Monday, 17 December 2012
It's funny how things turn out. If you'd said to me last year my first article for The Guardian would be about compost and tools I'd have laughed. I'd racked my brains for a couple of years and pitched all kinds of unusual ideas (to me anyway) to the editor, which were rejected, used for the blog instead, or kindly suggested as suitable for another publication.
A couple of these finally did get to the development stage last year, but then to my surprise the editor suggested I should revamp my Trendwatch 2012: Honey I... blog post instead. This was based on the catalogue I'd found in the 2011 GMG Awards goody bag and was very different to the kinds of ideas I'd been pitching, as well as having a rather strange source of inspiration. Note to self: I must get better at spotting these kinds of opportunities.
Having written the piece once, how do you write it afresh for a different audience? I'm a Guardian reader, but I wrote for 'me' in the original blog post and I struggled to find who I was writing for this time around. Eventually the picture of a young couple with a courtyard garden came into my head. They were relatively knowledgeable, but trying to make sense of various new products they'd found in the shops and how they might use them.
Then came the steep learning curve. I may have blogged for years and started writing for magazines, but this was quite different. There's a certain style and layout to get used to, as well as a word limit. I already admired many garden writers, now I have even more respect for them. So much knowledge and research is distilled into each sentence as well as lots more getting thrown away in the process. Yes, it's exactly the same approach for writing a good blog post, but with knobs on. It also helps having a patient editor, who gives constructive feedback when the initial article is way short of what's needed.
I met my deadline and the article was accepted, admittedly with quite a bit of editorial polishing needed. Then came the wait for publication. A summer date was initially pencilled in, then something more suitable for the time of year came along. Writing a blog, I'm used to publishing pretty much straight away, so it's been strange to play the waiting game, even though this is quite normal. The immediacy with most of my writing also meant I hadn't spotted I'd written a piece which can be slotted into any time of the year. It still needed a little bit more tweaking and price checking prior to publication.
I've been on a rollercoaster of emotions during this time. I questioned whether I have the ability to write for The Guardian and repeatedly going over them meant my words often felt lifeless. That's all put to one side now it's published and I have a deep sense of achievement. NAH always says difficult things are much more rewarding and he's right. I'm also thrilled with the specially commissioned photograph which accompanies the article - who knew tools and compost could look so good?
My thanks goes to Jane Perrone for giving me the chance to write for her and for taking so much care to ensure I came up to scratch. She could have chosen a much more experienced writer for this piece and saved herself a lot of time and effort in the process. I promise I'll do much better next time ;)