travel writing, I hope. I’d really like to teach abroad again. I love kids, and I can’t think of a better way to get over there!

      • Marry the two, perhaps. There’s a huge demand (as you’d already know) for online teaching manuals. I actually found a good blog the other day (sorry, didn’t save it) where the author was posting their class materials/suggestions/tips/experiences. I taught English when I first came to Brazil and I would have killed for a good (inexpensive) resource guide like that at the time.

  1. It sounds like you sure have made an interesting epiphany about yourself. Journalism has always existed in a very gray area for me because there are always different perspectives to look at.

    As far as the responses. I read an article a ways back about the difference between how men and women communicate. Men are very direct and tend to delete the niceties, especially in electronic communication, while women mirror face to face interactions. It was quite interesting. I wish I remembered where I read it but it was so long ago. There is also a book called “The Secret LIfe of Pronouns” by James Pennebaker. It also looked at communication based on gender. Very interesting stuff. Have a great day!

    • Great observations, Matt! Yes, I have most definitely recently had an epiphany. Here I thought I was moving home for good almost a year ago, and now I’m realizing “home” is not where my heart is… I agree that there are a lot of ways to look at journalism, too. It can certainly make for some interesting conversations!

      Also, your comments on men and women’s communication… I fully believe what you say! It’s funny and oh so true. I’ll have to look that book up… (When I have time, haha… Why is there never enough time?!)

  2. As my family and I are on the cusp of some lifestyle changes, I can relate to some of what you’re going through. I, too, want to find a way to work and live with integrity. I’ve spent enough of my life letting other people tell the stories and dictate the terms that my voice should be heard.

    Best of luck to you in your endeavors, Jessica. Looking forward to hearing more!

    • Thanks so much, Jeff! And good luck to you in your changes, too, and also in your travels right now! This whole thing has really been an epiphany for me. Here I thought I was moving home for good, but, suddenly, I’ve realized “home” is not where my heart is…

      Thanks so much for continuing to follow along. I hope you’re having a great weekend! :)

  3. The frustration in your post is good to see, such a part of life (and work). There are times in business/life, where all you can do is shake your head, and do the job…it is not fun, but it is necessary. However, as you lead-on, when the ‘bad’ of this begins to outweigh the ‘good’, then move on if you can. Most of us are very lucky as we have options and opportunities…and it is a shame not to chase them. :-)

    • Yes. I guess for me it’s been such an epiphany because, all along, I thought, “Teach in Asia for a few years…move home and find a ‘real’ job.” But then when I moved home, and every day I woke up wishing I were somewhere else… And when I realized my heart wasn’t really in the path I was pursuing… It’s just a total paradigm shift, you know?

      Of course, no job or life is perfect. I know that. Teaching and living abroad certainly has its downsides. But if I can believe in the greater good, if my heart recognizes why I am doing what I am doing, it’s easier to get through the tough things, isn’t it? In journalism, responses like that editor’s only get me down.

      • Well stated, and I think that that is it. If you are doing something you love and care about, when the bad times come it is easier to deal with… If you are more or less just going through the motions and bad times come, then it is misery defined.

        Your second to the last sentence in your post is the correct answer.

      • I think so, too. The funny thing is, I feel so spoiled to be able to say that. How many people around the world have the opportunity to “follow their heart”?

  4. In a way – it makes me feel good having read this…only because half the time they never pay! Bottom line Jess – you are gifted gifted! I read many blogs – you are the top! So good writers are rarely recognized until they are dead – consolation – you are not a hack!

    • I’m not a hack, eh? That’s good to know! Yeah, I desperately need the money so I hope they pay, but it’s not like I could make a living off of $30 per article, anyway… I’m glad to have made you feel good, Hoss. This post makes me feel good, too, because it is my open acknowledgment of what my heart has been telling me!

  5. Good, Good, Good for you Jessica. What a class A jerk!!! You are learning by some hard knocks. I wish this editor would have his/her comeuppance. Civility is on a downward swing right now. You are an excellent writer. This blog has shown me you have a real future in writing on any level or type. Terri J. Nelson :)

    • Thank you so much, Terri. You are a sweetheart. I do think people ought to be more polite… Unfortunately, responses like this editor’s are all too common in the world of journalism. Also, I hope your predictions about my future are right. I certainly do love to write! :)

  6. Hey Jessica,

    I had to do some digging on Google to find it again but as a start with the travel writing, maybe you could submit an article to these guys –

    I think it started out as a blog about one woman’s travels around the world but it has clearly evolved into something much, much bigger. Apologies if you’ve already thought about this…

    Keep at it and best of luck!

    • Thanks, Sean! Yes, I’m actually following Lesley’s blog. I get kind of annoyed because all she does it talk about her travels, without any real underlying purpose other than to show the items she’s scratched off of her bucket list. Not that I have anything against bucket lists, and she certainly is an inspiration regarding setting and going after goals, but to me… It should just be about more than that, you know?

      To me the point of travel is to gain perspective on the world and it’s people and to try to share that knowledge and understanding with others…

      Lesley certainly *is* a great example of how to grow a blog, though, and how to keep it growing… You have a good idea. I don’t know if Lesley accepts guest posts, but I’ll have to look into it. Thanks! :)

      • I’m actually on Leslie’s front page now. I’ve submitted articles to her. It didn’t really drive that much traffic to my site. I understand what you mean about the bigger picture with travel–very few people understand this.

        But you know, one of her ads probably covers a good amount of her lifestyle fees.

      • Hmm… Well maybe I should contact her about it, anyway. Not a bad idea. And you’re probably right about her ads. I wonder what causes people to follow her so closely? I guess we’ll all driven to sites for different reasons. She certainly would be inspiring for someone stuck at a desk job for 40 hours a week.

  7. Chesterton, Angelou, and Hemingway could not have put it more succinctly, huh? Being a history and science fanatic, part of my July 4th ritual is immersing myself in David McCullough’s Pulitzer-Prize biography “John Adams.” Something that made perfect sense to me Jessica — of writing and reading — was McCullough’s explanation of “painting with words” and it might be appropriate here. For him, telling a story is about life….

    “It’s about everything. It’s about life history. It’s human. And we have to see it that way. We have to teach it that way [tell the stories that way?]. We have to read it that way. It’s about art, music, literature, money, science, love – the human experience.”

    You and this post reminded me of he and his words as a writer, historian, and renown biographer. So, there’s my tiny little morsel of encouragement! ;-)

    • Thank you, Professor! And I couldn’t agree more with McCullough. That’s a great quote. The only thing that I’d add is that it’s also about heart. Without heart, the world around us falls flat.

      Thanks again! Hope you’re having a great day. :)

  8. Jesscy,

    I think writing is a tough business. I’m writing because it is my passion as well–at least travel. I think writers have historically been cursed with poverty–even famous writers. I don’t like having to “sell myself” either– but you almost have to make a living. It is tough out there and you have to be entrepreneurial.

    Newspapers are almost dead and even traditional books have competition from the internet–this may account for their dry and emotionless responses.

    Thank you for commenting on Generation Passport so much! And I’m sure something will come your way!


    • You’re right, Joe. Writing has always been a tough business. In his memoir “On Writing,” Stephen King talks about working numerous other jobs and writing during breaks in the “old days.” Charles Dickens published “Hard Times” by chapters in a magazine as he went… Freelancers absolutely have to sell themselves, which isn’t something I’m incapable of, it’s just that I don’t like it. And even successful freelancers have a hard time surviving. In one of the links I included at the bottom of this article (“I got paid $12.50 an hour to write this article”), freelancer Noah Davis says he’s made $17K so far this year… That ain’t much.

      That’s why I say if I can “find my own way” writing while doing something else I love (which will, of course, spur more writing), well… How could I go wrong?

      And I really like what you’re doing on your site! It’s something with which I can wholeheartedly agree. So I’m happy to support! Have a great day! :)

      • I feel your frustration as well. I have another job, but writing blogging isn’t going to cut it. Stay busy. As someone who has lived overseas and lives in a state with a comparable job market to California–I feel your pain.

  9. Working for $3 an hour is slave labour – shocking to hear that that is all they pay. Unless you have a patron or two I think you need a “day job” – keep writing please – especially this blog! but don’t expect to make money out of writing. Good luck with whatever you do :-)

    • That’s what I’ve been told by numerous people, and you’re all right. A writer definitely needs a second job in order to survive. I *do* have another job besides my freelance work right now, but it isn’t much, and I’m lucky my dad isn’t charging me rent! My hope is to teach abroad again… And, don’t worry! Now that I’ve started this blog, I won’t be going away any time soon. Thanks so much for your encouragement!

  10. Why is it that nearly everything you share resonates with me?? Spooky.
    You just hit dead center on the reason I’ve never been able to bring myself to write journalism. (Aside from a brief stint on the high school yearbook committee). I hate the idea of being told to care about something that is meaningless to me. So I’ve stayed away, and in doing so, I’ve probably sacrificed any chance I have a making a career out of writing.
    It’s funny how you feel cheated when you don’t see a salutation in an email. That happens a lot in my field as well, and it bugs me as well, though not as badly as it used to. Sadly, I’ve grown a little used to it, to the point that I sometimes do it myself.
    I hope you find the best of both worlds out there!
    God bless (salutation) ;)

    • This made me smile, Lucas. Thank you. I’m glad you can relate… Obviously I relate a lot to much of what you write, too… Yeah, I don’t know. For me the fun of writing is sapped the minute I’m forced to write about things trivial and impersonal. True, there’s the challenge of creating an interesting story that flows while still fitting in all of the details—I find satisfaction in that. But the real joy is gone.

      I’ll admit that, occasionally, I’ve sent an email without signing my name, too. But that was only in following someone else’s example! ;)

      Thanks for your encouragement!!! I hope so, too. God bless you, too!!

    • Well, I wouldn’t say that. I’ve actually met her, and, in person, she’s really quite nice. It’s just the nature of the field, I guess. If I were to become a full-time journalist, I’d have to develop really thick skin. (At least she answered my question. Sometimes I don’t even get that!) I *do* wish people would be kinder, though. Sometimes it just seems like a slap in the face.

  11. “All good writing—writing that touches the heart and is etched on the mind and has the power to move mountains—comes from passion. ” Very well said. Passion is a powerful thing :)

  12. Love the Chesterton quote!

    I know how you feel, wanting to write things that matter. I once thought I wanted to be an academic, and publish articles in journals and be the smart guy who knows everything about that one thing…until I realized two things: 1) That one thing I had worked so hard to know all about was something that probably three other people even cared about, and 2) the nature of academic writing demands the eradication of the self, the personality, anything that connects you to who you are. It is intentionally stuffy and boring. This does not work for me, at all.

    So I decided to follow my heart, and I turned to a subject that has fascinated me for a long time: local history, my home town, and I went after that. Year and a half later, I’ve published my first book, and in the process I learned quite a bit about myself and where I come from. I’ve discovered things about my family I would probably never have known otherwise, and I made some excellent friends in the process.

    All this to say: follow your heart, write what’s in it and what matters to it and to you, and you cannot go wrong. No idea how many people will ever read what I have written, but I know that it was worth the effort because it made my heart sing…

  13. I always use a greeting and salutation in the initial contact with someone. I think it lends a degree of professionalism that is lacking so much these days.

    • I’d agree with that. I mean, it’s one thing if you’re emailing your buddy at work, killing time during the work day or something. But, for more formal communication, it’s a must! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)

  14. Your Dad is write Jess about your creativity…
    And I have seen people like you’ve explained the way confronted with such manner…
    Being courteous and generous with people and greetings for me in my point of view should be maintained by everyone…Here if you observe people you will see that saying “Thank you” ” Excuse me” “Pardon me” “I am sorry” etc, these words they hardly use. I ask myself sometime- why there is a problem of being generous? I despise this when people are not careful with their behavior…A simple HI or Hello or Take care or such words can give a bit comfort but I am sorry for those who doesn’t even think such way or realize the value of it….

    Thank you Jess for such nice post…!!

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