One of the downsides of freelance writing: Life Envy

Posted on May 4, 2011
Today I went to visit a gorgeous country farmhouse. Big, light-filled kitchen. Fireplace in the monastic dining room. Verandahs on three sides. Chickens, ducks, horses, and a Border Collie. A studio. Old, rustic stables. Acres of green paddocks as far as the eye could see. Your basic rural dream. 

I wasn’t just there to visit. I’m writing the house up for an interiors magazine. I don’t do house stories that often these days, but I love them for the opportunity to step into someone else’s life for a little while. Though there is a certain amount of Life Envy that can go along with that opportunity. I wrote about it in this guest post, which first appeared at Mother Hoot in September last year.

One of the worst things about being a freelance writer is the ‘life envy’ that can ensue. It’s bad enough simply flicking through the pages of a glossy lifestyle magazine – imagine actually visiting those houses, soaking in the dreamy views, lolling on the designer sofa…and then climbing back into your own trashed people mover and arriving back in your own life.
Some months ago, I visited a sublime modernist fantasy perched high on a rolling hill with vistas out to the ocean. There was even one of those infinity pools (not sure how you feel about them but, for me, the idea of swimming to the horizon without encountering marine life is extremely attractive). Soft music played as I tip-toed across the wide, timber floorboards, admiring the stonework on the floor-to-ceiling fireplace. Wide cedar bi-fold doors tempted me out to broad veranda, where jasmine twined a scented path to the sky. Lawn, like a verdant green carpet, ran down to the dam where picturesque white ducks splashed about.
Seriously? People live here? How do they ever leave?
The home belonged to a young couple from Sydney, who enjoyed it as a weekender. They rented it out to those who could afford it. And they let me through the door to share a glimpse of it with the readers of the magazine I was writing for.
I drove away, down a winding country lane, past fields of mooing cows and, within 10 minutes, was back at my place. A slightly tired cottage made of fibro. I turned off the car, listening to the engine die away, thinking of what I’d left behind.
And then my family burst out the front door, thrilled to see me after a three-hour absence. And what I’d left behind dimmed to a pleasant memory.
It doesn’t matter where you live, really. The best home is your home.
If you’d like to know more about writing house features, visit In My House, the blog of my lovely friend Catherine Shields, an art director and writer whose work features regularly in Australia’s best home magazines. She shares the background stories of her ‘house shoots’, as well as her vast knowledge of all things interiors. The image shown above is from one of her own projects. And she loves questions.


  1. neesay

    It’s all about your perspective – I have life envy because you are a freelance writer (the part about checking out gorgeous homes is just a bonus) 🙂

  2. Looking for Blue Sky

    In Ireland a lot of houses are sold by auction (well less now since the property crash) and they used to have open viewings on the weekends. I used to love going to these, both to see how the other half lives and to get ideas – really 🙂 I designed my extension based on one visit x

  3. Saucy B

    In my last job I worked on my developing my company’s TV commercials. I always enjoyed poking around the gorgeous homes we got to shoot in. I’ll be writing about a shoot I did in South Africa in a post i’m putting up tomorrow.

  4. InkPaperPen

    you mean those houses really do exist???! Ah, i have been telling myself they are a fantasy, put together in order to make a lovely magazine feature.

    Loving Maxabella’s comment

  5. Kellie

    Hubby and I often start sentences with “when we’re rich, we’ll live in that house with our maid”. Of course, we haven’t really thought about how we’re going to get rich!!! LOL!
    Mind you, we live in a gorgeous house now with incredible views out to Bass Strait in one direction and Mt Roland in the other direction. I guess that’s one of the advantages of living in Tassie – luxury is a little more affordable!!!

  6. River

    If I had a dollar for every time i got lost in daydreams looking through one of those amgazines I’d probably have a down payment on one of those homes.

    I do have an imitation Tiffany lamp.

  7. Tracy Todd

    Home is the best always! I traveled a lot for my old job, and I always enjoyed visiting the new cities. However, when it was time to come home, I counted down the laoovers. I could not wait to be back in my own bed, sitting on my own couch, surrounded by family. Thank you for reminding me!!

  8. Donna @ Nappydaze

    The pessimist in me tells me that if you popped around unannounced to do your article then hopefully there’d be 3 days old crumbs on the terracotta floor, pudgy hand marks on the bi-fold doors, and sunbaked dog crap from the Border Collie on the not so manicured lawn…

    Life Envy, moi? Obviously hehe

  9. therhythmmethod

    I don’t read interiors magazines for that very reason: life envy. When reading one of these mags I spend the whole time drooling over other people’s ‘perfect lives’, and then I spend the next day or two talking myself out of it. They still have to clean the toilets, they have to declutter, dust, clean windows …
    Newspapers, on the other hand, make my life look positively peachy.

  10. Suzi

    My neighbour has the country dream home, whenever we visit it fills me with inspiration ( and a touch of envy) . But our house on the other hand with it’s lime green carpet, wood panel walls and crooked light fittings. Our house has the Border Collie.

  11. Nita Davis

    That does sound almost to beautiful to be true. I can see where it would open one to a bit of Life Envy, I would rather think of it as fuel for my dreams.

  12. todd carr

    home sweet home. I get envious also, I love the fancy china and wares I see in other people’s homes. I love looking at other people’s fancy cars and wish I could have the same. its fun to dream about those things

  13. Littlemissairgap

    You’re more than welcome to come and have Life Envy at my house but I think you will probably walk away with something resembling more like Life Ho-Hum.

  14. Diminishing Lucy

    Just popping in to echo Deer Baby – Grand Designs gives me house and land and life envy and project management lust.

    One day….

  15. Deer Baby

    I like Maxabella’s attitude! Hard though. Grand Designs gives me a serious case of lifestyle envy. Trouble is, I wouldn’t want to go through the grief to get there. Although having Kevin come a visiting every few months wouldn’t go amiss.

  16. Tai Tai

    You have essentially just outlined my ideal job. I’m heading over to Catherine’s blog immediately! I’m hoping this writing course I’m doing might maybe get me in the door (literally and metaphorically!). Thanks for the inside take x

  17. Maxabella

    I have enough Life Envy just being a reader of those magazines. Although I was definitely inflicted more when younger. These days I have only myself to blame if I’m not living the life I always imagined.


  18. Sarah Mac

    I have a Border Collie and ummm …….. yep, I have a Border Collie…….

    But I do love to dream, thank you for sharing.

  19. Susie Kline

    I love the daydreams this post inspires!

    Thanks for the linkback!

    xo Susie

  20. This Mid 30s Life

    Wow, I love a beautiful country house. A good friend and her husband did up her husband’s great-grandparents house, which used to have cattle wandering through it. It’s now the most beautiful little place, very Australian with its verandahs etc. And I must to admit to the green eyed monster when I’m there.

  21. ClaireyH

    So many nice country houses popping up in my reader lately. It is like the world is trying to tell me that I need to get myself one of these weekenders. Just not sure who will be paying for it.

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