Gary Marshall is 10! Years in print, that is. Here’s the short version of how he got there:
[In my previous job] I’d drive to Clydebank and I’d mope my way through the working day, buggering about on the internet when I got the chance and reading .net in my lunch break. Then I’d go home, eat, go to the pub, get plastered, come back and fight with people online. I figured I’d keep doing that until my liver exploded.
And then I had an idea. I’d been reading .net, and my mind wandered, and I thought about things, and I came up with The Greatest Idea For A Magazine Feature Ever. Giddy with excitement, I emailed it to the editor of .net, Richard Longhurst. And amazingly, he replied.
That, he said, is the worst idea for a magazine feature ever.
He wasn’t being nasty; he also said that my email had made him laugh. Did I have any other ideas?
Darn tooting I did. I sat up until 4am, racking my brains until I’d come up with the Ten Greatest Ideas For Magazine Features Ever. I sent them to Richard the following morning. His reply was almost instant.
When I said you’d sent me the worst idea for a magazine feature ever, I was wrong, he said. I’ve just read ten ideas that are even worse.
Richard was clearly amused by this, though, so he gave me a chance. Can you do 3,000 words about online journals for Friday?
I had no idea what online journals were, and I had no idea how you were supposed to write for print. So of course I said yes.
It’s weird how that works. My experience was very similar – you read a magazine, you love it so much that *you* want to be in it, because that will somehow make things perfect. In my case it was a tennis magazine, but the principle’s the same. As a writer, you somehow find an editor who likes the stuff that’s coming out of your brain; it might be formless but they can see there’s something in it. As an editor, I find that still happens: there are people who email with ideas that are simply hopeless (and sadly so are the people); but with others, you get that sudden sense of deja vu; this is you, but in another person, another time, and that’s when you say “That’s not much of an idea, but why don’t you write about…?”
By the way, you should read the whole post, which is typically good.