WRITING LIFE: Accepting My Blindness As A Freelance Writer by Kerry Kijewski

I am barely six months into this whole freelance writing thing. So far I’ve learned it’s a struggle for nearly everyone who attempts it. It can be inconsistent. You must learn to juggle pitching outlets and writing drafts and following up with editors, all while waiting for those days where it feels right, where a piece of your writing comes into the world. That rush of adrenaline is a powerful one and a strong motivator.

I continue to read pieces written by other excellent writers, discovering new and favorite publications, and developing a growing list of my dream pubs. I read the writing in these places and imagine my own words showing up there one day.

I am reading about niches. People are known for writing about parenting, health and wellness, food, or travel. Though I’m interested in many things, one persistent theme keeps coming through, time and time again.

Am I, first and foremost, a blind writer, or a writer who just happens to be blind?

I asked myself this question as I slowly started to think of and identify myself as a writer. It kept coming up as I began taking chances and pitching ideas for pieces I could write. They say, write what you know. Well, I know what it’s like to be blind, to live as a blind person in a mostly visual world. That, I can easily write about – so why did I question it so much?

The activist side of me was more than happy to write about my blindness when asked. I believe most of the world doesn’t really understand what it’s like, and rarely gives the kinds of things I deal with on a daily basis a second thought.

With the exception of my blindness, I was just like any other freelance writer, working hard to establish a career. But all of us have something that we grapple with, that we live with, that often becomes the basis for the things we write. It can become our niche, but there is always the fear of becoming pigeonholed, seen as only able to write about one thing.

My blindness is an everyday reality of my life, like my eye color or gender. I have tried to take a mental break from it many times, shuffling it somewhere towards the back of my mind. And while I don’t obsess over it every moment, it is a significant part of me. It is in everything I do and experience, and is most keenly felt when I use my other senses to view the world. Basically, I can either learn to be okay with that, or not – but when it comes to writing, I can’t escape it. Instead, I can write from a position of vulnerability in my work, and use that to arrive at something deeper, authenticity and strength. Through my writing, I can be truly me.

Even if I still might worry about being pigeonholed, I’ve come to realize there’s no shame in writing about something I know intimately, getting my viewpoint across, and making people think about things they might not have otherwise.

So, I relish facing the same issues as my fellow freelancers – building my collection of clips, crafting better, more concise pitches, and working with editors to produce the best possible piece of writing I can. The other stuff is part of a larger task I face – to accept myself as I am, and find acceptance from others through writing.

 

Kerry is a writer who was born blind, but without words she would truly be in the dark. She writes memoir, literary travel writing, and some fiction. She lives with her literary dog and cat: Dobby and Lumos in Ontario, Canada. You can find more writing and literary stuff at her blog and on Twitter.
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