As I sit in the public library of Bologna, Italy (my chosen office for the day), I reflect on the year that passed while sending a travel article to a Canadian publisher and writing this piece. Just about this time last year, I was beginning a course in freelance travel journalism, intending to become a full-time writer.
By Faith Katunga
I enrolled in the program after reaching my breaking point after nearly three years of a career that depleted every ounce of my mental and physical strength. Whether it was the effect of the Covid 19 pandemic or just the natural progression of life, by the end of September 2021, I had decided that I would no longer waste time just dreaming or allowing myself to be defeated by setbacks and doubt. I devised a long-term strategy to realize my dream of becoming a journalist by concentrating on the factors I could control, and here's how I did it.
Embracing the Journey and Personal Flaws
I was born and raised in Malawi, a tiny Southeast African country where I spent most of my time daydreaming about the rest of the world. For as long as I can remember, I've been captivated by airplanes and have often wished I was flying in one. After taking my first flight at 18, I knew I wanted more.
The 40-minute drive from Lilongwe to Blantyre was a perk of doing well in school and being accepted to study at the University of Malawi, where I hold some of my fondest memories. Even so, if you had asked me on the day of my graduation what I planned to do with my career, I would not have given you a straight answer.
The truth is that I wish I hadn't listened to those who discouraged me from pursuing journalism because it is a fading profession. I wish I had studied what I wanted. Instead, I received a BA in Humanities, and while I didn't dislike it, I needed to figure out what I would do with it.
I started several blogs because I felt compelled to write something. I started an online fashion magazine shortly before leaving Malawi for South Africa. As a result, I hoped to finally work in journalism, specifically fashion journalism, as I had long desired. While there, my desire to see more of the world and work as a fashion journalist in the global fashion industry grew, so I moved to Italy to pursue an MA in Fashion Culture and Management.
But somewhere along the way, I developed an inner voice that told me I wasn't good enough. I was from Malawi, and no one seemed to recognize my home country. How could I become a global travel or fashion journalist? I felt like a fraud.
Taking the Plunge, Despite Past Mistakes and Fears
After realizing I had spent much of my time planning and learning — which are certainly worthwhile in and of themselves — I resolved to change that. A result-producing behavior is an action, on the other hand.
Of course, acquiring new knowledge and skills is an ongoing process. I enrolled in a freelance travel journalism course hoping to pick the brain of a seasoned journalist on perfecting my pitch, overcoming my fear of rejection, and other such issues. I was, in this way, taking action against my inner critic.
I also did a few more things than that. On top of the weekly pieces I wrote for my tutor's tasks, I also authored articles for my blog. I devoured novels, memoirs, and how-to manuals about everything from fashion to mental health. It took some trial and error, but I eventually found a routine that worked for me and stuck to it. Every week, I knew I would achieve something and see progress.
So, about two weeks before the course ended, I pitched an article to an online travel magazine. I sold my first story, and the editor asked me for more pitches, so I sold three more.
Remaining Persistent Regardless of Setbacks and Slow Progress
If you're working on a significant project, it's essential to plan ahead of time, but you also need to be prepared to put in a lot of work. So, instead of procrastinating, establish a strict deadline and force yourself to take action. I have had to learn this the hard way, and I still have to remind myself to take action even when life hits me hard.
That little voice that told me I wasn't good enough is getting the silent treatment now. It's not a done deal battle, but when you're doing actions each day that yield results, and you're fulfilling a dream, there's less time to focus on the negative voices in and out of your head.
I've learned to ignore the negative inner voice that kept telling me I was inadequate. When you take steps closer to your goal every day, you have less time to focus on the doubts that pop in and out of your thoughts.
After deciding to pursue my lifelong ambition of being a journalist, I have been fortunate enough to land 75 paid assignments in a little over six months. My writing profession is growing steadily.
I continue to take action and commit daily to achieving my objectives. I maintain my blog, launched a new business, travel, read and write. Despite receiving few responses and enduring many rejections, I continue to send pitches and apply for writing jobs.
Faith Katunga is a Malawian freelance travel and fashion journalist based in Milan and Spello, Italy, following her post-graduate studies at the University of Bologna. Faith is the Founder and Editor of Fashionably Remoting, A Haute Hub Serving Bite-Sized Resources For The Creative Remote Worker. She owns and maintains vacation rental properties in Umbria and Puglia and travels extensively throughout Italy and the world. Faith has written for publications like Italy Magazine and TheTravel. Follow her adventures on her blog and Instagram.