Writing this blog is displacement activity. Humour me if you will. For I fear that whilst I am ‘with article’ there’s a serious risk of relentlessly pursuing contributors like a pack of hounds running a fox to ground. If the phone rings, don’t answer. It will be me, calling to ask your opinion for this piece I am writing.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to stop. Writing this post forces me to step away from the email and leave the phone alone.
“I know what this feature needs, another point of view.” The dog ignores me as I root around for the piece of paper with the details given to me by the person I just finished interviewing. And off I go persistently picking at the thread that will lead me to the Ultimate Article. The one where balance is struck and all views are represented fairly.
As all freelancer writers know the best article is created by following the traditional ‘3R’ technique: Researching, reporting and writing. (Okay I made this bit up. I’m happy to pass it on to anyone who thinks they may have a use for it.) The published piece rarely reflects the amount of research that went into it. When writing I keep the reader in mind, and ask myself ‘how much information do I need to give the reader?’. Unfortunately the answer rarely means shoe-horning in every source, reference and the dialogue with each spokesperson.
My commissioning editors may often be as happy if I stuck to the couple of people identified in the brief. But more often the brief allows the piece to be shaped based on what those couple of people say, and then developed by talking to more people into…the Ultimate Article (see above).
If it meant missing a deadline perhaps I would need to address the problem, but I never have. This level of diligence means I can’t work for content mills – the £1-per-article fee wouldn’t cover the phone bill for my call to an industry expert. But it does mean I have a good address book. OK I can’t recommend a plumber but let me give you the number for the man who can explain the recent changes in taxation for high earners…