How I Became a Writer and Then Decided Against It

We were sitting on a plane to Paris, celebrating our anniversary and I was feeling miserable.

I just didn’t know what I wanted anymore. I kept on thinking about it in my head, turning the thoughts over and over again. Journaling; asking myself the same questions, trying to understand myself and my feelings.

I had been teaching English in Florence for about three years. Even though it had once been my dream to teach English in Florence, it had now become a drag.

I sort of understood what had happened because I know I get bored easily; I need excitement, fresh, new challenges and something that is unpredictable. After three years of teaching English to Italians I already knew what my students were going to say and what mistakes they were going to make before they even opened their mouths.

Worse yet, I had started watching the clock during my lessons.

I felt tired, uninspired and everything was so heavy.

The worst thing was that I started finding my students annoying and I couldn’t bring up the patience for their “stupid” mistakes anymore. I knew that was the bottom line.

I have always been a teacher; I’ve always known I wanted to be one and so teaching is part of my DNA. I studied Teaching English as a Foreign Language at teacher training college in Holland and taught at a secondary school before moving to Florence. The circumstances I was teaching in now, however, weren’t nourishing my sense of purpose. I felt I was just correcting the same old mistakes all Italians made and I was sick and tired of it. I knew nothing was really going to change; the same mistakes would be coming by for the coming fifty years and the thought of it made my stomach turn.

It’s not that I can’t stand people making mistakes, I mean I am a teacher and I always say: “Your mistakes are more than welcome, that’s the only way to learn.” But I didn’t feel I was making a significant difference by teaching English. I wasn’t helping these people grow as human beings. Yes, their English improved, but that was too small for me. This I understand now looking back.

Back to that plane I was sitting on.

I knew I had to change something about my professional life because I just didn’t want to feel like this anymore. I felt bored, uninspired and had no enthusiasm left at all. It wasn’t fair to my students, my employers and, most of all, to myself.

And so I thought and I talked and I waited and I did everything in my power to find out what it was that I wanted to do instead.

I was actually already doing it, but I wasn’t aware that it could actually become my job.

Let me explain. When I got surgery on my ankle in Holland a year or two after moving to Florence, I had a two-month period in which I couldn’t really do anything but sit still. I had lots of time on my hands and so I pursued on of my hobbies: writing.

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I submitted a story for a contest, but never heard anything back. That was fine, I wasn’t trying to achieve anything anyway. Then, through a strike of luck, I got in touch with Saskia Balmaekers from the biggest Dutch blog on Italy called Ciaotutti.nl and she asked if I was interested in sharing what life was like for a Dutch woman in Florence.

I sent in my story and she loved it. She said I could post whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, as long as it fitted the blog. How cool!

Then she said: “Why don’t you start your own blog too?”

And so I did. I wrote about my Dutch life in Florence on SoFlorence.com and people loved it.

Since Saskia was also working for a proper magazine about Italy at the time, she proposed I write for their website as well.

Perchè no? Why not?

Then the magazine proposed to print my columns and pay me for them.

Wow. And I wasn’t even “real writer.”

But what does that even mean, to be a real writer?

They liked what I wrote, people wanted to read it and a hobby became a side hustle.

I talked about my professional struggles with Saskia and she said: “Why don’t you become an official collaborator for the blog, go on blog tours, do part of the marketing part, become the account manager – and of course write posts?”

That sounds so cool! Yes, why not?

But then the mind intervened and my thoughts were the following:

“But I’m not a real writer, how can I possibly be of any value to her – and get paid for it?”

“What if people don’t like what I write and they find mistakes?”

“What if I can’t combine it all and am too busy with my teaching, or my writing and I’ll have to disappoint people?”

And many more “seghe mentali” as they say in Italian: proper mind fucks.

I decided to just go for it and see what would happen.

Don’t get me wrong: every blog tour I went on I felt like an impostor, being invited because of Saskia’s success, not mine. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, that my photos sucked and that not knowing how to Tweet or Instagram meant I was a total loser.

I did it anyway.

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Luckily enough Georgette Jupe Pradier from the massively successful blog Girl in Florence was there with me. We had met two weeks after I first came to Florence and we had always stayed in touch, accidentally running into each other all over Florence. I felt safe knowing the biggest expert of them all, who was also super nice and relaxed about the whole blogging thing.

I was taking it way too seriously.

I visited all the outskirts of Tuscany and even went on a cruise for a week. I was invited to dinners, gallery openings and all sorts of other cool stuff for the big Dutch blog. It was great; the only problem was that I was terrified with every word I wrote.

“Was it good enough?”

“Was I good enough?”

“Would Saskia like it?”

I felt extremely insecure and felt I had to work super hard to keep with her insanely high rhythm and quality. I wanted to be like her so I would get her approval. The funny thing was that she didn’t need another her: she needed me and my expertise and my unique take on things. Most of all, she needed someone in the field, since she lived in Amsterdam and I was in Florence.

I was already good enough just being me and being where I was. But I put those high standards up for myself, and made it all much heavier than necessary.

One day she wrote me: “With every word you write, you’ll become more confident.”

And so I trusted that. And I kept on writing. Remembering to breathe was the hardest part, but I managed.

And I did pretty well. Actually I did awesome and people loved my posts!

And then I felt miserable again after a year and a half or so. And I started to believe something was wrong with me.

“Why can’t you just be happy with the opportunity you’ve got? I mean, you get to travel around Tuscany for free, better yet, you get paid for it, you go for dinners, explore places most people don’t get to see and you have a flexible schedule working from home!”

The truth was that I started hating the blog tours. I’m a highly sensitive person and the high-speed, fuller than full programmes in which you have to be present, listen to the guide, take photos, post stuff all over social media and interact with your fellow bloggers, left me feeling overwhelmed and super detached from reality.

I remember sitting at the most exclusive dinners and everyone at the table was glued to their phone.

I just wanted connection and even though we were all online, the human connection was missing most of the time.

All the blog tours looked great from the outside, but there was never any time to really properly enjoy yourself. We had to write, eat, speak, listen, instagram, walk, travel, get up early, go swimming, horseriding, lunch, taste wine and remember every tiny detail for our posts afterwards.

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It sounds like fun – and of course it was – but it was just too much for me.

I love slow living, I love savouring the moment, I love listening to the silence, I love honouring the place I’m at with the full presence of my heart and soul. I couldn’t do the McDrive version, I need to deeply sense where I’m at and what I’m doing.

And then there was the part where I was behind my desk and typed on my pc for days on end. I wouldn’t see anyone, except for my boyfriend at the time, who worked irregular hours and was more of a nuisance than a joy when I was working at home – and me the same for him when he was trying to get some rest.

Our already pretty dead relationship became even more lifeless because of it.

I felt under pressure because I had to deliver the posts, do the marketing part and also come up with new ideas. At least I felt that was expected of me since Saskia is the biggest creative machine on the planet and I needed to keep up. Or that’s what I kept telling myself.

But maybe the biggest factor that made me feel drained and unmotivated was that I was working for something that wasn’t mine. Yes, I was contributing, I was adding value, but it wasn’t feeding my own purpose – again.

I started resenting it.

And there I was again, at the same spot I was some years ago: feeling drained, unexcited and looking for purpose.

That’s when my mum said: “Why don’t you become a coach since you’re always so much about self-development?”

I felt hot all over.

My soul was going: “YES, YES, YES! That’s what you’ve always wanted to do deep down; help people believe in themselves so they can do what they dream of and become the best version of themselves!”

My mind was saying:

“You’re too young to become a life coach, people won’t take you seriously and besides you don’t even know how to coach. You need to go back to school for it and that’s difficult and complicated not living in Holland and having to study in Italian. And then, what are you gonna do, open your own business? In Italy?!”

That’s exactly what I did.

And for the past three years I have finally felt I’m fully living on purpose.

I help women find the courage to make big life changes so that they can be true to themselves and live a life without any regrets. I bascially help others do what I do all the time: throw my life around to keep on doing what feels good so I can always live life in line with myself.

I just can’t do discomfort if I can change something about the situation. I’m always willing to feel discomfort on my way to bigger and better things, but I don’t do discomfort staying stuck in a situation I know I can escape from.

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I know myself by now.

I don’t like working for other people.

I don’t like being told what to do.

I don’t like being around people that drain the living daylight out of me.

I need to be creative.

I need to be able to work with people and thereby contribute meaningfully.

I need to be able to use my intuition and high-sensitivity and help find truth.

I need to be able to decide my own time (I barely set my alarm clock now: gold)

I need to be able to feel and receive enthusiasm, energy, a go-getter attitude and a lot of positivity.

I need a challenge, diversity, but most of all I need to feel I’m making a significant difference in other people’s lives so that I feel I can die a happy woman.

I am willing to do no matter what to fulfil my purpose. I take risks, I go out of my comfort zone, I invest in myself and in my business and most of all: I never give up.

This is what I was meant to do, so I cannot not do it. I need to have deep conversations with people and show them there’s another way to look at things so they can set them free from their self-made prisons and finally live the life they desire.

Touching other people’s hearts by simply sharing my story and hearing that they dared to make a change to be more true to themselves, makes me tear up.

I was made to inspire, to speak the truth and to show others that they can also live a life that is fully in line with themselves.

It’s what I do and I can’t help doing it; it comes naturally to me. And since I want to help you live a life that is true to your soul too, I have designed a brand new group programme: THE DREAM SPACE ODYSSEY!

For a period of six months we’ll voyage through space together with a select few that made it to the dream team and we all have one final destination: your own planet dream.

I want you to make your dream come true. Life is too short not to do what you truly want; you were meant for that vision you have of yourself.

In these six months you’ll get guidance, accountability, support, sisterhood, motivation, confidence, practical tips, live trainings, a safe space to share your progress, a mastermind partner (new BFF?), the right conditions to turn your dream into reality so that you can finally live in line with yourself and feel ALIVE again.

All these changes I’ve made were important on my journey. They’ve lead me to where I’m at now. And now I have a new dream: having a family and dedicating myself fully to that.

I never would have guessed, but meeting the right man and becoming a true woman has opened up that heart space and deep desire for me.

It’s my mission to create the right conditions for that dream to come into fruition now. And that’s how we all expand and evolve all the time. Realised one dream? On to the next! That’s life, that’s natural law, that’s living fully.

Now, my question to you is:

What dream would you like to make your reality? And would you be interested in joining the DREAM SPACE ODYSSEY, which kicks off on September 1st and has you reach your dream planet by March 1st!

The YES Woman spaceship comes in the form of a closed Facebook group where you and your dream team mates come together to travel towards your own dream.

Joining the programme gets you accountability, my digital programme Take the Leap with six steps that will help you turn your dream into reality (value: € 499), support from your coach (me!) and sisterhood with like-minded women who also want to reach for the stars and go for their own big, bold dream!

I’m only taking 10 women into space with me. Are you one of them? Do you dare to commit to your dream and say YES to yourself and your own happiness?

Have you ever really felt fulfilled? Like, really bone deep, I-can-die-a-happy-woman-now?

I have, many times. I fact that’s what I strive for all the time. And I wish for you to feel the same. Because it means to really feel alive.

And since you were given this life, you might as well live it, right?

The early bird price is € 499 till July 31st and I’m even willing to do a payment plan for you of 2 payments of € 250 each in July and August. That’s only when you decide to join within July though. As of August the price goes up to € 750.

Extra sign-up-by-July-bonus: a one-hour clarity session with me before lift-off to increase the smooth-sailing odds on your travel through space (value: € 149).

Let me know if you’re ready to finally do YOU and get the guts to go for what you’ve always wanted.

If not now, then when? It is time, my dear. It is time. Read more here!

I’m here for you! Let’s do this together!

Love & courage,

Sophie

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