In honor of Halloween, here are a few freaky things to consider about the international writing life.
Currency fluctuation. In the last few years, the dollar and the pound have tumbled. If you’re living abroad and getting paid in the local currency, you may not care. But you would care, for example, if you lived in Switzerland and wrote for U.S. publications. Four years ago, if I wrote an article for $300, that meant SFr 381. Now if I write that same article, I only get SFr 291. That’s SFr 100 different, and not in my favor.
Banking issues. A U.S.-based freelancer recently emailed me asking how I dealt with depositing U.S. checks from abroad. Short answer? I don’t. I let my mother do that (thanks, Mom). Why? If I deposit an American check into my Swiss bank account, I will be charged a fee (A large fee. This is Switzerland, after all.). If you live abroad and write for publications back home, make sure you designate a hometown banker to take care of your checks so you avoid unwanted charges and hassle.
Maintaining clients. For some publications, it doesn’t matter where in the world you’re located. But for others, you can't take it with you. For example, I used to write for an alternative newspaper in Richmond. But after moving abroad, being away from Richmond meant I couldn’t be on top of what was going on locally. So I no longer write for them. But luckily, other publications abroad have taken its place.
Interviews in foreign languages. The first time I interviewed someone for an article in German, it was absolutely schlecht. I recorded it, so I could transcribe it later, but it took me over five hours to type the half hour interview. What could be worse? Well, listening to myself asking questions in my bad German accent wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time.
Finding a support group. It can be hard to find a group of other writers to encourage you and give you feedback. Sure, there are often groups of hobbyists, but serious writers can be harder to find. For the first three years I was abroad, I was basically alone, at least writing-wise. It took me three years to find two other writers and form a critique/support group, but now that I have one, it is wonderful.
What’s been tough for you about writing from abroad?