Kick, journalism, writing

Why a good kicking helps my writing

Last week I pitched some articles to a commissioning editor. She’s the new contact to replace an old mate who’d been getting me to write regularly and for whom I’d enjoyed working. The workload was light, the money reasonable so nothing to dislike.

The new woman politely declined all of the new ideas. After a few years as a contributor it was basically a bit of a kicking. And was delighted.

The reason for this apparent contradiction is that when you’re too comfortable somewhere you can get lazy and start pitching second-rate ideas, mostly because you think they’re as good as the last one. They may be. That doesn’t mean they were ever good enough, it means someone found it easy to accept them.

A kick up the backside

It’s the same when you’re in PR pitching ideas to journalists you know – it’s easy to slip into an artificial comfort zone and assume that even if the hack moves, you’ll continue to get stories in. You may not. You’re as good as your last pitch, not the one that cemented you with a previous employee.

I’ve now agreed to go to a press conference tomorrow and see whether there’s anything relevant to the magazine to which I was pitching last week. If there isn’t, I’m not going to talk it up, I’m not going to pretend it’s something that it’s not. I’m going to have to try harder. This is stimulating and it’s going further.

It’s got me looking at all of my regular commissions. Am I too comfortable? Am I doing loads of research from my desk rather than getting out there and actually speaking to people? All of these are dangers to the overly comfortable journalist, and the same applies to our counterparts in PR.

Earlier this year I decided to try to spend a day a week at the IoD in London, making myself available to grab a coffee with anyone who wants a catch-up (please do contact me if you’d like to join me sometime). I did this without getting a kicking. This latest development from this magazine has spurred me to attend an extra press event per month on a “see what I can see” basis.

What have you changed this year to push yourself a bit further?

I will be hosting a one-day course on writing in London, for the Henshall Centre, in July – for details please click here.

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