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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

November 19th, 2014

newsprint-blogBack in the late 90’s I was working as an actor with a little theatre company in Brussels. We toured shows around Belgium and France, which sounds really exciting – and it was. But I’d been doing it for ten years and wasn’t exactly earning a fortune, so I was looking for a change.

Moving back to  the UK, I really fancied the writers’ life – staying home, on my own, lots of time to think, lots of coffee … sounded like heaven. But tinkering around with a story that eventually grew into an epic fantasy trilogy, I soon realized that, for me, novel writing wasn’t going to pay the bills. So I started the Writers Bureau Journalism Course. It seemed really interesting.

You can write about pretty much anything doing journalism – your job, hobbies, whatever interests you. Well, along with everything else, I’m a plant lover (I’d be a keen gardener if I had more time). My intention was to write articles, fillers and letters for the gardening press, which is quite a broad sector here in Britain. As well as two weekly and some half-a-dozen monthly gardening magazines, there’s a whole stack of specialist journals and a gardening section in pretty much every local and national newspaper. All of which gives any green-fingered freelancer quite a lot to go at.

Starting work, I had to research the publications I wanted to write for, and there was one newspaper in particular I had my eye on, The Independent On Sunday. It seemed just the place for me – a fairly posh broadsheet, read mainly by young professionals. I worked out what length articles they liked and the subjects they generally covered, then bought some new lenses for my camera so I could take my own pictures. Once everything was ready, I started making phone calls, sending letters and emails and … nothing. No response at all. It was deeply disappointing.

Luckily though, my tutor insisted I send stuff elsewhere. I tried and, lo and behold, found a warm welcome at a very different paper – The Sunday Mirror. Now, if you’re at all familiar with the British press, you’ll know that The Independent On Sunday and The Sunday Mirror are two very different kettles of fish. The Mirror is a brash left-wing tabloid – not the kind of place I saw myself at all. I was a well-traveled bi-lingual thespian with a degree … broadsheet-land was surely my natural environment.

But somewhere along the line, the editors of these papers found me out and, inadvertently, taught me a little lesson. I may well have traveled a bit (though not really that far), and (like millions of others) I may somehow have managed to scrape through a degree. But my writing style is informal and chatty, I like to use a lot of slang and colloquialisms which don’t sit well in broadsheet journalism, and my family’s roots are definitely embedded in the working class communities of Manchester and Lancashire.

So, there y’go. I wanted to be posh, and found out I wasn’t. But I also found out that the Mirror’s team is just as professional as the Independent’s, and writing for them is just as demanding as writing for anyone else. Was I disheartened? Of course. And would I still like to see my work in those big, fancy broadsheets? Part of me would. But in the writing game, as in all the creative professions, you have to go where the work is. If a door opens, even if it’s not the one you were knocking at, you have to go through – there might not be another offer.

Keep on Writing!

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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