Welcome to day 2 of my 12 Days of Freelance Writing series. You can view the whole series here.
Writer’s block stinks! Can I get an amen?It is especially essential for a freelance writer to develop the skill of creating a profitable piece of writing shortly after sitting down to create it. The joy about working for your self is that you can do it any time and anywhere. However, the downside is that no one is paying you for wasted time like if you worked on salary in an office.
This means every moment wasted trying to get over the fact that you are staring at a blank screen is your time and potential wasted. This habit leads to a lower per hour income. Notice above that I said writers need to develop the skill. Being a proficient writer is not just a natural talent. It is one that needs to be harnessed and trained. Here are the best ways to overcome writer’s block as a freelancer and get more work done each day.
Create a Writing Ritual
Have you ever laughed at the crazy pre-game rituals many athletes do? It could be a special warm-up dance or a complicated way of putting on their outfit or a “lucky” sock. There is no magic in what they are doing but, in the fact, that they are performing a ritual that has their brains trained for their task. Psychology Today did a fascinating experiment and found that rituals helped turned down the brain’s performance anxiety-system before a task.
I think it is easiest to see how the brain and habits are hardwired through canines. If you took your dog for a walk as soon as they woke up, made them perform the same trick as soon as you came home, then lead them to their food bowl, in just a few days, you would not need to prompt them to do each activity. They would just start going through the motions. Even the dumbest dogs would run over to their food bowls immediately following a walk and trick.
We are obviously not dogs, but we can apply the same type of actions to our brain to produce the writing results we want. We do this by creating a writing ritual and repeating the process until it is habitual. These are some helpful things to include in your ritual:
- Writing in the same spot every day (not your bed and not in a place you usually relax or watch TV)
- Playing a song before your writing session or having a certain type of music to play quietly in the background.
- Smelling a certain scent
- Eating a snack or meal
- Writing at the same time
- Write a to-do list or brain dump
You don’t have to do all of these, and your ritual should not take long. It might look something like this – wake up, eat a quick breakfast with coffee and water, sit down at your desk, open up the work you have to do that day, play your trigger song, and attack your blank page with words.
It might take a week for you to get to the point that all of your ritual items become signals to your brain. Don’t make it complicated. In order for some of these things to work, they need to be the same each day and reserved for only writing time. Diffuse a specific essential oil or burn the same candle each time for writing and avoid that scent during other times. Similarly, play your trigger song only when you want to start writing or keep a playlist of classical music or background noise only for your writing sessions. The items in your ritual need to be set apart from other parts of your day so that when you use them, you automatically tell your brain it is time to get to work.
Forget the Beginning
Most of the time, the beginning of any writing project is the hardest to tackle, perhaps because it is the most important. If an intro paragraph or hook sentence did not come into my mind before I start an article, then I will usually save that part for the end. I jump right into the meat of the article. You don’t have to go in logical order when you write, though it is important to revise content for fluidity. Jotting down a quick outline before you start an article helps you stay on the road even if you take the scenic route.
The idea that the first words you pump out need to be perfect is crippling. I remind myself that no one is going to see my first attempt at an article and that I can polish it up after I get it all out. Just write and worry about the editing process or finding the perfect stat to add in your article afterwards.
Dedicate a Time for Research and Editing
If your article needs stats, research, or interviews, it is best to get this all done and out of the way before you start the writing process. The same goes for editing. These tasks can use up valuable motivation to get a piece written. If you are in the middle of writing and find you need to verify a fact or need an extra stat, just write in caps, “STAT HERE,” and keep moving. It is way too easy to go down a rabbit hole if you stop your writing and look something up.
Stop Waiting for Inspiration to Show Up
If you research how to overcome writer’s block, you will get a lot of ideas like take a walk, read labels, or take a shower. I don’t discredit these, but we can spend so much time waiting for inspiration to hit that we misuse our time and miss opportunities. Don’t wait for motivation. Instead, demand it to come by devoting butt in chair (or use a standing desk) each day. The more you practice the simple art of forcing yourself to focus on letting the words pour out, even when you have no motivation or inspiration to guide you, the easier is becomes. It is a muscle you need to develop instead of hoping it will come naturally.
Want to increase your writing productivity? My new freelance writing planner can help you set quarterly and weekly goals to ramp up your output so you can increase your income.