Good article, now change all of it
Last week I had the privilege of being asked to write an article for a running magazine. It was a short article, about 500 words or so, and the deadline was fairly tight. I was given the assignment on Thursday 9 April, and asked to deliver the article by Tuesday 13 April.
Since this was a holiday weekend in the UK, and this was the first hard copy publication I’ve written an article for, I decided to be very professional – I carefully researched and edited the article, and sent it early on Monday, well in advance of the deadline.
And then things went awry. The magazine editor had wanted me to write the article from one point of view, and I had written it from the opposite point of view. This wasn’t the fault of either party, but arose from some genuine mix-ups in communication. She then asked whether I would mind rewriting a new article from the perspective she needed, since she already had an article from the point of view I had used.
My first reaction, I’m sad to say, was to get precious about my writing. I had worked hard on this article! My words are precious! Thankfully, I’m old enough to know to ignore my first reactions these days. Temper tantrum out of the way, I replied “sure, just give me a few hours”.
I had written the article from a point of view I personally agreed with. But if I’m any kind of writer, I can write from multiple perspectives with clarity and conviction. I treated the assignment as instructions from an editor about things that could be improved. For some points of the argument, I merely adapted them to the other perspective. And whilst writing, I came up with some good new points that fit perfectly with the new perspective. I hit save, and sent the article off.
The editor is very happy with it (in fact, she thought the original version was very good too), and it will appear in the next edition of the magazine due out in May.
A day or two later, an interview with this editor was published. The interview had been conducted before the article was commissioned. One question and answer seemed to me to be particularly relevant:
Can you name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again? … There’s a lot to be said for simply being a nice person to work with … If someone’s difficult and gets grumpy if I ask for something to be changed, for example, I simply won’t commission them again.
As for the three most important attributes, I’m going to say:
1. Good writing
3. Able to turn good quality articles over quickly
I think I met all those requirements…