Interview with writer, Nicola Brown

Nicola Brown writer editor Anew Traveller

Follow Nicola at @nicolathinks and visit anewtraveller.com.

What do you do?
I’m a freelance writer, and no that doesn’t mean I write novels all day, as fun as that sounds! I work for a broad range of clients on an even broader range of topics, producing print and digital content. I do everything from corporate blogs on engineering, psychology and personal finance to travel writing and food journalism for traditional publications like newspapers and magazines. I run my own travel site, AnewTraveller.com, which often plays host to my passions and experimentations when it comes to travel, outside of the work I do for clients.

How long have you been in this field for?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but I guess professionally I’ve been in the field for 7+ years, ish. I did a Master’s degree in Professional Communication in 2014  which really helped me leap head-first into freelance writing full time.

What inspired you to pursue this career?
I’m a bit of a black sheep in my family. Both my parents are civil engineers. I think my passion for writing came from a really really young age. I was encouraged creatively in school and had some amazing teachers and mentors when it came to English and writing. One of my earliest memories of this is being gifted a notebook when I was about 7 or 8 and told never to stop writing. That obviously had quite an impact! At university I followed that passion and studied English, but I’ve also always been a science lover, so I did a double major in English (an art) and Psychology (a science).

I’ve always been fascinated by how language is the most complex human capacity we know of. It’s akin in wonder and mystery to the complexities of the universe. To my mind, understanding and mastering language and communication is as noble a goal as solving the mysteries of the universe. As grandiose as that may sound, that’s how passionate I am about it.

What was the biggest hurdle in attaining your career goals?
Striking out on my own was (and still is) a huge challenge. You have to be self-motivated, self-disciplined, self-everything. It can be an isolating career path, and you have none of the comforting structure and stability of a traditional job. That never really goes away for freelancers, but you learn to build confidence and resilience in the face of challenges over time.

What do you like most about your work?
The freedom, leadership and creativity. I get to determine my own schedule, I can work from home (which any freelancer will tell you is a blessing and a curse), and I am my own boss. Being in control of your own work life and financial situation can be daunting, but it’s also very liberating. I also get to choose what I want to do and how I want to spend my time (for the most part). No traditional job would allow me to work on such a broad range of topics or explore something new as and when I feel like it. I am shaping my own career in the way that I find most meaningful, and that is incredibly rewarding.

What do you find most challenging about your work?
The lack of structure and routine day to day is one of the most challenging things. It’s all too easy to give in to your off-day feelings and spend a bit too long in bed or feel defeated when you’re facing writer’s block. Getting into the right headspace can make the difference between a productive day and a totally unproductive one, but it’s not so easy or straightforward to pep talk yourself. This is all part and parcel of successful time management, something which can become more of a challenge as you become better established as a freelancer.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
WestJet Magazine asked me to answer this question recently for its May 2018 issue contributors page. I had to think about it for quite a while. Being a writer to me is kind of like being everything: you get to enter the world of any other profession you like. You have to study and research and interview and think in depth about many other industries and ways of life.

But my answer in the end was a psychologist. Obviously this makes sense given that half of my degree was in Psychology. But the impetus behind all that as I touched on before stems from a fascination with the mind and with people. It’s a realm with almost infinite capacity for discovery. I’ve also always wanted to sit in a big armchair and say “And how does that make you feel?” Haha.

Name one hobby you have that’s not related to your work.
Oh boy, it’s hard to name anything in my life that’s not related to my work in some way! I would like to design my own home one day. I like flipping through photos of gorgeous kitchens and living rooms and gardens. The idea of creating your own perfect backdrop to all the most important moments in your life with friends and family gives me that warm fuzzy feeling.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
This is actually a terrible habit but it’s usually checking my phone. For many freelancers they’re never “off work” so to speak. The temptation to check and respond to emails can creep into other areas of life too easily. On the one hand being connected and responsive can open up opportunities; on the other it can lead to burn out. The right balance is a fine art. I’m finding more and more that off-screen time is fundamental to my health and happiness. I’m planning to buy an actual alarm clock and not have my phone in the same room as me at night.

And last thing you do at night?
I feel like I ought to say something clever and inspiring like “plan for the next day” or “meditate” but truthfully those things only happen occasionally.

But I do try to floss. No really, I do. I also stick one leg outside the covers. Does anyone else do this?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy your work.
Let’s give that a 9. I can’t think of anything more rewarding and meaningful than what I do right now, however difficult it may be in many ways. Of course, nothing is ever perfect! And I’m OK with that. It gives me something better to aim at all the time and that’s what keeps me going.

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