Not long ago, I came to the realization that if I didn’t start taking my writing more seriously, then no one else would either. After promising myself that I would devote more time and energy to writing in 2019, I set four writing goals for the month of January. I’m proud to tell you, faithful reader, that I accomplished all four.

Travis Naughton

My first goal, and my first priority, was to continue writing my weekly columns for the Journal. Today’s installment is already my fifth to be published in the new year. It is an honor to have my commentary regularly appear in a reputable, community-driven newspaper—especially one that has featured the work of talented opinion writers such as Jane Flink, Cathy Salter, and Bruce Wallace—and I do not take the privilege lightly.

Before I started writing for the Boone County Journal, I wrote a couple of stories that were published in the Columbia Business Times and Jefferson City Business Times. Considering the fact that I had no previous journalism experience, I thought the two articles turned out pretty decent. My editor liked them enough to offer me more assignments, but I reluctantly declined. Business writing just wasn’t for me. I’m a columnist.

I haven’t submitted my work to any other publications since I started writing for the Journal, therefore my second writing goal for January was to submit at least one piece to a magazine or journal. After researching various media outlets, I found a magazine that covers issues in education and equality—and accepts unsolicited submissions. If you know anything about me, you know that education, equality, and writing are three of my passions, so I decided to go for it.

I submitted a short article, and last Friday I received a reply thanking me for my submission. I was also informed that my piece was being forwarded to the magazine’s editorial department for consideration. I have no idea if they’ll decide to publish my article, but I was just happy to receive a response—one that wasn’t an outright rejection. Regardless, I plan to keep sending my material to various publications. For a writer, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing your work in print.

That brings us to my third goal for the month; compiling, formatting, and editing a collection of former columns and publishing them in book form.

“It’s All Chicken and Booze” is my third collection of columns (and my fourth published book) and is available now at I have to confess; I like looking over at my bookshelf and seeing four books sitting there with my name on the covers. I think my mother would have been awfully proud, too.

I self-published all four of my books using Kindle Direct Publishing, (formerly Createspace), a service of Amazon. It’s actually a pretty straightforward process. (And it’s free!) The online program guides authors through each step, including properly formatting the text of the book, selecting a design, creating a cover, and marketing the final product. Users are given a choice between making their products available as paperbacks or e-books or both. Thanks to KDP, I’ve managed to sell a few hundred copies of my books over the years, including several in the last two weeks. (Thank you, dear readers.)

My final writing goal for January was to begin working on a new book. I’m happy to report that I’ve outlined approximately 35 chapters and have finished writing the first one. This work-in-progress is a memoir of sorts—one I hope to eventually sell to a publishing house. It will take a monumental amount of effort, and perhaps even more luck, but I’m starting to believe I can do it.

As a reward for achieving all four of my goals for the month, I decided to do something completely crazy. Travis Naughton, opinion columnist for the Boone County Journal in Ashland, Missouri, is officially being considered for a Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for distinguished commentary.

Say what now?

Last week, I completed a brief questionnaire, selected ten of my best columns from 2018, and submitted an entry form for the most prestigious journalism award in the United States. Juries of respected journalists in each of the 14 award categories will evaluate the entries and nominate three finalists. The Pulitzer Board will then choose the winners.

Knowing I’m more likely to win the Powerball than the Pulitzer does not dampen my spirits in any way. I’m on a roll so far in 2019. At this point, I wouldn’t bet against me.