The perils of writing sector articles

I’ve been thinking about writing about my feelings on contributing to sector articles for a while now and when I saw this LinkedIn Pulse post by Simon Scriver, and the fact that my Guardian Voluntary Sector article on the #icebucketchallenge went live today, it seemed like the perfect time.

Don’t ask me how I ever started writing sector articles in the first place – I honestly can’t remember. I do remember my first one for the Guardian on how charities were using gamification was written because they contacted me directly having seen my NFPtweetup Storify on gamification.

For those of you in the sector who know me (in real life and through Twitter), you would probably say I’m a really confident person. And I am, to a degree. But I’ll tell you a little secret… when it comes to ‘putting myself out there’, I am quite frankly terrified.

I wrote the #icebucketchallenge piece for the Guardian on Monday night because I had seen people in the sector debating the topic on Twitter and I believed it needed a wider audience to have a bigger debate. It’s an issue that will come up again and again so we may as well talk about it now. As I’ve written a few articles for the Guardian, I knew it was something they would be interested in publishing and as it’s so well known it would be the best platform to get this debate going.

Since Monday night I have been wracked with nerves. Would people think the article was balanced (This is VERY important to me)? Would Macmillan, a charity who I actively support, be vilified? Would people think I was just writing it for self promotion? Would they this, would they that… the self-doubt questions are endless. There are so many people in the sector I admire and look up to and whenever something like this happens I wonder if they’re thinking, “Enough with the self promotion!”.

I’m not going to lie and deny that part of it is not about self promotion. It is, because it leads to opportunities. I can absolutely tell you now that the only reason I have my current job is because of the articles I’ve written. When I was freelance, self promotion was vital for getting work. And once you start…well, it’s quite hard to stop.

I do also like the buzz I get from people saying they’ve enjoyed my articles, or that is was well written or ‘interesting’ (though sometimes this is loaded – interesting in a good way or bad?). And of course there are times when people don’t agree with me, and that’s uncomfortable too. Unsurprisingly, I don’t particularly enjoy conflict. But this is a price you have to pay.

It is a bit about ego too, of course it is. My family are super proud of my achievements and actually, I am too. I never set out to be where I am now in my career (heck, I started out in finance!) but somehow it’s happened. And I’m not going to apologise for it.

The point of writing this is really to put my feelings down on paper (does a blog count as ‘paper’?) so that hopefully they can stop consuming my thoughts. I wonder if others who write for the sector feel the same?

2 thoughts on “The perils of writing sector articles

  1. I rarely wrote an editorial when I was editor of Professional Fundraising, but when I did, it was because there was something I thought was really important that I really had to say. But I always used to agonise over whether I should publish it, not just because of the adverse impact it might have on some people but also because, not being a fundraiser, I was never entirely sure whether what I said had real relevance or validity.

    I had a very humbling experience as a young journalist working on Camcorder User. I wrote a review of a camcorder and trashed it a bit, but in a way I thought was very witty and clever – it was all me-journalism, look how smart I am slagging off this second rate piece of tech with what were actually quite laboured metaphors and analogies.

    When it was published, the product manager for company that produced this camcorder told me that what I wrote affected their sales and their livelihoods and asked me why I had written it the way I did, which didn’t help a potential buyer make and informed choice. I didn’t have a very good answer, and that experience has made me think about the potential consequences of everything I’ve ever written since.

    Ian MacQuillin, ex-journalist, now manager of Rogare – The Fundraising Think Tank at Plymouth University (@RogareFTT)

  2. Thanks Ian for your comment. This is the main reason I look for balance in any sector article I write – because I would hate that someone stopped supporting a charity because I had written something negative about them or criticised them in any way. I believe people need to come to their own conclusions based on both arguments being presented to them, so that they can make an informed decision.
    The review that you wrote was certainly unfortunate for that company but it has obviously left a real impact on you and helped you to be more thoughtful about potential outcomes and surely that’s a good thing! Even if it wasn’t very nice at the time… Thanks for sharing and for your honesty.

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