The Art of Saying No

Tales From The Edge Of My Living Room, Black and White Photography, Art Images, writers forum, writing process, help

Tales From The Edge Of My Living Room

I recently accepted a commission that I should have turned down. So why did I take it? It is a question I have been asking myself for the last few weeks. There was no financial imperative to take the gig, not because I’m rich, but because I’d achieved the targets I’d set myself for that particular month. The creative merits for taking the commission were also questionable. I guess the main reason I took the commission was ego, I liked the magazine and I thought the writing credit would look good on my CV.

So what was it about this commission that made it wrong from the start? From the first day of writing I was trying to shove a very square peg into a very round hole, and to make matters worse I knew it would be this way because my gut was telling me to decline the commission. The editor had liked my initial pitch but by the time he commissioned me to write the article he had subtly but significantly changed the article’s direction. I knew that the person I was interviewing (I had worked with her previously and she is wonderfully kind and forthcoming about her specialist subject) wouldn’t be able to come up with the gossipy, tabloid style quotes that the editor was now suggesting.

But instead of stopping I ploughed on regardless, letting pride claim victory over sense and not surprisingly the finished piece didn’t meet the editor’s approval. I was never going to be able to betray my contact’s integrity and ask the salacious questions required to make the piece work, so I should have stopped and saved myself, and my contact, some time and stress.

This has been a hugely enlightening process as I am increasingly learning to trust my instincts and turn negatives into positives. The other important thing I have learnt is to be a little more savvy when dealing with editors. This is something I already knew I had to get better at and this experience has just built an extra layer to this necessity. The fact is that editors don’t always volunteer up a contract, they should – it is professional if they do so, but sometimes they don’t. This editor didn’t send me a contract to sign yet I started work on the piece regardless, I naively went on trust. Whilst having no contract meant I retained the rights to the piece of work, it also meant I had no chance of getting a kill fee. I wasted a lot of time and effort and it had mostly been my fault.

It is an unfortunate fact that some editors withhold a contract as a deliberate ploy, so if they change their minds about a piece they can just say, “thanks for the effort but I don’t want this anymore”. This is of course an editor’s prerogative but it is the freelance writer’s duty to get a contract before they start work.

Halfway through writing the article, I got another email from the editor and he wanted the article to change again, so because I’m nothing if not stubborn, I complied and changed the article to fit yet another new set of requirements. I hated the new direction the article had to go in but I changed it anyway, even though my inner creative voice (his name is Malcolm by the way) was screaming PULL THE PLUG YOU STUBBORN IDIOT!!! Sometimes you write whatever is required, a job is a job and that’s the nature of freelance work. However on occasion you need to accept the fact that it’s ok to say no.

I have taken a lot of positive things from this experience (and it is overwhelmingly not a common experience for me in my dealings with editors) and this positivity is the message I wanted to share. I have managed to split the article in question into two separate articles and a blog post, so I feel it has turned out to be a worthwhile endeavour.

Let me know your thoughts on editors, contracts and the art of saying no. I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Passover

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Shalom Aleichem

Peace be upon you

Peace be with you

This is the bread

This is the wine

We share

So we are whole

This is the world

We share

So we are whole

Don’t pass peace over

Shalom Aleichem

Don’t pass over to the other side of the road

This is love

We share

So we are whole

Shalom Aleichem

Peace be upon you

Peace be among you

Peace drenched in harmony

Pass over this way

©John de Gruyther 2014

Passover

q7lbb

Shalom Aleichem

Peace be upon you

Peace be with you

This is the bread

This is the wine

We share

So we are whole

This is the world

We share

So we are whole

Don’t pass peace over

Shalom Aleichem

Don’t pass over to the other side of the road

This is love

We share

So we are whole

Shalom Aleichem

Peace be upon you

Peace be among you

Peace drenched in harmony

Pass over this way

©John de Gruyther 2014

Asbestos Skies

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Asbestos Skies

Rusty old pipe on the ancient stone wall
Run through the decaying car park
Uncomfortable companions in this modern paradise
not even aware of what has been lost

Water cascades into the abandoned canal
echoes onto the asbestos sky
All these dark signs built on top of Blake’s refrain
no image remains only shadows


As our lives set on asbestos skies

As our lives set on asbestos skies

Clutching a little cheap book about Marx
smoking a roll up cigarette
Let’s meet we said at the Rene after work
and spin yarns about disillusionment

I stared at Love and the boys with respect
but tinged with surreal bewilderment
So I chased down the street my hopes and my cares
sun soaked on the city of smoke and despair

As I look out at the city that’s my brother and my friend
are you blind to all noise and pollution
In my concrete tower I am perfectly alone
but long for nature’s reunion


As our lives set on asbestos skies

By John de Gruyther
©John de Gruyther

Robin Hood versus Batman: Vigilantes and Villains

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Robin Hood and Batman have always had a lot in common; aside from their penchant for dressing up, their main point of commonality is that they share a particular brand of stylish vigilante justice. Both the caped and capped crusaders are driven by isolation and personal tragedy, each working outside the accepted laws of the land to achieve singular aims. They both skirt the grey area of right versus wrong, posing the audience questions like “is it ok to kill someone as long as they are super evil?” Or “is it ok to steal from someone as long as they are mega rich and their wealth is ill-gotten?” They staunchly stick to a self-devised moral code that is at times in conflict with perceived social norms. A recurring issue for Batman is his rule that he will NEVER kill, he can beat someone half to death with his bare hands but killing is a step too far. Robin Hood is similarly concerned about upholding his code of honour, but it is a code of his own design and when he crosses the line, is anyone able to stop him going too far?.. READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Unlikely Spaces

Didn’t want to go out
Never do
The spaces are too open
Full of people talking
A village hall in beautiful Gloucestershire countryside
The back of beyond
A comfort in the sun
Tranquil spring reflections in
Unlikely spaces
Supporting friends and causes
Helping someone out of melancholy
Jaques’ humours flagging
A play in the jubilee hall
Smell of tiled floors
Weak tea and laughter
Homemade cakes
Warm warm sunshine in an unlikely place

Copyright John de Gruyther 2014

Star Wars – Latest News

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This blog is delighted to announce that a source has confirmed a rumour that this blog post is indeed about Star Wars. My source (a very reliable one I promise) goes on to state that this blog post will contain absolutely no factual information regarding Star Wars Episode 7, but it will certainly contain plenty of wild speculation and some stuff that I made up.

I am excited to confirm that Benedict Cumberbatch has 101% definitely signed on the dotted line to play a character in the Star Wars universe. His role is thought to be that of a rogue detective/Jedi/Sith/Definitely not Khan/Voice of a dragon. This exclusive was confirmed when Graham Norton asked him in an interview whether he would star in the new Star Wars film and he replied “No definitely not”, which I think we all know is tantamount to admitting his involvement.

The other important Star Wars news of the day is that the ghost of Harrison Ford’s career has confirmed he will reprise his role as a much older but no less cantankerous Han Solo.

Carrie Fisher’s agent wondered whether his very title was an infringement of the trade descriptions act.

The film will almost definitely star some guy called Mark Hamill, best known as the voice of The Joker in Batman cartoons.

Speculation is mounting that this blog post is very silly. Meanwhile my neighbour who knows JJ Abrams Mum really really well (well she thinks she saw his Mum once in Walmart but it may have been Mrs Jacobs from number 38) told me that episode 7 will definitely be set in space.

More confirmed Star Wars news will follow as soon as I get it.