Daily Archives: September 25, 2009

Books v. cigarettes

As regular readers will know – and, to be fair, anyone who reads the title of this blog will know – I’m writing about pitching magazines. God, that’s an arresting first sentence. Stick with me though, as there might be a funny bit coming along. It’s about pitching magazines and I have over 600 more to pitch, yet yesterday I didn’t pitch any.

The reason? Well, a lot of my time was spent setting and up and maintaining this blog, a blog about pitching magazines. So I couldn’t pitch any magazines yesterday as I was writing about pitching magazines. How ironic is that? Pretty ironic, I reckon. Most of the day was spent trying to create the exceptional banner decorating the top of this page. It’s a picture of me that I’ve manipulated so that it not only doesn’t look like a picture of me, it doesn’t really look like a picture of anything. The actual manipulation was a breeze, but then it took considerable time trying to upload the picture to the banner. It took me at least two hours to realise that the previous blog template I had didn’t support what I was trying to do. So I changed the blog template.

That done, you would think I would pitch furiously. You would be wrong: I spent the rest of the day checking my stats, smoking dozens of cigarettes, opening and closing the fridge and seeing how many kick-ups I could do with a tennis ball.

This would be funny if it wasn’t true. It would also be funny if I hadn’t just been commissioned to write two features. This is the scourge of the freelance journalist, or at least it’s the scourge of this freelance journalist. You spend a lot of time thinking about and researching new ideas, pitching said thought-out and researched ideas, waiting to hear back from editors about these ideas and when you land a commission you just start to mess around a bit. George Orwell wrote well about this back in the 1940’s. In Books v. cigarettes (1946) he nails the life of a writer:

In a cold but stuffy bed-sitting room littered with cigarettes ends and half-empty cups of tea, a man in a moth-eaten dressing gown sits at a rickety table. He is a man of thirty-five but looks fifty. He is bald, has varicose veins and wears spectacles, or would wear them if his only pair were not chronically lost. If things are normal with him he will be suffering from malnutrition, but if he has recently had a lucky streak he will be suffering from a hangover. At present it is half past eleven in the morning, and according to his schedule he should have started work two hours ago; but even if he had made any serious effort to start he would have been frustrated by the almost continuous ringing of the telephone bell, the yells of the baby, the rattle of an electric drill out in the street, and the heavy boots of his creditors clumping up and down the stairs”

This portrait still rings truly today. The life of a writer is one of distraction, malnutrition, hangovers and creditors. Even today I could have made a start on one or both of the articles that have been commissioned, or pitched some of the contacts listed in the faintly depressing Writers’ and Artist’s Yearbook, or at least cobbled together some of my previous pitches that have produced instant commissions and published them here.

But I haven’t. I will do later and do so furiously, but first, the latest feature I have to write came on the back of this email I sent:


Just a line to let you know that I’m back in London and would relish the opportunity to take on any commissions you may have floating around.



Simple really. I’ll let you know next time how I managed to strike up a relationship with the features ed initially and how getting work really can be simple sometimes. Actually doing the work, assuming you have any sort of soul, can be much harder. 

Thanks everyone for the comments.