The cost-benefit analysis of writing about difficult topics
Should we take on writing jobs that are painfully complex, dry or draining, and just plain difficult? Or should we run a mile? It depends. If a topic is difficult to the point of being life ruining, then the writer nor the client will end up happy. I weighed up recently whether to work on a feature about suicide for a new magazine. It’s not a cheerful topic, requiring considered interviews, deserving responsible coverage; and journalism offers a terrible rate of return on an hourly rate. Sure, let’s do that. The feature is going through more than one phase of research, interviews and writing.
At The Writing Business we look at each job on its merits. But sometimes we can’t immediately see the merits – such as the opportunity that came up at a PR party at a pub in an Earls Court held to promote Canada’s North Western Territories. There I met a man who led the world in crunching tourism income and costs into something called Tourism Satellite Accounting. It’s a system for how governments and industry measure tourism in the economy. I ended up writing short features and eventually several reports of 7,000 words that explained TSA in terms that officials and directors of tourism could understand and then explain themselves.
My preparation involved reading, comprehending and distilling a complex, and dry-as-crackling methodology and and analysis, as well as interviewing academics, the OECD, tourism officials and government statisticians then turning all of that into a report that was accurate and easily understood. At a global TSA conference delegates gratefully snatched them until they were all gone.
I’ve never made it to Canada’s spectacular North West for a husky ride but from that one chat in the pub I visited Nice, Santiago and Vancouver, all of which led to other experiences and opportunities. It also took me to Canberra where in a meeting at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, I asked for TSA reading recommendations. A few minutes later one of ABS representatives reappeared and handed me a report.
With a smile, I thanked him and said I had written the paper. For a while there I had cornered the market.
Contact us about your writing project and we can assess the challenge.