Congratulations to Hayley Hiles for Winning the October 2019 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

What limitations, whether physical, emotional, or just outside your comfort zone, have you overcome to pursue writing work you love?

Hayley shared a touching essay about overcoming a condition, against expectations, so she could pursue her writing dream and make a living at it. Enjoy her story…

I have autism.

No matter what image just popped into your head, it’s probably at least partially accurate. As you might imagine, I have never had a job. I cannot drive, talk on the phone, or use social media. The only reason I can write like this is that I love books, and I’ve seen so many sentences that I eventually learned how to make them. Once I did, a few stories jumped out of me. I didn’t feel like I was making them up; it was more like my fingers had a life of their own and just went to town on the keyboard. I was amazed at what my fingers came up with! One of my teachers even predicted I’d be a writer someday.

As I got older, I started to realize just how limited I was going to be when it came to getting a job. It would have to be something I could do from home, completely online, communicating only by email. So when an ad for AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting popped up in my inbox one day, I thought it was too good to be true. I’d given up hope that I could ever make money. Not just the six-figure income many people dream about; I mean any money at all. I had no skills, no experience, and no ability to get experience, at least from a “normal” place of employment. I knew I couldn’t handle the kinds of jobs the other kids were getting, like positions at restaurants and small stores. But I never imagined there might be some other option, one that was possible even for someone like me.

Filled with new hope, I bought the program. Even though it’s taking me longer than it might take most people, I’m committed to getting through it, one page at a time. It was a huge step for me to even purchase the program, because I’d already failed at so many things that people consider necessary for living, and I was terrified of failing at this too. Honestly, I’m still scared of failing. But as a kid with literally hundreds of limitations, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be scared. It’s also okay if you can’t change the parts of yourself that don’t fit in.

So instead of trying to get rid of the things that make me who I am, I’ve figured out a way to move forward with my goal of making money, limitations and all. I accept the things I can’t change, but I don’t let them stop me. If one door closes, I turn to another door. Eventually I’ll find one that stays open, and that’s the path I’ll take. I may not have found my perfect writing niche yet, but I’ll keep going until I do. I’m only at the start of my journey, after all! Thanks to AWAI, I finally believe it’s possible for me to succeed at something.