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March 31, 2023

Why I ditched my well paying columnist career to write for free?

Photo by Nina Uhlikova on Pexels.

Since I was a kid I dreamed of becoming a writer. I fell in love with drawing letters on paper in kinder garden, and I found it magical to be able to translate someone’s name from a spoken word into a drawing of symbols which means the same for everyone. Later when I started to read books I discovered amazing words that existed in someone else’s head and was amazed how they could transfer their vision in a way that everyone could interpret on their own way. I loved that by reading and imagining the stories, I could create something brand new which is only mine. I wanted to be able to do the same. To create worlds that take people to far away wonderful places only they can experience.

As I grew up I was very malleable. I became a people pleaser who wanted to be good enough for others and was easily influenced. So my family easily convinced me that I’m not gonna become the next Steven King, so why try? And anyways you can’t make a living from writing, I believed it. I ditched my dreams and only wrote my haikus, short novels and book story ideas for my drawer and later to my anonymous secret blog.

Until one day I received an email from a website stating that they are looking for writers, they can’t pay cos they are a start up but they are happy to share our work. The website was everything I looked for – vegan, environmentalist page with a mission to put out there something that is different, to change the world. Naturally, I applied. I sent in 5 articles and the editor loved them so much she published one right away. The article did so well we made a deal, if my next 2 articles also do well she’ll be able to pay me $10 per article. And from that day I was a paid columnist of the website for several years. The website grew and so did the pool of topics I could choose from. I got offered more for my articles and I found myself being able to cover my food bills from what I made. We wrote about everything, life, relationships, adventures, veganism, saving the planet…. The bigger the website became, the more money I made and I was able to do it as a part time job while traveling the world, making money from writing about my experiences and how I see the world.

I really enjoyed it and was proud of my work.

Until one day I wasn’t.

I noticed all the pitches of my articles I really wanted to write came back, being turned down for being to deep, too spiritual or “we have enough articles in this topic” but when I checked I didn’t find any and a week later another person similar article was posted. Some of my recipes were rejected because they are boring, yet a week later someone else posted a recipe 98% the same as mine was…. I noticed we have less and less articles about the environment and how we can save the planet, feminism and such, but more and more articles about celebrity beauty routines, Oscar outfits, and generally many topics you already read on other wellness and lifestyle magazines. I wondered what happened so I called my boss who owns the website and asked her directly. I was shocked. The owner of a vegan environmentalist website turns my articles down cos they are too real and too deep, meaning I write about actual problems and situations to provide new insight or information that actually can help people and despite these articles have higher number of readers than others, she doesn’t want to see them.

Then what do you want to see I asked? “Oh, can’t you write more of your French travels? I know you’ve been planting trees there but thats not really what people want to see, could you write like you were on a romantic vegan holiday? French stuff sells well. Or how about trying out some celeb diets and writing your experience about them? Just make the recipes vegan and the photos cute. Hiking gear is not glamorous, could you upload some photos that you didn`t take in a tent?”

I didn’t know what to say.

NO!! – that’s what I wanted to shout from the top of my lungs. The website started with the intention of being different, deeper and more real than any of the similar websites out there. To drive positive change. We wanted to bring people’s attention on the effects of consumerism, point out the importance of veganism, caring for the environment and all that stuff and now all we write about is cute vegan French holidays and what xyz celebrities put on their faces and how vegans lose weight. I knew this isn’t for me anymore. We are very far from the vision she had when we started.

As a Feminine ReWilding mentor, who`s helping women over age 30 to return back to their true Selves and find their own authentic voice, I feel like I cant contribute to something that lost it`s authenticity in my eyes.

For a while I already struggled with my own mission. I sensed that what I do is what I really have to do but didn`t know how to reach that depth I`d love to. As a nomad woman, I also run a travel blog in Hungarian and I knew I want something deeper than just simply writing about my own experiences here and there. I want to give back with my work and sow things that are important. How Jimmy Nelson photographs tribes around the world you never heard of, or shoots people in their traditional outfit because barely anyone wears it and otherwise their traditions would get lost if this handful of people wouldn`t care to preserve it. Or how Eva zu Beck reported from her early travels about the lives of women in each country.

I see how back then I was aligned with them because I was just trying my wings out with writing and I went for topics that were bulletproof, meaning I couldnt get anything wrong by writing about them. But it just doesn`t align with me and who I became anymore.

I understand we all live from from money and more money is always better, but I rather write for free on my blog or here on Elephant Journal, but write about the things that excite my soul than to sell my time and effort I spend on working on these articles for money just because they sell better. I can make a living in other ways, too and if they don’t care about losing one of their best authors and their authenticity, then let them. I do not have to do the same.

Let them be as all the other websites out there who write about the same shallow topics, recycling what someone already shared before while believing they do something different in the world. I can not change that. I can only change what I do.

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