Why do you write?
To connect. I believe the reason we are all here is to connect. I’m lucky. I have friends. I have a family. I have love in my life. Writing comes naturally to me. It’s something I can do at any time. But I think when I write something other people can connect with there is something special about it. When I have something difficult to say.
The words almost seem to get on my thoughts. And they will flow through my fingers. And that seems like something to listen too. If I fought with someone. And I need to express my thoughts. I’m more likely to write them down than I am to go to that person.
And talk to them even though they might not like that but for me. It’s just so easier to write. I say everything I need to say. I don’t have to wait for a response necessarily. I can just get it out, so that’s helpful.
How did you start?
I used to keep diaries when I was a kid. I would write down the silliest things about what happened to me. I would also write notes back and forth to my friends. It was easier. It also seemed there is privacy to writing. To share this kind of personal thing. It’s difficult for me. But there is something about writing it down. It feels like well I can keep this if I don’t want to share it. I don’t have to.
With the diary. I wrote things down and then keep them to myself. I don’t know if anybody ever found them. I think I still have them in a box somewhere.
How old were you when you started writing?
Probably about eleven or twelve.
Was sharing encouraged when you were growing up?
I had a typical American childhood. I will say. I was the kind of child who in school would talk back to the teacher. Things like that were not encouraged. Not encouraged. I guess what that tells about me is I have always had something to say (all laughing).
I do remember having conflicts in school. A bit when I tried to talk back to the teacher. I have always been a bit rebellious. I don’t always want to follow the rules.
How did you start writing full-time?
When I went to college. I didn’t know what I want to do for a job. I picked a course of study. Based on the fact I just enjoy the classes. I got a degree in sociology. Because I find people fascinating. I learned to study people. I didn’t know myself well in college. I was very young. I went to college when I was seventeen years old.
All I knew how to do was to pick something I find interesting. I got out of college. I had no idea what to do. I kept getting jobs I thought will be fun. I knew I didn’t want to be bored all day. I worked at a radio station, newspaper and I worked at an internet company.
At the internet company. There was a group of writers. They sat close to me. I was in the marketing department. My job was pretty boring. They seemed like they were having a lot more fun than me. I wanted to be one of them. One day I asked if I could come to their meeting. They said sure. During the meeting, they talked about what they are going to write that week. There was a short article. I thought I could write. I asked if I could write it. They said sure. So I did. It was about a local business in Portland Oregon which is where I was living. Before I was traveling. They published it. It was just one of those turning points in my life. I thought that was so easy for me if I can just keep doing it. I guess I can be a writer.
Without any job or anything. I just quit the job. I had an internet company. I decided to become a writer. I was very naïve. But I was also very lucky. I knew somebody at a creative agency who needed a writer. I got the job. I was able to turn it into a six-year job.
How long have you been traveling?
I have traveled for eight months. I’m on this program called a remote year. It started in June and it will end at the end of May. It’s a one-year program. I go to a different city every month. This is the beginning of month nine.
How does where you live to influence your writing?
I think certain places and experiences inspire. I definitely find I have a lot more to say when there is more conflict going on. Last month when I was not enjoying myself. I did have a bit more to say. Just because I was feeling that conflict. I want to express it. But then if you look at a few other months. It was just the culture shock or the stunning natural beauty. Every month is so different on this trip. The most difficult ones have been the first one and then last month. I think it could be anything.
It doesn’t always have to be the city itself. Sometimes I feel like I’m more connected to a place. It will inspire me to write in a certain way. It also depends on what else is happening in my life. I have a life outside of this trip. I have relationships with people at home. I have a job. I think things like that are also factors.
Did you teach yourself to write or did you go to school for it?
I definitely have a family that encourages reading and writing. I always got good grades in school. Like I said it’s more of a natural thing for me. I never did any formal training with writing. Aside from going to school and college. I have always had to do writing for school but other than that no. Nothing specific.
So your family and friend are supportive of what you do?
Yeah. I think so.
Were they supportive after or before you were a success?
I think originally my dad wanted me to get a more practical job. He was more worried about things like security and being able to save money. Maybe he thought my life would turn out a bit differently. I would want something more secure. I’m a freelance writer. People think it’s a risk. Now that I have done freelancing writing for so long. They understand. I’m supporting myself. I’m traveling the world. So I must be doing something right. Now my family understands. They have respect for the fact that I’m doing something I like.
How long have you been writing?
Did you have any mentors along the way?
I have one blogger I respect. I wouldn’t call him a mentor but he is somebody I look up to. I appreciate what he does a bit. He writes a blog. He also creates a conference in Portland every year. Called the world’s domination summit. I can send you his name. But I think his name is Chris Guillebeau. Before I went to the conference he runs. I didn’t even know there are people who traveled full-time. Going from place to place. And do their job from anywhere in the world. I was not familiar with that concept. In a way, I can call him a mentor.
Because he encourages people to do. To do whatever else you want to do. I can definitely say I appreciate him.
Do you feel a responsibility to contribute to something bigger than yourself and what do you hope to contribute?
I’m not sure if it’s a responsibility. It’s a wish. I have the potential to do. I have the potential to help people. Who feel or going through something difficult. I’m considering doing some training to become a life coach. I believe it relates to what I do with my writing.
To connect with someone even in the smallest way to make the world a better place. We all have our own ways. I don’t know if it’s a responsibility. I think it’s just more if I can do it then why not. It will make my life richer. It will make their life richer. The world is a better place. If we can help each other out.
Are you creatively satisfied?
No. I’m never satisfied. I think I’m always looking for something. You could call me a seeker. When I decide to do this trip. I thought this was the greatest dream. Who wouldn’t want to go from a country to country? To travel for a year. I have so much privilege. I’m allowed to do this. But it’s not like I’m out every day. Thinking I’m the luckiest person in the world. Am I the happiest person in the world?
No that’s not the case. I have moments of satisfaction. I should take back the statement I’m never satisfied. But a more truthful way to say is I always want to feel like I moving forward in some way. This month I’m hoping to improve my Spanish. I’m always looking for ways to enhance life. I’m always looking for new things. New things to learn. New Things to do. New places to go. New people to meet. In that way, there’s some part of me that isn’t satisfied.
How do you keep learning new things?
I’m currently in a Spanish-speaking country.
But that doesn’t necessarily help too much. I’m a bit shy. I tend to only say the least I need to say to people. I’m not learning much but I did take a few lessons last month. I’ll try to take some more lessons this month. It’s a slow process (laughing)
Yes, progress is like that. Do you have any goals?
In terms of goals. I would like to find a way to make the world a better place. That’s a bit more significant. Whether that’s getting my writing out to more people. Writing a book or becoming a coach. I don’t know what that way is yet. But I do know the best days I have. Are ones where I feel like I have helped somebody. Even in a small way. I like to make that a bigger part of my life. But I’m not just sure how to do it yet.
What advice would you give to a younger person somebody who is starting out?
Take risks. Try a lot of things. Just because the people around you might think life should be lived in a specific way. If you disagree don’t go along with it (laughing)
Nancy Levenson is a freelance writer for sixteen years. Developing content for web and print. The client list includes Target, Regency, Nike, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Microsoft, Wacom Technologies, Lowe’s, and WebTrends. She would rather create a great result than be right. Integrity matters to her. If she agrees to do something, she’ll do it.