Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pitch Slap

"One thing that always surprises me about career advice is how lousy most of the writing is. They say the same boring, formulaic ideas over again. They convince you that if you do this one thing, it will all work out for you. The worst thing they do is tell you to follow the rules. This is a terrible idea." - Susannah Breslin (How to Not Be Unemployed)

Here's an unassailable truth for ya: I have written a lot of different things for a lot of different people over the years. Magazines, blogs, books. Shorts, videos and documentaries. And not one of those writing gigs came about as the result of a pitch.

That's not to say that I haven't ever pitched an idea. Of course I have. Mountains of them. Pitches that I dashed off as half-arsed afterthoughts. Long, detailed, drawn-out pitches that I spent days tweaking, buffing and polishing until the monitor screen itself seemed to glisten. Not one fucking nibble. Nothing.

Any word that I've ever written that ended up in a pay cheque came about because someone approached me. Maybe they knew me personally or by reputation. Maybe I was a friend of a friend or a recommendation. Maybe they knew me from other things that I'd already written. There’s more than one way to skin a gig.

If you’re waiting for a point to all this, where I come up with a neat, tidy conclusion about what this means, then you’re shit out of a luck. I’m really not trying to say that pitching is a waste of time. Maybe it just means that pitching is an incredibly inefficient way of getting your stuff out there. At least, my experience certainly seems to bear that out.

(This also applies to any kind of job application - hundreds (if not thousands) of people applying for the same job in the same way. The odds are stacked against you, no matter how goddamn brilliant you are).

Maybe the point is this: it’s more fun when you want me more than I want you. Or maybe it just means that the only person I’m interested in competing with is myself. And that the best way to get stuff out into the world is to take the road less travelled. Not through the front door, crowded with noisy people queueing up for their shot. I prefer to sneak in the back window. I’ve never had a problem with working hard. Sometimes, it makes more sense to work smart instead.

Rambling (almost) over. I’ve been thinking about this a fair bit recently. I’m never short of things to write. I’m the King of Spec, and I’ll happily write stuff for my own amusement forever. But I find myself craving the benefits of collaboration again. Working with or for smart people with ideas that I haven’t thought of and perspectives that maybe I don’t have. Basically, I’m in the mood to shred my rule book and shower the place with confetti. And I'm starting to build bricks to smash through the back windows that no-one else seems to be looking at. Developing...

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