Part Six: Dealing with pitch paralysis
What to do if something is blocking you from following your ideas through
Happy New Year! And welcome back to another series of The Freelance Fraud.
I was doomscrolling the other morning and saw an article about something I’ve been thinking about for the past FIVE MONTHS. It was a trend I spotted on TikTok in the summer, wrote a full pitch out in Notes and never sent out to editors. Clearly the idea was solid but something was blocking me from clicking send. I felt really bitter afterwards, with my ego in tatters. But after some reflection, I came to realise that this is part of a wider problem I’ve been dealing with – pitch paralysis. It’s when the ideas are there but for some reason, you just don’t follow through with them.
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So why does pitch paralysis happen?
There are so many reasons why you may be struggling to follow through with an idea properly, but for me, the most common problems are the following:
When my mind and soul are absolutely exhausted, not being able to follow ideas through is usually the first sign that I need to take care of myself instead of ploughing on with work. With enough rest, that creative energy tends to return.
Knowing there aren’t the right resources to get it done
Sometimes I know in the back of my mind that an idea is too much work for the amount of time or energy that I have. Sometimes an idea makes me feel too out of depth and that’s ok! Or it may not even match my skillset and that’s also fine!
Lack of confidence
It feels pathetic saying it out loud but at times I worry that an idea is so bad that an editor will look at it and brand me with a “never commission” stamp. In reality, as an editor myself, I have never ever thought that about anyone’s ideas! This is just a fear-based response.
Lack of focus
I have to be honest with myself and admit that I’ve been very busy with lots of other things. It’s ok to not be doing everything! It also makes sense to not follow through with a new idea when you’re trying to finish off multiple other projects.
The idea is average
I can get excited about the idea of my pitch, more than the actual pitch itself! Over time, my “groundbreaking” idea fizzles out, only for me to realise it wasn’t that groundbreaking after all!
Don’t actually want to do it
Similarly to the reason above, I may be more in love with the idea of doing something than actually wanting to do it! Probing deeper, I may find I don’t want to follow my idea through after all!
So how do you overcome it?
Recognising the underlying issue and addressing it is key, but then it’s also good to have some practical ways to try and get over it. Why not set yourself a goal of minimum pitches you want to send a week? Or sit down with yourself and think about something you really want to focus in the next few months. Is there a project you’ve always wanted to do that’s calling you? Take it step by step and remember that no one can read your drafts! It’s worth getting your ideas out there and being rejected, than not sending them out at all!
And finally value your time! You don’t need to write everything. Sometimes having too many ideas is a curse, because you don’t know where to start. Ask yourself: What’s time sensitive? What do I really want to tell everyone right now? Prioritising things in order of importance has really helped me.
“How did you get into journalism?”
This is a new series within the newsletter, where I speak to people I admire about how they got into the industry.
This week’s guest is Isabella Silvers, the Integrated Associate Editor in Hearst Studio. Izzy works across all Hearst titles, like Cosmo, ELLE, Women’s Health and makes branded content in print, video, social and online. She’s also a freelance journalist and has a weekly newsletter called Mixed Messages, which is all about the experience of multiracial people.
How did you get into journalism?
I always loved fashion and wanted to be a designer when I was younger. I realised that my talent was more with words when I was in my teens, and doggedly pursued a career in journalism from the age of about 16. I interned wherever I could and took every vaguely fashion-related opportunity available to me, scoring placements at the likes of Style Birmingham magazine, Brighton Fashion Week, Look, Love and The Guardian. Through these placements, I learned so much about a career in journalism and the importance of networking.
I studied English Language at Sussex University, knowing that I didn’t want to study journalism. I felt that I didn’t want to be told how to write, and knew I was being proactive in my search for work experience, writing for student media and blogging to build up a portfolio.
A friend posted that InStyle were looking for an intern to work in their fashion cupboard on Facebook, so I applied for that role and got it! After two weeks in the cupboard, I was asked if I wanted to interview for the role of features intern as their current 12-month intern had to cut her placement short.
Again, I got this role, and progressed to be a digital writer on http://InStyle.co.uk within 18 months. When InStyle folded and I was made redundant, I applied for this job at Hearst, again rising from Commercial Writer to Associate Editor.
What’s your number one tip for people starting out?
My number one tip for people wanting to freelance is to GO FOR IT. Every job, interview, pitch, mentor request, conversation, networking opportunity - just do it. It’s scary, and I still get scared now, but the worst people can do is say no. I live by two mantras; don’t ask, don’t get, and ask forgiveness not permission. The last one is probably a little less relevant, but don’t ever let your own imposter syndrome or sense of self hold you back from going for an opportunity, especially if you’re a womxn from a marginalised background. Just think - what would a white man do?!
Things I really loved this week:
Middle Eastern looks are ‘trending’, but where does that leave Middle Eastern women? - I adored this long-read from Parisa Hashempour, whose essay about Middle Eastern beauty delved into everything from the Arab Kylie Jenner meme to how war in parts of the region has affected people’s self image.
Inside the Controversial Facebook Group for People Who Say They’re ‘Transracial’ - an excellent example of how something weird and fascinating on the internet can turn into a reported feature.
Expectation by Anna Hope - such a beautiful book, touching on themes of friendship, love and loss. A very light but thought-provoking read.
Stuff I’ve written recently:
It’s Nice That: How not to go back to normal
A little note from me:
You may have noticed that the newsletter took a big break in the past few months and it’s because I’ve started a new job as the Opinions and Personal Essays editor at gal-dem and had to prioritise this new role! I’m also trying to reduce my screen time for my mental health. In a time of a global pandemic, it’s vital to take care of ourselves.
I’m back though and aiming to do five more instalments in this series on a more regular basis.
I’m still freelancing on the side and I’m committed to removing barriers into freelance writing and helping people realise that with the right tools, they can get their voice out there! Especially the voices which are marginalised every day.
I hope you’ve been finding these newsletters insightful and helpful. Send me an email if you want me to write about something specific in the upcoming editions or if you have any questions!
Stay safe out there and look after yourself,