Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, I’m sitting with my toes in the cold morning sand and a computer in my lap. 

I want you to know this because, with the vast ocean staring back at me, I’m feeling contemplative. Specifically, I’m thinking about how I landed in this creative and fulfilling career that allows me to be here today. 

And since I’m always intrigued about other people’s professional journeys, I thought I’d share with you how I forged my path in the ultra-competitive world of travel and creative writing.

Five years ago, I gave up a lucrative corporate position to chase my dream of making a living with more creative pursuits. 

To be precise, I imagined myself as a freelance writer who would spend her time traveling, reading, cooking, and taking pictures. Looking back, I can’t believe I was so hopeful. I mean, doesn’t everyone want to make a living that way?

I had no leads for assignments, no relevant degree, and little in the way of a portfolio. What I had, however, was a teeny-tiny blog that I assumed only my mom read—sometimes. I had literally created The Antibland Chronicles while trying not to stick a pen in my eyes during my graduate accounting class. This was back when blogging wasn’t such a ubiquitous verb. My site was simply a journal of sorts, for my own benefit.

Taking a cue from my then-three-year-old daughter, I decided it was time to use that blog to play pretend. Even though I had no gigs, I pretended that I had to write a book review, or a travel itinerary, or a quick recipe for a weeknight dinner. 

My first employer, in essence, was me. 

I had so much fun coming up with story ideas that I often forgot it wasn’t a real job—so much so that I gave myself the title freelance writer and ordered business cards to make it official.

The self-made exercises helped me find my writing voice and eventually create a portfolio that I could share with editors. 

Call it faking-it-till-you-make-it if you want, but this pretend-play not only brought me joy but also forced me to develop the skills and work ethic of a real writer. I became my own editor, my harshest critic. 

And thanks to all those self-made assignments, I could pitch stories like a pro.

More often than not, pretending to be something you aren’t is dismissed as child’s play. 

But this exercise has quite literally helped me find a new career—once as a freelance writer, and then again when I created a book out of construction paper for my children and realized I could publish it commercially.

Not everyone is looking to give up a plumb corporate job to chase a writer’s dream. But I’m sure many of you have passions and hobbies that you wish filled more of your time and even became sources of income. 

My advice is this: Don’t wait around for the big break to land in your lap, because it never will. 

Give yourself the title you want to have, print that business card (they’re cheap enough!), and pretend you are the thing you want to be. 

Imagine yourself as that person, and others will follow.

CHIKA GUJARATHI is a Raleigh-based writer and author of the Hello Namaste! children’s books. Her work can be found on her blog The Antibland Chronicles.

NEXT WEEK: JONATHAN WEILER, a teaching professor in global studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and co-author of Prius or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide and Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics.

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INDY Voices—a rotating column featuring some of the Triangle’s most compelling writers—is made possible by contributions to the INDY Press Club. Visit for more information.