Tom Swick on the Freelance Writing Life

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  06.17.09 | 3:45 PM ET

Last summer, Tom Swick was laid off from his job as travel editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Like so many newspaper editors around the nation, he fell victim to the changing tide of publishing economics—which isn’t to say he was unhappy about the move. Given his shrinking travel budget, he was relieved.

We, of course, were happy to bring him on as a columnist, and he continues to file a couple of compelling pieces for us each month. But as he writes in the Oxford American, his move to freelancing hasn’t been entirely pleasant. Take his experience with emailing stories and pitches to editors.

[T]he immediacy of e-mail rarely translates into prompt replies. Actually, it often contributes to silence, as messages get pushed down out of sight—and, subsequently, mind—by the onslaught of new ones.


This makes life difficult for any writer, but especially for one who was recently an editor. And even more so for one who was a writer/editor. For nearly two decades, I assigned myself stories, turned them in to my unwavering approval, and then got back to myself immediately regarding publication dates. Being your own man pales in comparison to being your own editor (which, among other things, allows for the former).

If nothing else, I hope other freelance writers find some comfort in Tom’s frustrating experience—if it’s happening to him, it really is happening to the best of them.


3 Comments for Tom Swick on the Freelance Writing Life

Julia Ross 06.17.09 | 5:43 PM ET

“The practice of writing has always verged on folly, and in a world that craves images it has become more questionable and frustrating than ever. I’d give it up tomorrow if I could shed my unfashionable belief in its importance.”

Wonderfully written column, Tom.  And dead on.

TambourineMan 06.19.09 | 11:30 AM ET

C’mon Jim and Mike, stop ignoring Mr. Swick’s e-mails.

Jim Benning 06.19.09 | 7:21 PM ET

Thanks for chiding us, TambourineMan. We promise to do better.

And, Julia, that passage you quoted here is one so many of us can relate to.

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