The Winding Trail of a Rich Outdoor Writer
Currently, I write outdoor columns for one print newspaper (monthly), and one on-line newspaper (weekly). I’m a regular contributor to North Star, the magazine of the North Country Trail Association. One of my personal goals has been to become recognized as an authority on local (
West Michigan) places for quiet, non-motorized recreation. Some days I feel as if I’m getting there, but the path is neither straight nor lucrative.
It all began, of course, with a love of being outdoors. My desire to go outside is even stronger than the need to write. Once my kids were grown I began exploring local places to walk and discovered that it was impossible to find information about most of them. I began developing a web site with maps and up-to-date info called Get Off the Couch (www.getoffthecouch.info). Silly me, I had dreams of selling ads to support that habit. And I did sell a few. However, the truths are that small local businesses haven’t yet seen the value of internet advertising, and I’m terrible at selling ads.
A few years ago someone mentioned to me that the local paper had lost a columnist. They suggested I make contact. The editor asked for a few sample columns and in a heartbeat I had a public venue that pays (a little) money. I’ve been writing “Get Off the Couch” for almost six years now. It’s given me tremendous local credibility. Strangers literally stop me on the street to tell me how much they enjoy the column. Big fish in a small pond, I know, but I like it.
How does one make such a pond larger? Now that’s a tough question. I’ve contacted two other papers to try to syndicate the column, but can’t even get a nibble. I’m told I gave up too easily, but we all know how discouraging rejection can be. I haven’t joined any Outdoor Writers’ associations. Why? That costs a fair amount of money. When I asked a Winter Sports Writer why I should join, the answers included things like, “You get great discounts to ski resorts.” Hmmm, If I can’t afford to go to those places anyway, and I’ve just spend more money to join the group, I’m not sure what that gets me.
I think the bigger pond answer lies in making a career of outdoor writing, constantly submitting freelance work to various venues, dealing with rejections, and submitting over and over. Frankly, I haven’t been willing to make the commitment to do that full-time.
The riches? Well, I have the sparkling gems of sunshine on water, the rich forests and golden afternoons of autumn. They are mine whenever I want. Paying the bills… I had to get a part-time “real job,” but at least I haven’t been forced to turn my enjoyment of the outdoors into a pressure cooker of earning cash.
For samples of my outdoor writing see Get Off the Couch with Joan https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/22861