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Writing for Magazines and Newspapers

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The Writing Life and the Struggle for Nickels and Dimes


“Put writing in your heart. Thus you may protect yourself from any kind of labour.” -Egyptian scribe to his son 2400 BC.

This is the idea. To find a way to write for my food. By any means necessary. But I have found that to do so means working long hours for a pittance, and struggling for my nickels and dimes. I almost feel like a beggar. But I have been publishing in small-time magazines, and getting paid small-time money. I do not complain, for at least it is something. I am rather pleased with myself, in fact. My mom is happy with me too.

I do not mind slaving away for a few days researching, interviewing, and assembling a story that will only make me $50. I am actually very happy to receive the $50 for this effort. I think that I am well paid. I am satisfied. I am having fun. I do not need anything more.

But maybe I am coming to the point where I need to take things to the next level. Maybe I should try getting published in the medium-time magazines? Maybe I should take some entry level position at some newspaper?

No. I do not think that I want to do that to myself. I write for fun. I am not sure if I wish to write for money. I do not like dodging the heavy hands of editors. I imagining the garbage that I would have to pump out if I ran the usual route of journalism or travel writing; if I were to find a regular job in these professions.

I like what I am doing. I like writing these little essays on Song of the Open Road, I love working on the projects that the Hobo Traveler gives me, I really dig writing magazine articles for Dan, I like putting up pages on Vagabond Journey, I have fun making maps for Vagabond Fieldnotes, I almost even enjoy putting up photos on Traveler Photographs.com – well, almost. This is a good life that I am leading. I wander, I write about what I wish, I do not have to worry about how much money I make . . . because I make so little money that it is a negligible issue.

No, I do not think that I want to make writing into a real job. I like abusing grammar and making up my own words far too much to go the route of the stiff collar. I like writing how I speak. I like writing for fun.

The writing life is fun. I care not if I ever make a dime at this.

I also don’t read magazines or newspapers because I think that they are junk. Not all, but most. I just cannot bring myself to pick up a magazine and read it. I think that the modern journalism format is silly, as articles in popular magazines seem to only be bridges to span the gap between advertisements. Modern travel journalism is even more ridiculous – I am a vendor of stories, of tall tales, not vacations. It leaves a sticky lump in my throat to say this, but I think of popular journalism as some hokey form of mill writing. Goon writing. Assembly line writing. It is just writing into frames, the author does not even need to attach his name to a piece because it is run through a weeding-out process to kill any twist of originality. For some reason magazine articles are all made to sound the same. They could all be written my the same person for all I know; or the same machine. I do not want to be separated from my words. I like my words.

I was talking with a former political corespondent for the Seattle Times, or some such newspaper, at the expat hangout in Copan Ruinas a few days ago. He talked about ‘his beat,’ about the stories he was responsible for covering. I bored myself ragged listening to the poor guy. From the way he talked I momentarily thought his words were going to be interesting, but, upon further inquiry, I realized that his job was to write the same article over and over again. Man, that had to be a really, really interesting article ?

Take a form article, change a few words, publish, get paid, talk the talk about your ‘beat.’ Not bad. Maybe I try this someday when I get stuck in the mud.

I would make a mess of it, I know.

But I do like making messes.

I also like struggling for my nickels and dimes. The writing life.

Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Copan Ruinas, Honduras
March 27, 2008

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Filed under: Travel Philosophy, Travel Writing

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Cincinnati, Ohio, USAMap