When I began this ill-fated adventure back in September 2009, I thought it would lead to all sorts of things. Happiness was one of those things. Increased knowledge another. I also thought it would turn me into a better writer and journalist. Perhaps, if we want to get all schmaltzy – and let’s face it, we do – I thought it might even turn me into a better man. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if this has happened. More than any of that, however, I thought Pitching the World might have led to me getting a column in a national newspaper.
It hasn’t. Of course it hasn’t. But at one point I thought it nearly might. Within a couple of weeks of starting this ill-fated adventure I sent an email to Jason Deans, editor of Media Guardian, suggesting that I write a weekly column about pitching all of these 642 magazines. At the time I was incredibly excited about the whole thing, and my enthusiasm and determination must have come through in my pitch because he wrote back almost immediately and said:
steven – it is an intriguing idea. let me talk to a couple of people here & get back to you.
Oh how splendid, I thought when I received that email, I’ve got a regular column in Media Guardian. I quickly became very fond of Jason.
Over the next few weeks I would periodically send Jason emails checking if my column in Media Guardian had been officially approved or whatever the process is, but Jason ignored the few emails I sent. I became very unfond of Jason. After two months I sent him an email just saying “No?” and he sent one back saying, “Sorry, Steven, not one for us after all, I’m afraid” to which I childishly replied, “Thanks very much for letting me know, albeit two months later” and there ended my career as a columnist for Media Guardian.
It wasn’t my first experience of writing/not writing a column. I’ve not written columns loads of times. I’ve become quite good at not writing columns, excellent in fact. And although I’m better at not writing columns than I am at writing columns, I did actually have a (sort of) column for a while. It was about estate agents and estate agencies. Actually it wasn’t really a column at all, more of a review slot but I’ve written about 400 words so far about writing columns and I’m going to put some stuff down there that isn’t going to be that good but is about the sorts of columns I want to be writing so I’m afraid you’ll just have to live with it.
Some people reading a column of mine, earlier.
So, columns. I may be sticking my neck out here, but I suspect the majority of journalists would like a regular, well paid column in a quality national newspaper. They’re tough to land though and if you go looking for advice on how to get a regular column, this is the sort of stuff you’ll come across. (This, bear in mind, is from the top hit if you google “how to become a newspaper columnist”)
1. Find a willing newspaper who needs a columnist. It would be easier if you already worked for that newspaper or freelanced for it. If you don’t already have a job as a reporter, freelance writer or editor for a newspaper you must send out your resume to secure the job. In most cases, newspaper companies require a journalism or English degree.
2. Brainstorm some catchy ideas. Take in account the region your newspaper is for and its main readers. Make sure you can fully relate to your ideas as well. For an example the newspaper is the main newspaper for a very small town. I though of small town ideas and it helped that I also resided in that town so I knew first hand what to write. Also come up with a catchy title for your column. It has to be short and will grab the reader immediately. Mine is “Making It After All.”
I didn’t get much further than that. I know, sickening. Here is another picture of someone reading one of my columns.
Someone reading a column of mine, earlier.
Against my better judgement, I took the advice above and brainstormed some “catchy ideas” of columns I may want to write in the future and have put them down there. If Jason Deans or someone who commissions at FT Weekend wants to get in touch, then please do. But please don’t break my heart again.
1. The Man Who Can’t Go On Holiday Properly. Most travel writers are smart, knowledgeable, authoritative and always have a good time when they go away. I am none of those things and never have a good time when I go away. My first idea for a column, then, would be about a man who can’t go on holiday properly. An alternative title could be Holiday Prick.
2. My Name is Steve. Based on the possibly award-winning series that I haven’t even seen, I realise that the reason my life is so dull, ill-fated and Novemberish is because of karma. I resolve to go around correcting previous mistakes in my life and write about the results. I actually pitched this idea to the documentary strand of Channel 4 when My Name is Earl first aired but they turned me and my idea down and referred to me as Robert whilst doing so. I think it’s an excellent idea, albeit about six years too late. The column, I mean, not being called Robert.
Fucking hell this post is almost a thousand words long and feels like it’s taken about four afternoons to write. Let’s have another picture of someone reading one of my columns.
Someone reading a column of mine, earlier.
3. Being Danny Wallace. I discover a secret portal into Danny Wallace’s mind and each week go in there whilst he’s writing his regular column for Shortlist and document how much of it he makes up. There will also be a weekly exclamation count.
4. College Bear. I dress up as a bear, go back to college and write about my experiences.
5. What a Writer Does When a Writer Stops Being a Writer. Clearly I’m going to have to stop writing for a living very soon and this column will be a wry look at my attempts to assimilate back into the working world. That I’ll be writing an award-winning column about not writing anymore can be overlooked.
7. What Would Henry VIII Do? When I find myself in scary, unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations I often wonder if I would be better served by behaving how I imagine Henry VIII would have responded in such situations. This column, which will definitely be commissioned the minute I hit ‘Publish’ will be – actually I can’t be fucked with this. I’m not going to get a column. Ever. Here is someone not reading one of my columns.
Someone not reading a column of mine, earlier.