How I Became A Freelancer

Like so many events in my life I became a freelancer more by accident than design. When I was very young I did mostly those things that young boys do – throwing stones into pools, teasing little girls, disobeying my mother.

Writing really didn't enter my head until I was about 15. Then one day I read an article in the newspaper which described the mountains of surplus equipment left over now that the Second World War had ended. For some reason this caught my imagination and I had great fun imagining all sorts of heaps left lying around Europe. I sat down eventually and wrote what I thought might happen with the surplus stock of boots when it was discovered that they were all left foot boots.

Since I had no idea what to do with this when I had written it I went to the local library and quite by chance picked up the latest copy of that great magazine Punch to read. It turned out to have all sorts of funny articles and stories in it and I immediately thought that this would be an appropriate place for my story.

When I got home I folded my precious hand written script, put it in an envelope and sent it off to Punch. Then I forgot it and went back to teasing girls. Imagine my surprise and my mother’s suspicion when an envelope complete with emblem, printed name and address turned up in our mailbox. My surprise was trebled when I opened it and discovered that Punch wished to purchase my article for the then unheard of sum, in my world anyway, of £15. I spent the next few days wondering just how many ice creams you could buy for £15 and then attempting to buy them and eat them. Long before I got to £15 I lost my appetite for ice cream forever more.

As the rest of the money disappeared I thought I had better write another article, so I did, though with hindsight it might appear to have been not much more than a copy of the original with a few words altered here and there. Again I sat back, this time waiting expectantly for another cheque. Nothing came. So I tried sending the article to another magazine. Again nothing happened. And so I spent the next 31 years sending out copies, sometimes new writing, and getting nothing back.

Yes, it was 31 years before I had another piece of work published and that was an article on 15th century political thought.

The years have passed with increasing rapidity since then and I am delighted to say the frequency of publication has increased even more rapidly. Given the point that I have now reached I am considering describing myself as a freelancer, though I hate writing for free.