Blog by Toby Welch

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How I Started Out

File:@dailyshoot- 2011-03-14- Make a photograph today that illustrates the idea of freshness to you. -ds484 (5528772562).jpg

I am often asked how I became a writer. It floors me that I celebrated sixteen years as a full-time freelance writer this year. It has been an exciting journey, one that has taken me to literal and figurative places that I never imagined. I would not trade one moment for anything. No, that’s not true. I would wish I hadn’t procrastinated so long on a number of writing projects but overall I’ve been more than satisfied with the past decade and a half.

Thinking back, a lot has changed in how submissions are done. My first sale was a travel piece I sold to our local newspaper that ended up running in most of the paper’s sister newspapers. I sent the idea for the article via snail mail to the editor with a SASE enclosed. The query itself was typed on my fancy electronic Brother typewriter. The editor responded by scrawling on my query letter, “Sounds good. Call me.” She jotted her number below the four words.

I called her amidst a flurry of butterflies. I took notes of everything she said during the conversation and promised to get the article to her by her three week deadline.

I worked on the piece, knowing I had to mail it after two weeks to ensure it got to her in time to make the three week deadline. I felt like I’d won the lottery as I rode my bike to the post office to send the envelope that contained my article via registered mail.

The editor called me a week later and said she loved the piece but wondered if I had any accompanying pictures from my travel destination. I said I did and she asked me to rush them to her. I raced down to the local one hour photo shop and had a dozen pictures made from my negatives. I slid the photos into sleeves and wrote a caption for each one before heading back to the post office.

When my article ran three weeks later, I did a happy dance for hours in my living room. I still have a photocopy of the $250 cheque I received for that article sitting in a frame in my office.

A year after that, I began querying some editors through email and submitted articles electronically. What a massive change that was! Writers new to the field can’t imagine the days when everything was snail mailed and you had to buy ribbon tape for your typewriter. Technologically speaking, being a writer is much easier now than it was sixteen years ago. Emailing queries and submissions is a lot less time consuming and not having to rely on postal mail is a huge bonus. 

But the heart of writing hasn't changed. I still put my all into everything I write with just as much passion as I had in 2003. Until writing turns from a joy to a chore, I will continue to be a freelance writer. That said, I foresee writing up until my final days. It truly is the greatest job anyone could have.