Feeling overwhelmed? Last week a writer asked for help. She’d taken on several projects, and all were more complex than she expected. She was ready to quit freelancing and ask someone — anyone — to hire her and get her out of freelancer’s hell.
You’ve been there too if you’ve been writing for any length of time. Clients decide that they don’t want that… they want this. Other clients ghost you. When you’ve long given up on hearing from them, they demand that you finish their project now, if not sooner.
All freelancers occasionally suffer the desperation of knowing that they have too much to do, and too little time to do it in.
A tip on writing when you’re stressed: change projects, or take a mini-vacation
Most of the time, my daily writing involves between five and ten projects; occasionally more. I like having lots of projects because I’ve been freelancing for decades. I’d rather have a waiting list of projects than worry about where my next project is coming from.
Your own comfort level will vary, depending on how long you’ve been freelancing. When a project causes you stress, limit the daily time you spend on it; start another project. This gives your creative mind a chance for the project to gestate.
If possible, take a long weekend away. And yes, you can write while you’re away if you wish. A change of scenery might be all you need to boost your motivation and inspiration.
Let’s look at the tips.
1. Learn to say “no”, calmly and without offering an explanation
Few writers like saying “no”, whether it’s to a child, a member of the family, or to a friend. They like saying no even less when they need to refuse a client, or a colleague.
It’s a real challenge to make a refusal without a lengthy apology, and without an explanation. When you must refuse, say “sorry, no.”
Developing this one simple skill goes a long way towards eliminating stress.
2. Set your writing hours: nine to five, or whatever works for you
It’s hard to switch off your writing brain. However, if you want to be more productive, you need to do it. Set your writing hours for each day.
Your hours might be from ten o’clock until midnight, if you have a day job. They might be from five in the morning until midday, if you’re a full-time writer.
Setting your writing hours will eliminate most of your stress.
3. Recognize your mind state: avoid judgments when you’re stressed and busy
Stress affects your equilibrium.
In your normal, everyday mind state, you write without judging your words. You complete your projects efficiently, without worrying about whether your writing is “good” or “bad.”
When you’re stressed however, you worry about quality. Suddenly, you’re convinced that your writing is junk. If you’re writing fiction, your characters seem like zombies, and/ or total idiots. If you’re writing nonfiction, you’re convinced that there’s nothing useful in your words.
Then you get into a morass of perfectionism and procrastination. Deadlines come and go, and if you’re a full-time writer, you decide that you’ll look for a day job.
Easier said than done, of course. Your doubts about your writing seem so reasonable, and well-founded.
Listen up. Your writing is what it is. When your mind clears, go back and read what you considered “junk.” You’ll be astonished to see that it’s fine — even more than fine.
Your feelings about your writing are almost always wrong. Your writing is never as wonderful as you hope, nor as horrible as you fear. Rein yourself in as soon as you notice that you’re being judgmental, and focus on completing your projects.
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