Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What Are Some Favorite Writing Assignments?

If you’ve been at the freelancing game for awhile, you’ve had your share of good and bad writing assignments. Sometimes even a topic we pitch to editors turns out to be much more work than we’d originally thought, or simply not as interesting as we’d first imagined.

But this post isn’t about the stinkers. It’s about those good/great assignments that make this crazy freelancing life worthwhile. For every migraine-inducing article or client project comes a few more that almost don’t seem like work because they are about topics we care about, or want to know more about, or focus on a fascinating person, place, or cause. They’re the types of projects that keep us going. So what are some of your favorite assignments?

I’ll go first. One of my earliest assignments was a profile on an “outsider” artist who worked in found objects—bottlecaps, shovels, broken or discarded items…basically the junk that most of us would throw away without a second thought. This was my first in-depth article, and I was interviewing sources from all over the country, including museum and gallery curators, a VIP from the Smithsonian, and a college professor who had the funkiest home office I think I’ve ever seen. I also had the opportunity to visit this artist’s home, which also served as his studio and a gallery of sorts. He even carved a small piece for me, which I still have and proudly display. Sadly, his house and most of his art (!) perished in a fire a few years back, which makes this experience even more memorable and special for me.

Another favorite assignment was my most recent article for’s magazine, which talks about the evolution of dating customs. I can’t take all of the credit—the story was my b.f.’s idea—but I had a lot of fun doing the research. I had some difficulty finding experts for this one, so I had to do some detective work (all in the name of journalism, of course) to find the historian I wound up interviewing for the story. I’ve had some other great projects, but these two immediately leapt to mind.

What about you? What are some of your favorite writing assignments—whether articles or client projects?


  1. One assignment that jumps out at me is the piece I wrote about Wish Upon a Wedding, an organization that grants weddings to the terminally ill. The magazine flew me to Chicago for two days so I could attend the wedding of an amazing couple where the groom was battling a rare form of cancer. I only spent part of the day with the couple and their family, but it was a really inspiring intimate experience, and I was devastated to learn that the groom died two months later.

    However, the important thing is that this couple was able to have the beautiful intimate wedding they deserved before dealing with that loss. Part of me felt voyeuristic for being part of such an intimate and emotional celebration, but I know the family is glad to have this article and the photos to remember the occasion and share their story with others.

    Right now I'm working on a four-part series that's really stretching me as a writer, but I'm enjoying being immersed in a new topic and getting to cover it in so much depth.

  2. Susan--That article was so touching. It's heartbreaking that they had so little time together, but their families are lucky to have such a special memento from that day.

    I love those projects that are a little out of our normal range, but really work those writing muscles!