So You Blew an Assignment. Now What?

In Tips & Tricks by Olga Mecking | |

So You Blew An Assignment - Now What?

You Blew An Assignment - Now What

I had a pitch accepted by my dream pub. I was going to be a “real” writer! So I secured interviews, printed out tons of pages of research materials, and set out to work. And then I blew it, and it was epic. But what happened, exactly?

In short, life happened. I got sick, the kids were on holidays (again) and stayed at home all the time, and to add insult to injury, I realized, too late, that my source wasn’t the one I was looking for. Too proud to admit this wasn’t going to work out, I only let my editor know when it was already too late. The article got “killed” (meaning it didn’t get published) and we both ended up very disappointed. And let me tell you, disappointing an editor is a lot like disappointing your parents, only worse. But I learned my lessons from this, and I hope you will too.

Disappointing an editor is a lot like disappointing your parents, only worse. Click To Tweet

I took a while to wallow in self-pity.

Yes, I really did, complete with calling myself an idiot and swearing I’ll never write anything again. I know it sounds stupid, but in a way, it helped because after a while it became so ridiculous that it made me laugh and gave me the strength I needed to get back to work. Sleeping helped too, but then, it always does. It’s normal to feel bad about yourself after blowing an assignment, especially one that was dear to your heart. The important thing is not to give up.

I went back to work with a mission to make things right.

I used to accept any deadline, no matter what, which lead me to be late for some assignments. Now, I file my articles on time or early. I let my editors know in advance whether something wasn’t going to work out for me, and most importantly, I finally manage to set deadlines I can actually meet, especially for reported stories. How do I do that? Mostly, I say I can file by a certain date but will confirm when I’ll have my experts lined up. When I see a problem coming up, I can immediately let my editor know! It’s OK to need an extension for an article. Most editors will understand that life happens sometimes. But sending your article in late without a good reason, that’s tricky.

I focused on the positives

While it felt terrible to blow such a great assignment, it actually had some positives. It taught me some organization skills and to be more mindful of my time. The best thing of all: after having been in touch with an editor from such a prestigious publication, I’d lost all my fears of pitching higher-paying pubs. Since that assignment fiasco, I’ve been published on multiple great places, had a few more pitches accepted, and have articles coming up in the next few weeks. So that fiasco? It led to more work.

So that fiasco? It led to more work. Click To Tweet

I tried again and again

I knew that I wanted to be published in that magazine very badly, and realized that if I got the interest of one editor at that publication once, I could do it again. So I tried. I sent out a few pitches which were all ignored or rejected, but after a while, the editor got back to me with a positive response! And when I got my chance, I grabbed it. I had doubts. Of course, I did. But I got over myself, and I accepted the new assignment with the approach that if it doesn’t work out, at least I tried. It worked out beautifully.

I got it just right

The next time, I made sure I had the right experts, gave myself enough time and space to work, wrote the article as well as I could, and sent it off on time. I couldn’t believe it when I finally saw it published on CityLab. This publication belongs to The Atlantic, I got to write about a topic very dear to my heart, and yes, I’ll get paid well. What’s there not to like?
In the end, I managed to turn a disaster into an opportunity. It wasn’t easy. I wanted to quit so many times. But as with everything in life, this success was part hard work, part networking, and part luck. Just as everything went wrong the first time around, this time the Universe conspired to get me published there. But it couldn’t have done it without my help.

I managed to turn a writing disaster into an opportunity. Click To Tweet

About the Author

Olga Mecking

Olga Mecking is a writer and translator based in the Netherlands. Her blog, is all about living abroad, parenting, travel and food. When not writing or thinking about writing, Olga can be found reading, drinking tea and reading some more.