Courtney M. McSwain, Writer

Anatomy of a Freelance Writer’s Life: Owning My Story in 2013

Story Road Image

“Story Road” Image by umjanedoan, Creative Commons

At the beginning of 2012, I resolved that, within the year, I would quit my regular 9 to 5 job and commit myself to pursuing a full-time freelance writing career. As you may know from reading this blog, I successfully fulfilled that resolution and I honestly wasn’t looking to make any more promises to myself for 2013–I figured last year’s declaration was enough to carry me through the decade. But I’ve realized that there is something I need to master this year in order to truly see my writing dreams come to fruition. In 2013, I need to own my story.

I decided to make owning my story a New Year’s resolution after a chance encounter with a magazine editor. One day as I was wandering aimlessly in the streets of Washington, D.C., I came upon a pop-up boutique being run by a fashion/art magazine. I introduced myself to the editor and asked if she was looking for freelance writers. She said that she was and asked me about my writing and which publications I had written for. As I told her my story, I found myself speaking with hesitancy. The truth is, my list of magazine credits isn’t that long and I feared that I sounded too “green” to be of interest. Thankfully, I managed to get the editor’s contact information and was able to follow up with a more polished pitch for myself via email. But as I walked away from the conversation, I thought about the trepidation that I heard in my own voice as I tried to explain who I was as a writer. Why had it been so hard for me to simply tell my story? What I realized that day is I hadn’t fully owned it.

I am at the beginning of my freelance writer’s life, and while the newness is exciting, trying not to appear so “new” is daunting. It’s tempting to think about where I would be if I had gotten a journalism degree and pursued writing straight out of college. Would I have a portfolio full of clips and multiple books published by now? I try not to let myself fall too far down that rabbit hole because this kind of thinking is not only pointless—unless time travel was invented and I missed the memo—but it also distracts from the understanding that I am who I am today because of all that I have experienced. Perhaps I always knew deep down inside that I wanted to be a writer. But I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to write about. All of my experiences have helped me hone my voice and find my unique point of view.

I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for all of four months, so it goes without saying that I have a lot to learn. But it’s worth reminding myself that I also have a lot to share. My experience as a higher education policy analyst, grant writer, volunteer, student, community activist and other things that I’ve done are sources of inspiration for the stories I want to tell. Thus, my writing story didn’t just begin four months ago. It has been writing itself over the entirety of my life.

This is the story I resolve to tell in 2013—one that owns the fullness of who I am and what I’ve done…and accepts the fact that, while I may be new to the freelance writing life, I have been on this journey for quite some time.


Do you fully own your story? If not, feel free to join me for my 2013 resolution!

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