Freelance travel writing is all about ideas, and how you pitch those ideas to editors. Sometimes this goes swimmingly, other times it’s like banging your head against a brick wall. No matter how good a writer you are, if you can’t sum up an original (or at least originalish), focused idea in a few sentences, you’ll never grab the attention of a commissioning editor. This doesn’t always mean you have to spend days researching possible subjects and then honing them into snappy soundbites. Sometimes it’s better just to seize the moment, which is what I did earlier this week.
Slouching around reading the Sunday papers, I read in one of the supplements that capes are in this season, apparently. This made me think of a lovely old cape shop in Madrid, which I’ve been into a few times when researching guidebooks, taking the opportunity to try a few on and swish about in front of the mirror. So I pitched a piece to my editor on one of the broadsheets about the cape shop – with its tradition, famous customers etc. – combined with what it feels like waltzing round in a cape in 21st-century Madrid.
I got an almost immediate yes, so can now go ahead and start setting it up. Sometimes, just sometimes, it is that easy. Now I just have to try and get at least one more Madrid commission to make the trip worthwhile.