How Writing Relieved My Stomach Ache

I’m Going to Write for the New York Times Chapter 4

This is an ongoing column about my quest to write for the New York Times. If you’d like to know the background behind why I’m doing this, check out the first installment of the series.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

All week, I felt a buzzing in my stomach. At night, I didn’t want to eat (unless it was Cadbury Mini Eggs, those I could eat by the pound), I felt vaguely sick, and had a subtle buzz of anxiety at all times.

I wondered if I ate something bad (but not the Cadbury Mini Eggs, they only bring good to the world) or suffering from newfound allergies.

Then, I sent in my pitch to the New York Times and voila. Anxiety buzz gone, sick feeling gone, and my stomach felt 100% fine. By putting off the pitch till Thursday, a growing fear physically took over my body day by day. To relieve it, all I had to do was write a couple paragraphs and hit send.

My Ideas Don’t Seem Fancy Enough

This is my third idea in three weeks for the Times and this time, the pitch felt hard. I didn’t want to pitch Comfort Viewing or Letter of Recommendation again, since I just sent them something. They deserve a chance to say no before I send something new!

Maybe I could write for Well or At Home or Smarter Living? Could my breathwork class spur an idea? Would anyone like to read the growing rates of depression in Covid? Maybe they need another piece about Columbo being great?

Lots of options and they all sounded bad. I love writing about small, weird things. Does my silly garbage deserve to be in a fancy vertical of the New York Times?

While I was trying to figure out my pitch, all this back and forth (and lots of negative self talk) didn’t seem unusual. Looking back, no wonder I was anxious all week!

Ideas In Your YouTube History

Thursday rolled around (a day later than I meant to pitch) and I had to pitch something. I looked again through At Home and saw the wide variety of comforting recommendations and realized, I might have a decent fit.

I’ll reveal my pitch soon (in case it gets picked up first), but basically I found it by looking through my YouTube history for an idea. Yep, YouTube was my inspiration and it’s an idea I’m pretty excited about (and I’ll pitch it elsewhere if the Times says no). Is it a fancy story? Of course not! But it’s a little helpful and fun, so we’ll see how it goes.

Though I love to exaggerate (but not about Cadbury Mini Eggs, my love for that is extreme and true), the second I sent the email to New York Times editor Amy Virshup, my whole body relaxed.

So, if you’re feeling antsy and know you have some writing or reaching out you want to do…get it over with. I would have saved myself a lot of ginger kombucha if I would have pitched earlier.

Take Two Minutes to Check In

In addition to my new pitch, I needed to check in on my previous pitches. In general, it’s good to check in on pitches. Some publications strictly state that you don’t need to follow up with the editor (and this is true for the Modern Love column). But editors are busy. They miss emails. And follow ups can get you a yes from a pitch you assumed was going nowhere.

Once again, I didn’t want to check in. What a week for doubts! But I did it anyway and guess what…it took under two minutes!

I checked in with two editors, simply saying:

“Checking in to see if you’re still interested in this story. Thanks and have a lovely day!”

That’s it. It was the easiest thing I did all day. Though following up can feel like you’re “bothering people,” it’s key. Some of my pitches got picked up after 6 weeks, simply because I sent a check in. Thankfully, I remembered how helpful and not hard follow ups are, so I sent them along and we’ll see what happens.

Have I Heard Back From the Times?

No. Not yet. It’s been three weeks. Two of the editors were essentially on Spring Break when I originally emailed them, so I’m not surprised. I may never hear back on these pitches and that’s completely fine.

But next time, I won’t overthink and avoid it for so long. So, I’m looking forward to a week of fewer stomach aches and even more Easter candy.

If you want to find the masthead and pitching guidelines of the New York Times and over 240 other publications, get my free Big Guide To Paying Publications That Take Pitches. You’ll get the guide plus weekly emails about open writing jobs and freelance tips.

Writer for Thrillist, Bustle, Parade, Greatist, MTV, IFC, Snooki’s blog. Want to hear about open writing jobs? Sign up for my free newsletter at AmberPetty.com

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