It would be an insult to both our intelligences to suggest there’s any kind of question here. Why – when people I know and respect, with a track record for getting things produced, ask me to do some work for them – do I say yes? You could write this section yourself, I’m sure.
Until I started putting this site together, I didn’t realise just how much of my career is down to people asking me to write for them. I used to joke that nobody had ever asked me to write for them twice, because – oddly – I actually believed it for a long time. But looking at the work that falls into this section, I can see that nearly two thirds of the things I’ve written have come about because someone I wrote something for once came back and asked me if I’d do it again.
Some people see that as a problem. That writing is a closed shop, impossible for new voices to break into. And to a certain extent, that’s true. It isn’t just how writing works; it’s how people are. If you have anything that needs doing – from a TV series that needs to be written, to a drain that needs to be unblocked – you’re going to feel more confident if you know that the person you’re hiring to do it has done it before, and has actually done it reasonably well. In some cases, a brilliant pitch from someone you don’t know is less desirable than an average one from someone you think is a hack. The hack has shown they can get something finished to a deadline; the brilliant pitch could end up never getting finished, and derail your whole project.
But – and this is the important thing – when it comes to writing, everybody in a position to produce something feels the obligation to give someone new a chance. Most of them have been first-timers themselves, and know how important that first break can be. That’s something to remember when you get knocked back by one of them. If they say they’re not taking first time writers on this project, there is most definitely a reason why and that reason is mostly definitely not to protect their friends’ careers from your brilliance. If they say they’e open to unsolicited submissions and they don’t accept your idea, it’s because it wasn’t good enough. There is no conspiracy to keep you out of the industry. There are just people wanting to make the best thing they can.
In most cases here, though, I was asked again because people knew me, knew my work, and knew how much effort they would need to put in to get it to the state they wanted it in. They asked me because I was a known quantity, that meant they could free up some time to let them take a punt on someone they couldn’t quantify as easily. In most cases, I took the work on the same basis: I knew the producer, and I knew the impact they would have on me and what I’d written. I knew they would make my work better – or in some cases, I just knew that they would leave me alone to try something out I wanted to. It is, without doubt, the nicest bit of being a writer, and the place where the majority of us want to get to.