About a year ago (actually, a year minus a week ago), I successfully pitched my first article to The New Orleans Advocate.
At that point (early-April 2018), I had been back from my Appalachian Trail hike for almost six months and decided I wanted to try to make a living as a writer. Back in New Orleans, I was trying to figure out if that would be financially feasible.
At first, I wasn’t so sure. A month earlier I started a regular gig writing newsletters for a local nonprofit — which was an encouraging and monetarily important development — but other than that, I wasn’t making much money writing: I spent hours researching/writing local adventures on this blog, thinking about writing a book about my hike, and — as I mentioned here — walking dogs, being an extra on TV shows and movies, working as a security guard, delivering food on my bicycle to people with office jobs, and doing whatever else would lead to a few bucks.
But, still, I was burning through whatever cash/credit reserves I had left pretty fast. I gave myself an amount of money I was willing to lose before I threw in the towel and started to apply for more traditional work outside of writing.
Fortunately, I didn’t get too close to that line I had drawn for myself. I began to lose money less quickly, and as I picked up more work as an extra (what can I say? this face), I finally stabilized my finances.
Of course — despite how much my Mom enjoyed whatever bit of fame she thought this brought the Haines family — I didn’t want to be a TV extra. I wanted to be a writer. So I talked to some friends who have experience in the news about pitching stories to online and in-print newspapers, and I started to pitch them.
On April 2, 2018, The Advocate gave me the okay to go to a local baseball game and eat nine meals in nine innings. Was it hard-hitting reporting? Not exactly. Was it fun to do, and a paycheck as a writer? Yup!
Then I got another story. And another. And a few more. Then I started to pitch stories to other publications, and some of them gave me an opportunity, too. And, soon — much to my Mom’s chagrin — I no longer had time to be an extra on set.
By about October of 2018, I had enough writing to keep me busy. On top of that, I was teaching creative writing to second graders at this fun after-school program for a couple of hours each day, and I began doing some writing for a local tech company. Soon, I even had enough money saved to go on a vacation!
The articles I write are often fun. I get to learn about the history of the Irish in New Orleans, about volunteer-based programs I never knew existed, or about parks attempting to transform neighborhoods. Sometimes I get to use my own voice to say silly things about Valentine’s Day.
It’s fun and it’s often interesting. But it left little time to write a book. And it left no time to write in this blog.
I enjoy learning and writing about events in New Orleans, but — when I made this decision post-hike — that’s not the main reason I was drawn to writing.
I wanted to write a book. And I think a blog — where I’m not just churning out content (which is kind of what I think I’ve become when I only make time to write articles), but where I also have the opportunity to interact with readers and writers and supporters — gives that book a better chance to earn readers. Plus it gives me a chance to write about a larger variety of things that are important to me.
So this is me recommitting myself to this blog, to making more time to write a book, and to the idea that I’m not just trying to become a writer — but a specific kind of writer. And, while I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in a year, I don’t want to lose sight of my actual goals.
Tomorrow I’ll write about the kinds of things I want to write in this blog. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave them in the Comment section, please!