I was sitting on a floating dock in Montana, watching the sun set over a glassy pond, when I suddenly felt like quitting.
I’d dreamt of being a professional writer for as long as I could remember. But, since completing my journalism degree, and sinking into the dark depths of student loan payments, I hadn’t made much progress towards an actual career.
I was working part-time at a startup, creating dull, salesy content for their blog, when I decided to hit the road. I would quit my job, travel across the country, and write all about it. If this journey didn’t lead to my “big break,” then it would be time to walk away from the dream – time to do something more lucrative, like absolutely anything else.
That’s how I ended up on a swaying dock, 2,300 miles from home. I’d been driving and exploring for nearly two months. But I wasn’t inspired. I wasn’t motivated. I was mostly just lonely.
So I cried, and wondered what else I might do with my life at the conclusion of this trip. Bartend? Work for another startup I didn’t believe in? Panhandle?
The next day, I drove into Glacier National Park. I’d been looking forward to this since the beginning of my trip. But, now I wasn’t interested in writing about it. I pushed writing out of my head completely. I hiked into the mountains, and embraced the freedom of being there, alone. It was quiet and beautiful ó and the experience was all mine.
Despite the previous night’s conviction to walk away from writing, that night I wrote. The next day, I wrote some more. Suddenly, the words were coming faster than I could reach wifi in the vast expanse of middle-of-nowhere Montana.
After three long and lonely months, I concluded my trip by signing a lease in Portland, Oregon. I didn’t know anyone there, but I was suddenly very good at being alone. There were so many strangers with stories to be discovered. My solo road trip had taught me how to start conversations with them ó baristas, bartenders, that boy with the yappy dog ó anyone who crossed my path might lead to a new idea, or even a friendship. I let the absence of people in my life open up the opportunity to meet new ones, and hear their stories.
Their stories fueled my inspiration.
I landed my first big byline shortly after moving to Portland. And then another, and another. I’ve now amassed a portfolio and a client list that allows me to call myself a full-time freelance writer.
Sometimes, I still get lonely in Portland. I’m very far from friends and family back East. But, whenever I feel that way, I know that the empty space in my life is there to be filled with new stories and new words. Then, I sit down at my laptop, and I fill it.
Britany Robinson is a freelance writer with a focus on travel and culture. Her work appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, Hemispheres, Mic, and more. She blogs at Travelwriteaway.com, where she shares the candid journey of life as a travel writer. Britany is also the creator of Blogger to Bylines: A Guide to Freelance Writing. This online course includes written lessons and expert interviews with industry leaders on how to find stories, pitch editors, get published, and build a career as a freelance writer. She still loves to hike alone, but is often joined by her floppy-eared pooch.
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