Dude, Where’s My Column?

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.

6. Cricket

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. 


38 responses to “Dude, Where’s My Column?

  1. Pitchy

    Here’s an idea for you. When I read your blog I always think, ‘How the fuck is he paying for stuff (food, booze, fags etc)? He never seems to have any work as he never gets commissioned’. So either you’re hiding a secret income stream from us devoted readers or you’ve hit on a number of ways to pay for the stuff you need by not doing a whole lot apart from blogging. I for one would like to know how you do it. Perhaps you could call your column ‘How the Fuck I Pay For Stuff’. If I was a Commissioning Editor, I’d give you the gig.

    • Lee: The answer I would like to give is that I am independently wealthy and just do this for kicks, or that I have one or two readers who are independently wealthy and send me fat cheques for kicks, or that I have a sugar mummy who just gives me money and stuff for kicks. The truth, however, is that every once in a while I tidy myself up and do corporate work, which pays very handsomely. I do allude to this from time to time. If you were a commissioning ed I would accept the gig.

  2. Bloody editors...

    Aye, bloody editors, eh? I’ve lost count of the number who say they are interested and then don’t reply to any further correspondence.

    Why get me all excited and then drop me like a stale turd? Bastards.

  3. How about a column for Four Four Two about the life and times of an ageing, broken but flairy footballer trying to play PowerLeague twice a week? I’d definitely read that fucker.

    P.S. I did a funny search to get to your blog earlier – guess which one!


    • I am flairy aren’t I? And broken. I had a look through my search engine terms earlier, dismissed “I want to fuck pitching the world” and “earth from outer space” and reckon that yours was “pitching the world cunt!” Am I right? Remember in the pub recently when I said you were the second or third funniest person I know? Well, now you’re first!*

      *Not really. Fourth. X

      • BOOM! Hole in 1!

        Nit happy with dropping 2 places, this blog entry has dropped you a few as well 😉

        Not really, love you!

  4. Out of the several mags I have pitched only a few have come back to me. Most of those were direct refusals. The other was a maybe answer. And haven’t heard back from him.

    Either I’m crap at pitching or … I’m crap at pitching.

  5. Thanks Little Me. Maybe you are crap at pitching. Maybe I am too. I’ll tell you this though, getting commissioned now is a fucksight more difficult than it was when I started writing professionally five years ago.

  6. Go into the BBC all polished up and corporate with your Mallorca-tan and tell them you have only six months to live and that presenting Test Match Special has always been your dream. They’ll forget your fib once they realise what an amazingly gifted writer and broadcaster you are. If anyone can make cricket interesting, you can.

  7. Laurence: Not only did you use three exclamation marks and an emoticon in your previous comment, you also managed to spell ‘not’ incorrectly. Not really – well yes, really – love you.
    Mya: You’re ace, thank you. After finishing this comment I’m going to write to Jimmy Savile.

  8. Danny Wallace must have briefly taken over my soul. Also, my kidneys hurt.

  9. Oh my God I so love that Henry VIII thing, I can imagine you ordering a coffee saying ‘and make it quick or you’ll be a head shorter!’ Sneering bawdily, red wine stains down your t-shirt as you splutter ‘Come here wench’ at some passing cyclist. You could ride a flea bitten Spanish donkey up a winding cobbled path as if it were the finest Arabian Stallion taking you to the Field of the Cloth of Gold. I say give it a go, I mean, it’s go to be entertaining if nothing else (I hope you don’t get the shit kicked out of you x)

  10. Really Marge? I think I could do with having the shit kicked out of me. Might jog me out of this impasse. X

  11. I am sure you do Lisa. Are you wearing an Abayah? It seems so, ‘Eid Mubarak’

  12. Marge – Who and What are you? Pls reveal. I think you are ? working in UAE.

  13. Pitchboy, dump that rosy view of ‘getting the shit kicked out of oneself’.

    I’ve come across a few who’ve had ‘the shit kicked out of them’ . . . . Belfast, Germany, Kuwait . . . .and don’t remember any of them mentioning “by golly, that’s jogged me out of an impasse”

    I’m only making a contribution

  14. Contributions are very welcome here oldbloke. I’m trying to get something commissioned at the moment that would involve me travelling to Thailand, training in Muay Thai for a month and then having a semi-professional fight at the end of it. Have you come across anyone who’s had the shit kicked out of them in Phuket?

  15. I have Pitchy, except he is a shit kicker rather than the kicked shit. If that makes sense? He still lives there, with my Aunt. In fact, he is Thai and he can teach you how to Muay Thai the shit out of anyone. He is a fisherman, lovely chap. Do you want my Aunt’s phone number if that helps with the writing? she is fabulous fun. Weird how I suggested visiting that library in Bangkok a few comments ago..Paul Theroux will be thrilled.

  16. I would like your Aunt’s phone number please Marge. I’d love to learn how to Muay Thai the shit out of anyone. I’d also like to learn how to fish. This seems as if it’s been written in the stars.

  17. Today´s search engine terms. And it´s not even midday. Oh dear.

    frank mcgrath
    cat in a boat on the sea art
    pitching the world
    frank mcgrath forearm
    fuck journalist
    i fuck my nan up the ass videos
    going commando pictures

  18. 2nd from the top is disgusting, I don’t know how people live with themselves, cats ‘n’ art.

  19. Ohh My God! I cant believe my commando pictures were last on your list!!!

  20. Come and meet me in Hong Kong Pitchy? The triads always need fresh blood. Change of scene etc etc.

  21. I’d love to join a criminal organisation Marge, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry. The big fish that needs frying at the moment is called, “When the fuck is this blog ever going to get updated again? Is it even going to get updated again?”
    Thanks Tots, I like your style.

  22. Pitchy!

    A question from an aspiring freelancer. I’ve got a couple of ideas, I’ve pitched it to one paper but should I also pitch it to others at the same time as well? Or wait for a definite no from the first paper before pitching it elsewhere?

    Keep up the good work!

  23. Hi Adam. I would say it depends to some extent upon how time sensitive the idea is, but I’ve multi-pitched ideas before and on only one occasion had a situation where two different publications wanted to commission me. Make of that what you will.

  24. The idea isn’t too time sensitive but I’ll send it over to a few other places.

    Thanks for your help, much appreciated!

  25. Excellent – good luck. If I could give one piece of advice to an aspiring journalist, it would be to develop a drug and alcohol problem in order to keep your mind limber. This also serves as a useful excuse in case you don’t make it. That wouldn’t really be my one piece of advice. It would be to not get disheartened and pitch like mad. That’s sort of two bits of advice. I think this could possibly be the worst comment I’ve ever made on here.
    Let me know how you get on.

  26. Nan-from-the ass-video

    No need to get disheartened dears, life could get a lot worse. Look on the bright side.

  27. Pitch,

    That was a very good comment.

    Happy birthday too. I think I’m probably late with this

  28. Thank you Chris. And only about three weeks late. Or perhaps 49 weeks early. It’s all about perspective these days.

  29. Hello from the Lone Star state! You know when living in the borderlands of Texas starts to get pretty heavy and you could really use at PTW update? Well I’ve just arrived there my friend. That is all. CB x

  30. My brother was a (sort of) ninja Mya. True story. Thanks for the link.
    CB: Are the borderlands of Texas getting pretty heavy? How so? You make it sound rather appealing over there.

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