The Self-Doubt of an Accidental Freelance Journalist

Self Doubt as a writer


No, I did not crash my bike into a newsstand, although my journey was somewhat accidental. 

I went in search of professional development. What I found was a new career as an outdoor travel journalist.

As a slightly wayward teenager, journalism was never on my horizon. The words of my fifth-form English teacher forever echoed in my head: ‘Don’t waste your parents’ money sitting School Certificate. Because you will not pass.’ I proved my teacher wrong, but despite my passing marks, the seeds of self-doubt had been sown.

Procrastination is the writer’s worst enemy. I should know, as I put off my journey to becoming a better writer for four years. Don’t get me wrong, once I’d started my business, I was writing every month. But I still lacked the confidence to give my customers value for money. 

During a self-imposed business-planning session, I reflected on feedback I’d received from a publisher years earlier: my writing style was unique and had potential, but I could benefit from a creative writing course to polish it and make it saleable. 

Professional development gets overlooked when you’re self-employed. Upskilling is yet another cost and task added to the already long list of demands placed on small business owners. 

Long in the tooth and self-employed, I began wondering why I would pay someone to tell me I’m rubbish. Is it still self-doubt if other people doubt you too? 

There is a lot of comfort in positive self-affirmations, but little growth.

Mildly uneducated and preferring not to shout it from the rooftops, I avoided investigating creative writing. I had no interest in writing stories about unicorns or fairies anyway.
Instead, I went a different route, and what began as an enquiry into business basics quickly led me to Freelance Journalism for Magazines and Webzines, a recommendation from The Writers College that would provide me with the professional growth I desired. 

Even as the king of tangents, this was not one I had seen myself going off on.

Suddenly I found myself completely out of my comfort zone. Assigned a tutor with the disclaimer, ‘If you don’t think they’re a good fit, let us know who you would prefer,’ I trusted the process. 

Full of enthusiasm, I dived into module after module. Soon the objective became clear. I was obsessed. 

The advice in the course for a would-be journalist is to stick to your niche, but not to box yourself in. 

Immediately I wondered what authority I had to write about, say, specialty coffee. I needed to overcome a crisis of confidence to achieve my dream. As Suzy Kassem said, ‘Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.’

Much to my surprise, I had underestimated myself once again. 

Soon I discovered the antidote to procrastination: the kind of article that I could get excited to write was the kind I was excited to read. 

I’ve always loved outdoor adventure tourism. I figured that since my observations and experiences are my own, writing from a first-person perspective about something I know and love would be a safe place of fun and creativity. So before I took my readers along on a journey, I had to take it myself. 

About that journey. Planning, anxiety, waiting. It was hard enough that my fingers would not write as fast as my brain delivered ideas, but planning for a week of fine weather in winter was cruel. My writing journey stopped for two months.

Nevertheless, I persisted, and in an ironic turn of events, I saw my escape from my day job morph into my dream job. Where I once went exploring the outdoors as an escape from work and life, I now found myself seeking new experiences to share with others through my writing.

Although I was sure of the angle for my first article, the course material had me exploring seemingly endless alternative possibilities. I learned that there is no one way to do things. 

The only thing left was to wait for that first article to be published. 

Back to the circle of imposter syndrome, self-doubt and wondering, should I have edited it one last time?

About the Author

Paul Harris is an outdoor enthusiast whose passion for bikes and tramping saw him as an early adopter of bikepacking. An advocate for normalising mental health conversations, Paul can be found searching backroads for the next adventure in his Series 3 Land Rover, filming as he goes in search of the next sunrise and native bird encounter.




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