Tag Archives: writer’s block

Freelance Burnout, I Gots It.

by Diane Holmes, Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book, founder of Pitch University.

paycheckThe Reality of The Dream.

DISCLAIMER:  If you’re still “super excited” about your writing, and know you’ll be “one of the best-known writers in the world,” skip this post.

You’re still living the dream.

Everyone else, follow me.

When you decided to become a writer…

… exactly how many YEARS did you expect to WORK 80-HOUR WEEKS (or on your 12-day vacation, like Jake Poinier )?

… how regularly did you expect to get REJECTED?

… did you think you’d BE MAKING LESS than your first corporate job out of college?

… did you picture yourself, years later, STILL being offered a LOWER RATE than you’re worth (see Joe Wallace’s article on negotiating your rates) , or having to explain, yet again, why your writing HAS VALUE?

…did you think of your DREAM as “that lovely source of UNRELIABLE INCOME?” (as Catherine Tully says in “Don’t quit your day job.”

But the heart wants what the heart wants.

And it wants to write.

dead cupid

Years later, when you’re a better writer than you’ve ever been, how do you deal with the realities of your writing career?

Seriously, shoot me now.

Is it that you’re still having so much fun that the rest pales in comparison?

What do you do when the fun has flatlined?  What do you do with reality when you’re burned out by it?

Burnout Resources

1) This HELPGUIDE is one of the better articles on the nature of burnout.

2) The Four Stages of Burnout.

3) Interesting definition of Workaholism vs. Work  Engagement.

4) Megan Hills’ excellent blog explores Burnout. As Megan says, “Burnout is the new black.”

Diane Holmes Crop 1Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

She’s the Founder and Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

What Freelancers Can Learn From a Severed Pinky

t1larg.pinky.regrowth Photo courtesy CNN.com

There’s a fascinating story at CNN.com about a women who lost the tip of her finger in an accident at home. She went to the hospital and asked them to reattach the severed portion. All the doctors told her she was crazy, but she didn’t give up.

She told the ER doctor to get stuffed, in so many words, when she was told it would be impossible to do. Likewise for the orthopedic specialist that was brought in for a second opinion.

Deepa Kulkarni spent the day after her accident trying to get somebody to listen to her when she ran across Dr. Stephen Badylak at the University of Pittsburgh, who was working a new tissue regeneration technique. Five weeks or so later and Kularni had herself a new, restored finger.


Freelancers, don’t always take the advice of the first professional you see who tells you your ideas won’t work. I’m of course talking about freelance business ideas, book concepts, article queries, designs, etc.

The lesson of this story is mostly about persistence. Freelancers should know that even the experts called in to give you a second opinion can be wrong. After all, wasn’t it Rudyard Kipling who got that famous rejection letter telling the author that one magazine wasn’t the place for Kipling to “practice his writing”?

Continue reading What Freelancers Can Learn From a Severed Pinky

Overselling/Underselling Yourself

By Amanda Connor

I have been caught in this web of imbalance before. It is as easy to oversell yourself as it is to undersell yourself to a prospective client.

On days when I’ve felt terribly confident in my abilities and perhaps caught a really inspirational Lifetime movie that hammered home the idea that “I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to,” I may have taken on a project that was clearly over my head, and later lived to regret doing so.  On other days, when I’ve felt overwhelmed or exhausted, I haven’t taken the time to really sell my abilities and I’ve missed out on some great writing opportunities.

The only answer to finding this perfect balance of appropriately selling your abilities is to take the time to really evaluate your own work and to give yourself room for introspection.

Questions to ask yourself to prevent overselling:

1. If this project sounds challenging, am I genuinely interested in the subject matter?

2. Do I have the energy and drive to put into taking on a project like this?

3. Will taking on a challenging project like this boost my knowledge/skill set for future projects? Will this increase my value as a writer?

4. What’s my motivation: the subject matter or the paycheck?

Questions to ask yourself to prevent underselling:

1. What other projects have I worked on that are most worth mentioning? Highlight these projects. Now is not the time to be modest.

2. If I’m not giving this pitch my all, why not? Fatigue? Burn out? Stress? Lack of interest in the project?

3. Am I being too timid about my abilities? Focus on the most difficult project you have taken on to date and ask yourself: Am I capable of producing even better/more challenging work?

Whether you suspect you are underselling your abilities, or you are coming down from the high of another great project and feel like you can take on the world, save yourself the frustration of a botched opportunity by remaining grounded in where you stand, as well as remaining focused on each new step in your writing career.

Curing writer’s block

curing writers blockBy Jake Poinier

Call me a cynic, but I tend to think that the idea of curing writer’s block is impossible, because the phrase itself represents an unhelpful catchall for a variety of reasons (read: excuses) for not writing. Moreover, for the freelance commercial writer, unlike the college-essay writer, it’s simply something you can’t allow to interfere with your business. There was a tweet by @MenwithPens yesterday that captured my philosophy nicely: “If you’re taking money from people, you have a responsibility not to do crappy work.” That necessitates, of course, the responsibility to do the work in the first place.

Note well, I’m not saying that there aren’t times when the words are tougher to come by. What I *am* saying is that waiting for divine inspiration is a fool’s game, and you’d sound like a goofball to any editor or client if you actually uttered the words “writer’s block.” Unless you’re martyring yourself on the Starving Fiction Novelist pike, the successful freelancer needs to be able to get the words on the page.

  • If you’re suffering from a lack of uber-great ideas…do a brain dump or mind map, use the best of what you’ve got to start, and try to upgrade and polish as you go along.
  • If you’re lacking the motivation to write about a topic that bores you…write it as promptly and quickly as you can, so it’s off your plate and out of your head.
  • If you’re not sure how to start something…look for the places that you can even get a tiny toehold, whether it’s the boilerplate “Services” page of a corporate web site or a sidebar in a feature story.
  • If your deadline is looming, and the work’s still not ready for prime time…talk to your client or editor well in advance, and politely ask for additional time to get it to the quality you want to deliver.
  • If you’ve sat at your desk till the metaphorical blood drops start to bead on your forehead…get the heck out of your chair and take the dog for a walk or yourself for a bike ride for a full hour.

At the risk of retreating into a sports metaphor: I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan, and, ipso facto, lifelong Yankee-hater. As such, I enjoyed watching Alex Rodriguez struggle for a dozen games before he hit his 600th home run this week. I’m sure he was wondering when the next one was going to come after every agonizing failure. But at the same time, he still had to show up every night and take his cuts.

As a professional writer, you’re getting a couple of at-bats every day. Not every one is going to be a home run, but if the bat never leaves your shoulder, your stint in the big leagues will surely be abbreviated.

Please drop by Jake’s Dr. Freelance blog for advice on how to deal with troublesome clients, pricing your projects, finding new freelance business, and more.

When In Doubt, Promote Yourself

when in doubt promote yourselfby Joe Wallace

I’m not a big believer in writer’s block. I personally have found that I can always write about SOMETHING…maybe I’m just a loudmouth. But there are times when you feel at a loose end, like you don’t really know what to do next. You’re paralyzed by indecision, worry or some other trouble nagging at you. You know you need to do SOMETHING. Send a query, do a follow up, look for some new ways to earn money from your writing…but you can’t shake that feeling of not being able to start.

Sound familiar?

When I get into that sort of rut, I fall back on one of my oldest rules. “When in doubt, promote yourself.”

That could be as simple as posting a comment on someone else’s blog with a link back to your own (in a non-spammy way, naturally) or as elaborate as dropping a fellow blogger a line to ask about doing a guest blog post. My motivation for this is to spend as much time moving forward as possible, and no time standing still even in times of doubt, worry or indecision.

If you get stuck, just drop what you’re trying to do for a bit and work on some shameless self-promotion. You can always think of a new way to push your personal brand a bit further out into the marketplace, even if it’s just a quick update and tweak of your resume page or an e-mail to a potential client to say “I’m here.”

Continue reading When In Doubt, Promote Yourself

Five Steps to Deleting Writer’s Block

by Stephen Morrill, Director (at) WritersCollege.com

Writer’s Block is the high blood pressure of the writing profession, a disease that sneaks up and affects us in such a variety of ways that it is not easily diagnosed or defeated. One day we’re all enthused about our next writing project. Thirty days later we hate the thought of the project because we haven’t done anything much in the previous month. And we don’t know what happened.

I’ve thought about this for more than twenty-five years, possible a record for procrastination. At first I simply did not believe there was such a thing as writer’s block. I got into writing by writing for money, to tight deadlines with unforgiving editors. I was tossed into the deep end of the pool and I knew I either had to grow gills or learn to swim. I learned to swim. Looking around at all the writers drowning around me, I could not understand what their problems were.

 Obviously, many writers aren’t very good at it and they will not get better without education and practice. But that’s a given. What I’m talking about is writers who are perfectly capable of doing the mechanical parts, who know the King’s English better than I do, but who, as the saying goes, “Stare at a sheet of white paper until droplets of blood appear on their foreheads.” What’s wrong with these people?

I think I know now. They don’t have deadlines, and they subordinate their creative urge to their other lifestyle demands. They have not yet made the decision to put writing foremost in their lives. So all their best intentions just…slide.

writers college

I’ve done it myself, though not often, and, in my own experience three things happen:

1) A big project that has no intermediate deadlines can be postponed because there are more urgent things to do with our time and the deadline is a long way off. We keep doing this until the big project is upon us and now we are in big trouble. But it happens in such small increments that we never see it sneaking up. Its like the big project is playing Simple Simon with us. And winning.

SOLUTION: Establish incremental deadlines. Make each one a do-able deadline and make meeting the deadline a priority.

2) A big project is intimidating because it’s so — big — that we can’t see how we will start it, let alone complete it. So (1) happens.

SOLUTION: As with (1) establish small goals, mini-projects, that ARE do-able and not intimidating. Continue reading Five Steps to Deleting Writer’s Block