2010 is a year that’s filled with writing projects and publications for me, and I’m really grateful to have such a full calendar. Writers cannot possibly take on every single project that comes their way, and the reasons may vary from time constraints, to not being particularly inspired by a project.
In 2008 I was approached by someone who wanted me to write their story; the subject herself is a complex character and while her story might be compelling, I didn’t feel psychologically trained to deal with all the issues that would have been concomitant with the project. It was a situation that demanded sensitivity, so I decided to ponder on it before saying I was unable or unwilling to take it on.
An evening or two later, I was browsing in the local EB and came across a South African book about a family, and when I read the writer’s bio I realised that I had found the writer for the project I didn’t feel capable of writing. I emailed the subject and explained that I didn’t feel I was the best writer to tell her story, but asked her permission to pass her on to the other writer who had the right credentials to write her story. She agreed. I emailed the writer and the result is that she is now writing this girl’s story.
Almost a year later, I received an email from the same writer to say that she had been approached to write a biography but was unable to do so because of her geographical location. She had remembered that I’d passed on the book I didn’t want to write, and was now returning the favour.
I met with the publisher and signed a contract shortly thereafter to write a well-know South African entrepeneur’s biography.
Not all writers share projects that they can’t manage, some are downright selfish. I remember sharing my travel contact list with a fellow travel writer, but when it came to him sharing with me, he suddenly grew vague and then changed the topic of conversation. I was annoyed, and think I had every right to be, considering that we had agreed to share industry contacts.
There are also mean-spirited editors who won’t accept a travel story from freelancers because the publication didn’t get the original sponsored travel offer. I suppose it comes down to finding which writers and editors are into sharing and working with them only. My new year’s resolution is to work with writers and editors with healthy egos – I don’t have the energy to deal with fragile, jealous, unsupportive colleagues anymore – being petty and picky is unprofessional and I’m not prepared to engage on that level anymore.
Two weeks ago a publisher phoned me and asked me if I could help her source some Cape-based writers and a London-based writer, for a huge project. It’s worth a lot of money to a lot of writers, and considering the profiles they’ll be writing, it will elevate their writer status. I sent out emails to writers that I felt were capable of writing to the brief, and as and when the replies came in I passed them on to the publisher.
It felt really good to be able to pass on work to fellow writers, and the responses from some of the writers who have now been commissioned by the publishers was well worth the effort. I believe in paying it forward – try it, you never know when it’s going to come back and reward you.