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This is either going to be one of the best, most helpful, posts I’m ever going to write (on LittleZotz Writing or anywhere else), or one of the worst. Either way, it’s going to be very long and deeply personal. I’m holding NOTHING back.

Why write about mental illness on a website dedicated to freelance writers? Why not write another post about how to up your blogging skills, or how to earn affiliate income? How could this possibly be useful to anyone on this “niche” site?

Well, in my experience, freelancers – particularly freelance writers – are more often than not “mentally ill” in some way or another. In fact, more than any other post I’ve written in my career, THIS is the one that I get emailed about the most. It’s a post I wrote, along with Sophie Lizard and Kelly Gurnett (both fantastically successful – and mentally ill – freelance bloggers) about dealing with mental health struggles as freelancers.

There’s something about being a freelance creative that really appeals to those of us with “brain problems.” So, yes, I think this post – even with its largely personal focus – is valuable for my audience.

However, unlike most of the posts on LittleZotz Writing, which provide clear and “actionable” advice for the problems they tackle, this post is going to be more-or-less a long ramble about my personal experiences dealing with mental health issues as a (successful) freelance writer. I’ll offer my opinions on what “works” and what doesn’t, of course, but there’s no definite “do it THIS way” advice I – or anyone! – can provide on this topic. Everyone’s mental health journey is different, and what worked for me might not work for you.

What I do wish to provide with this post is encouragement, honesty, and hope.

My dream is that, by being candid about my own life and experiences, I can help YOU – even if you’re just ONE reader – improve your life in some minor-yet-significant way. You’re NOT alone.

MY Series of Unfortunate Events

I presented depression-like symptoms starting at a very young age. However, my lapses into darkness were usually cured with a healthy snack.

I have, and have had for the majority of my life, reactive hypoglycemia. It’s a form of low blood sugar that can be maintained almost solely through diet.

However, if your blood sugar crashes (this applies to those of us with blood sugar “issues,” and even normal human beings who just haven’t eaten recently enough), you get some gnarly “mental” symptoms. For some, it’s irritability (angry + hungry = “hangry”); for others, it’s depression.

I could be the most unreasonable, gloomiest girl on the entire planet one minute… but as soon as I ate a small handful of nuts, I’d be bright and bubbly again – as if nothing had ever happened. At the time, the “depression” from my low blood sugar felt all-too-real. My world was ending. But, one snack later, I was back in action.

That’s how it was for the first part of my life. And how it is now that I’m feeling well.

However, once I got to high school (age 14), things changed. That’s when REAL Depression hit me. Hard.

For the next eighteen years, no amount of healthy snacks would be able to bring me out of the Pit of Despair.

I had a timeline of unfortunate events that just continued to strike blow after blow to my brain. To the point that I was absolutely unable to recover on my own.

My story, in short, is as follows:

1999 – 2003 = My high school years were an absolute Hell. Many didn’t know at the time, but my mother was very ill. She had a life-saving surgery my Senior year, and has since regained her health and happiness (65 and still going strong!); but, throughout my entire high school years, Mom was in terrible shape.

A teenager, despite what they might tell you, is still just a child. And having a massive chunk of a child’s support system (in my case, my mother) virtually taken away – via illness or any other means – can be crippling. I felt lost. I had to go through all the “usual” teenage issues (puberty, homework, school dances, etc.) on my own. I also had to quickly become an “adult” in some aspects: I had to get a job to help support my family, since my mother could no longer work and Dad’s paychecks weren’t enough.

Stressful, to say the least. And, of course, illness of a loved one – especially if there’s a good chance they’ll die from it – is one of the leading causes of situational-based Depression.

But that wasn’t the only thing I was dealing with at during that time period.

One so-called “teacher” went out of his way to target me as the object of his vastly inappropriate “affection.” No, he didn’t rape me in the locker room or anything TOO newsworthy (though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he admitted he wanted to!); but it was enough to make me hate going to school. HATE it. To the point that I didn’t go to college after I finished high school.

He would “accidentally” fondle my breasts, look up my skirt, insist on daily hugs, and pull me aside into empty classrooms to scream insults in my face if he saw me talking with boys my own age. Every girl (and many of the boys!) in school knew he was a “creep,” but few had to deal with him on the level I did.

I, of course, reported him. Unfortunately, the principal in charge at the time dismissed my complaints. “I’ve been friends with him since I was in high school – there’s no way,” he said. End of story. (Side note: fortunately, under a new administration, girls’ complaints about this man were taken more seriously and he’s finally being reprimanded).

Hurt and confused, I started cutting (self-mutilation) starting my Freshman year of high school. I didn’t stop until I was 29. Why? Initially, it was because I didn’t want my ill mother to see me cry. I wanted to be “strong” for her sake – for her to have the courage to keep going and pull through – but I still needed to release the pain and frustration I was feeling inside. Blood was more silent than tears.

2003 = Toward the end of my Senior year, I ended up dating a guy who was severely bad news. He was the second guy I’d ever dated, and I didn’t know a whole lot about him when I agreed to date him. He wasn’t someone I went to school with (since that particular “teacher” would’ve never allowed it), and so my contact with him was minimal-yet-turbulent.

He had a violent streak that he’d repeatedly take out on me. Since I was already a hardcore “cutter” at that point, and already sinking deep into depression, I didn’t really care. What were a few more cuts and bruises to someone as already self-mangled as I was? He’d beat me mercilessly, and I’d let it happen.

But, at one point, he finally took it too far. He attempted to rape and murder me. Suddenly, my life – and my precious virginity! – were worth saving. My years of martial arts training kicked in, and I was able to escape.

What followed was a dark spot on my family’s history. I had to come clean to my parents (even my ill mother!) about what had been going down. The police had to become involved. There was a court case. A restraining order was issued. My parents no longer trusted me for years to come due to my poor judgement. Which made making future mistakes nearly impossible to admit for fear of disappointing them on that level again.

And I made plenty of mistakes.

2003 – 2007 = Let’s just call these the “bad boyfriend” years. None of them were physically abusive, murderous, or rapists – but they weren’t “good” by any means either. While I was physically unscathed (and somehow still managed to hang onto my virginity!), my emotions and mental state were rubbed thoroughly raw. My self-esteem had plummeted and my head was in an overall bad place.

2008 = On January 1, 2008, I was raped. My precious virginity – one of the only things about myself that still gave me a feeling of “self-worth” – was violently stolen from me. I was 22, just shy of turning 23. I was at a New Year’s Eve party, and my drink used to toast in the New Year with was drugged. Martial arts can’t save you from harm if you can’t move your limbs.

This incident broke me. I had nothing left. Depression, at long last, had smothered me to the point of no return. And it brought along its good pal: severe PTSD.

2009 = By the end of 2009, my relationship with my parents (with whom I’d been living with) had deteriorated into something very broken and sad. Due to the trouble my mistake in 2003 had caused our family, I kept the brutality of 2008’s rape entirely to myself. I kept it completely secret, choosing instead to “deal with it” on my own rather than break my parents’ hearts once again.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t dealing with it. At all. I was lashing out and hurting them. Badly. To the point that I had to leave my home, and my family, behind.

Moving out was awful. I held a lot of anger for many years. I didn’t understand how the two people who meant the most to me couldn’t just automatically look at me and go, “We recognize that you’re in immense pain! How can we help? What’s wrong?”

Years later, I realized they DID do that, to the best of their abilities, but Depression wouldn’t let me hear them.

I moved in with my “boyfriend” and his family. I remained there for several years.

2010 = I tried hard to better myself. I started LittleZotz Writing. I tried to put the past behind me and focus on building a future for myself.

But the Depression was ever-present. The Anxiety. The PTSD.

I stopped doing anything I cared about other than work. I became completely sedentary, and I packed on a few pounds – letting my figure “go.” I went from 140lbs (size six jeans) to 180lbs (size ten jeans). I didn’t care. Apathy was the name of the game. I had to “not care” in order to survive.

If I acknowledged the never-ending night terrors, flashbacks, panic attacks, dark moods, crippling anxiety, or…anything… I knew they’d break me. So, I became numb. I pushed on.

2014 = I finally snapped. I attempted suicide.

Here, on LittleZotz Writing, I was winning awards for my work. Behind the scenes, I was in Hell.

An incident with my “boyfriend” made me realize my entire personal life was a lie. I had this shiny, idealized future that I kept telling myself I was working towards – and it suddenly became crystal clear that it was NEVER going to happen. Not (entirely) the dude’s fault – he can’t help who he is – but the realization that our “relationship” wasn’t what I thought it was (or could be) sent me over the edge.

I sliced open my arm with a boxcutter. Thankfully, despite our friendship being on thin ice, my “boyfriend” still cared enough about my life to call 911.

I lost a LOT of blood… they almost “lost me” in the ambulance ride to the hospital.

The ER doctor repaired my cut tendon, stitched up my arm, bandaged me up, and sent me home. Why? Because I lied. I told him it was NOT a suicide attempt – that I was “just” a cutter, had been for many years, and had just “slipped up.” I doubt he believed me in full, but he believed me enough to send me home.

Less than a month later, I emailed my official suicide note to my then-best friend. I hated my life. I hated that it had been saved. I was going to make sure it wasn’t this time.

She called the cops on me. I was hauled off to a mental institution.

My time in the mental institution was horrific. I’ve since written many letters to local officials to try to get that place straightened out. Mental health centers here in California – and, I’m told, across the country! – are unquestionably sub-par. It’s hideous and downright criminal. How can we treat those who are so desperately in need of TLC so horribly? What possible pleasure is there in kicking someone when they’re already down?

Caring for others gave me new purpose and a reason to keep living. I still wasn’t “quite” to the point that I cared about myself – but I wanted to keep going to give hope to those who were “like me” and suffering. Once again, I stashed my personal pains aside to be “strong” for those who were hurting “worse” than I was.

But I also knew, from my previous years of being “strong” for others… that that strength was always going to be a lie. A sparkling veneer of “I’m okay” over a thick board of “I’m super NOT okay.”

In order to TRULY help others, I had to help myself. Whether I wanted to – or felt I “deserved” it – or not.

Life on Lexapro

I started taking Lexapro (escitalopram) in September of 2014. I was prescribed a few additional antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications over the following years, but was eventually weaned off of all of them. Lexapro, on the other hand, was a constant in my life – and I didn’t stop taking it until VERY recently (more on that later).

I was put on 20mg of Lexapro right off the bat. That’s the absolute highest “safe” dosage for Lexapro available. Anything higher than 20mg hasn’t been approved by the FDA. And, even with FDA “approval,” Lexapro at the “highest” dosage can still really mess you up.

During my years on Lexapro, I experienced the following:

Weight gain. Remember how I said I was originally 140lbs (size six) and then ballooned up to 180lbs (size ten) thanks to my Depression? That was NOTHING compared to how chubbo I became on Lexapro! At my heaviest, I was 320lbs (size twenty-six). And it was nearly impossible to lose it! Like many antidepressants on the market, Lexapro makes you super-duper hungry (encouraging you to eat more) while simultaneously wreaking havoc with your metabolism. So cutting back on portions, exercising, or anything else you attempt to do might not make a dent in your weight gain.

Bowel and bladder issues. I had a lot of the same symptoms one has with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I also had the bladder control of a woman in her mid-seventies. It was embarrassing. I had more than a few pants-wetting incidents, sometimes in public. I feared drinking any liquids when I wasn’t positive I’d have immediate access to a restroom, if needed. Which sucked extra hard because Lexapro makes you super thirsty due to dry mouth.

Speaking of which, I also had dry mouth, frequent migraines, ongoing fatigue (which got worse every year I was on it), heavy sweating (even when it was cold), random nausea, nosebleeds, sleep-related issues, and a host of other side-effects. One of the strangest side-effects I experienced – which is apparently fairly common on Lexapro! – was that I could NOT stop yawning. Seriously. I could be deeply invested in the most stimulating conversation imaginable, and I’d be randomly hit with a non-stop yawning fit! Awkward…

I used to joke that “the side-effects are how I know it’s WORKING!”

Side-effects suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. But I would stay the course because “side-effects are a small price to pay for being SANE.”

Of course, dealing with all those side-effects may have been completely unnecessary considering studies are now coming out that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Lexapro, have the same effectiveness as taking placebos (fake/sugar pills). Live and learn?

Whoa. Hold Up! Is Lauren Against Antidepressants?!

Not exactly. Don’t dash to my comments’ section to flame me JUST yet.

I absolutely think antidepressants have their place. However, I think that some are more effective, on a biological level, than others.

SSRIs, like Lexapro, seem to do a lot more harm than good, for many (like myself!), in the long run… and the still-emerging research showing that patients on SSRIs would be equally “well” taking sugar pills is certainly alarming, and something to take into consideration. Why put already depressed and/or anxious people through additional pains (thanks to side-effects) if it’s not absolutely necessary?

That said, in theory, I feel antidepressants have real benefits. And, even IF my medication didn’t work as it should have (I’ll honestly never know for SURE if I was experiencing legitimate medicinal benefits or the placebo effect!), I was still grateful to have it.

I’m well-aware of the complexity of mental health issues, but I’m going to speak very simply here:

Your brain, just like one of your bones, can BREAK under too much strain. But, in the case of a “broken” (depressed/anxious/whatever) brain, the strain usually happens over a long span of time. If you go through trauma after trauma after trauma – each wearing thin the delicate wiring in your cerebral matter – your “wires” will eventually “snap” and your mental health will go in the toilet.

Your brain has essentially been through SO much that it kinda just… forgets HOW to work properly. It’s sitting there in your head with broken wires going “Uh… does the red wire connect to the blue wire to make happy, or…?”

In theory, antidepressants basically go in, set the wires in place (red to red, blue to blue, whatever), and “holds” them there while your brain relearns what it’s supposed to do and ultimately makes the necessary repairs. This process, of course, can take longer for some people than others (for example, if you were born with “broken wires,” causing clinical depression); and that’s perfectly fine. Nothing to be ashamed of.

So many describe antidepressants as a “crutch,” and they’re not exactly wrong. I would describe them more as a splint or a cast – a temporary device used to protect, straighten, and allow for healing. They sort of “cover” the damaged areas of your brain and encourage them to rebuild in the “right” alignment.

That said, the right “mindset” for healing is of utmost importance. After all, if you break your arm, even the best cast won’t be enough to force your bones to mend if you’re actively slamming your arm into a brick wall for a few hours each day. In other words: If your brain is splinted via an antidepressant, it won’t be enough to “mend” your mind if you’re still immersed in the environment/activities that “broke” your brain in the first place.

That’s why, above all else, I recommend therapy.

Either have therapy on its own or therapy with a medication regimen… but do NOT rely solely on medication alone. Please. It’s 100% okay to need extra help (medication), but don’t risk having too little. Medication on its own is not enough.

Get ALL the Therapy!!

Taking the time to find the right therapist for YOU will be the most important part of your recovery. Just because someone went to school and has a degree in something doesn’t mean they’re good at it. Or, even if they ARE “good” at their job, they might not be good for YOU.

Don’t feel guilty about moving on from a therapist to find someone more suitable for you. For better or worse, you’re going to be in a “relationship” with this person – you want it to be a good, healthy one. “Swipe left,” as the kids say. Keep searching until you find The One.

If the relationship metaphor is too personal and weird for you, here’s another reason to keep searching: You’re PAYING this person for their services. Why would you continue to pay someone for what you regard as sub-par work? You deserve quality.

Of course, don’t use the search for quality as an excuse to immediately dismiss every therapist you meet. Give them an honest chance. Search your feelings to see if you’re not “clicking” because they’re truly not right for you (their personality, their methods, etc.), or if it’s because you’re grossly uncomfortable with the subject matter(s) you’re tackling together.

You’re going to be in an excruciating amount of pain no matter who you speak with. You’re going to be endlessly uncomfortable. But if your therapist is “right” for you, you’ll be able to feel that pain and know you have a trustworthy ally to help you push through it. If they’re “wrong” for you, you’ll spill your guts out onto the floor and, instead of helping you sort through them and place them properly back into your body for healing, they’ll smack your eviscerated bowels around for a few minutes and then hand you a bill as you army-crawl your bleeding body out their door. Neither feels good at the time; but, with the former, you’ll feel good eventually – with the latter, you’ll just be wasting your hard-earned cash.

I had plenty of bad therapists over the years. But, when I found the “right” one (shout out to Shawn!), I immediately started making progress towards bettering my mental health.

That said, even with the “right” therapist, healing still took several years. Immediate “progress” doesn’t mean I was immediately “cured.” Progress was slooooooooooooooooooooooooow… but slow progress is a zillion times better than NO progress.

The more “broken” your brain is, the longer it’s going to take to “fix” it. And that’s okay! Just be patient, and kind, with yourself and keep going. Celebrate every personal wellness victory, no matter how small.

I was in therapy from October 2014 to June 2018.

I started out going twice a week, then once a week, then twice a month, then once a month, then once every other month, then once every few months… until I eventually didn’t need to go at all.

However, I will actively engage in “self therapy” for the rest of my life. Using the CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and mindfulness techniques I was exposed to in my therapy sessions to monitor my well-being from home.

And, of course, I will turn to my support system for those times when I can’t go it alone. Being in a good place mentally doesn’t mean you’re going to be “free” from Depression for the rest of your life. Things will..

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Illustration by Ramiro Roman

I noticed on the Internet there’s a stigma attached to being known as a fanfiction writer. Go online and search for writing tips or advice; there’s a wealth of information on the topic, but generally with the intent to self-publish or solicit a publishing house. Almost never do you see advice catered to those who write fanfiction, and that’s missed opportunity.

Just look at the success of authors who got their start in fanfiction; such as E.L. James, Rainbow Rowell, and Amanda Todd. Authors who “graduate” from fanfiction to eventually create their own original works are a growing niche that mainstream markets have yet to fully embrace.

I’ve written fanfiction for over 20 years. Currently, I’m on the path writing my first YA novel, using my two decades’ worth of experience to mentor the new generation of writers on how they can position themselves as authorities in fanfiction.

1. Have a Beginning and End in Mind for Your Story

One of the biggest pet peeves I have with fanfiction is stumbling across an AMAZING work of fanfiction, only to discover it was never completed.

Another pet peeve is getting invested in a story, then realizing halfway in that the author is grinding their gears, making up the story as they go along without a clear goal in mind.

Avoid the never-ending story or the dead fic, the bane of fanfiction. Before sharing your work with others, be absolutely certain you can visualize a conclusion.

A good strategy is to make an outline that details the major points of your story from beginning, middle to end. Another good tactic is to create a story web, especially when dealing with multiple characters.

Don’t enter the cave if you can’t see any light at the other end of the tunnel.

2. Write Consistently

The beautiful thing about a television show is that it has a scheduled time so viewers can set their expectations for new episodes. The Simpsons is always on at 8AM Sundays, The Price is Right is always 11AM weekdays, and SNICK (remember SNICK?!) was always 8-10PM Saturdays.

As with other creative outlets (podcasting, YouTube), it’s important to set a schedule and adhere to it. People will drop off when there haven’t been updates for months at a time, even if the story is amazing.

I used to be guilty of starting a story and not finishing it for several years, only updating sporadically. I hadn’t realized it then, but I was killing my opportunity to develop an audience by not posting on a consistent schedule readers could follow.

I finally learned my lesson when I participated in NaNoWriMo. I HAD to write on a daily basis to reach my goal; and, as a consequence, the fanfics I wrote during this time period were better received because they followed a schedule. I now employ the use of an editorial calendar and post to my website and Medium once a week — and I see my engagement steadily growing as a result.

3. Do Your Research

Part of the reason you write fanfiction is because you love the source material and know it like the back of your hand. Still, it’s important to do some research for your writing to avoid plot holes and inconsistencies.

I know everything there is to know about the NickToon Hey Arnold!, but even I would occasionally re-watch the series boxset or check the show’s wiki online to make sure I conveyed little details accurately.

A well-researched story is an immersive story.

4. Promote Your Work

“If you build it, [they] will come” is a line from the movie Field of Dreams — it’s also the worst advice when it comes to writing. It implies that all one has to do to garner a huge following is simply post one’s fanfic on the Internet and fans will come flocking in droves to support it. I hate to tell you, but it doesn’t work like that.

Your writing may get that little spike of traffic in the first few days, but that’s only for as long as it stays on the front page of fanfiction.net. After which, readers are generally lazy and won’t make the extra effort to go searching for your story after it gets buried with all the others.

If you’re writing a fanfic, visit fan communities and forums and inform people of your project. Promote on social media; for instance, inform readers of updates to your story on Twitter.

Caveat: While it’s a good idea to get the word out about our story, try your best to not be annoying about it. Promotion is all well and good, but please, please, PLEASE do not badger people into reading. Don’t hijack other people’s posts about their fanfics to promote your own, and don’t mass-email an entire fan community just to boost your readership numbers. This especially holds true for older stories written several years ago.

5. Incorporate Artwork with Your Writing

There was a fanfic I ignored for quite some time, convincing myself I wasn’t into the subject matter. Then I stumbled upon some fantastic artwork for the fanfic that made me say “Well, maybe I’ll check it out.” I read the entire story and it became one of my favorites in the Hey Arnold! community.

A story becomes more engaging when accompanied by artwork. Even if you’re not an artist, the benefit of fandom is that you can borrow from fanart (with permission, of course!) or commission an artist adept at creating the exact visuals you intend to showcase along with your story.

6. Engage with Your Audience

When someone leaves a review, be sure to thank them. Author notes at the beginning or end of chapters are another good way to publicly acknowledge feedback from readers and to keep them engaged with your writing process.

It’s always a good idea to interact with other members of the fan community, especially other writers. It will help you build rapport and will make the promotion of your work more likely, as people that are friends are more likely to share each other’s stories.

That said, while it’s good to acknowledge your readers, avoid the temptation to tailor your fanfic to the whims of fans who leave feedback. If you have a particular vision in mind for your story, don’t change tack when a random reader suggests X should happen in the plot instead of Y.

7. Don’t Get Bogged Down by Feedback

An advantage of writing fanfiction is the instant gratification it offers. You can post what you wrote online and within minutes someone can respond by liking, favoriting, following your story, or leaving a comment or review.

For someone who gets addicted to a steady stream of likes and validation, it can be torture to post something and not get immediately inundated with praise and positive feedback. It can be a downright buzzkill to log on and see only negative feedback as well.

If you’re like this, you have to take a step back and assess why you’re writing fanfiction. Ideally, it’s because you have a story to tell, and not just to see your likes and follower count rise. It’s nice to have your writing be appreciated, but, for your own well-being, it’s important to not eagle-eye the statistics.

Here are some useful suggestions to stay focused on your writing and quell the constant urge for approval:

  • Schedule a Day to Check for Reviews
  • Remind Yourself that Creating New Content Begets New Feedback
  • Remove Yourself from the Computer

Repeat after me: YOU CANNOT PLEASE EVERYONE. There is a popular saying that “you can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” The same holds true for writing.

In the fanfiction world, I used to write some of the most well-received crossover stories in the Hey Arnold! fandom. While I got positive feedback, I was also met with a lot of indifference from the larger audience because a. I was bucking the trend by not writing romance (I skewed more toward science-fiction and fantasy) and, b. crossovers aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

I could have cowed and written the stories that I knew would be popular, but I stuck to my convictions and wrote the stories that were important to me. They may not be among the most highly recommended Hey Arnold! fanfics, but I feel good knowing that I wrote the best fanfic I possibly could.

Feedback is a double-edged sword; it can bolster you to finish the next chapter of your story, or it can feed into your feelings of imposter syndrome. Accepting feedback and deciphering the constructive criticism from the trolls will help strengthen your resolve as a writer.

8. Understand That This Can ONLY Be a HOBBY

Perhaps the least-welcoming advice of the bunch: it’s important to recognize that to be a fanfiction writer is to be the ultimate hobbyist.

You can’t share your fanfiction with the creators who inspired you, as it may not be appreciated (Anne Rice forbids fan versions of her material) or lay the groundwork for potential lawsuits. You can also never sell your fanfiction because you can’t claim ownership on the intellectual property from which you borrow.

When Hey Arnold! ended, the fans may have gotten a satisfying conclusion to the series, but I still felt like I had more stories to tell. That’s when I knew I could no longer confine my talents to the limitation of fanfiction.

The moment you entertain the idea of publishing or selling your writing, you’ve reached a stage of self-realization in your craft that requires a professional mindset. You must take the next step and start to create your own worlds and characters. Fortunately, you’ll be well equipped with all the experience of fanfiction writing under your belt!

Do you agree that fanfiction is a legitimate step on the path to becoming a writer? Or is it a time-wasting hobby that takes energy away from improving one’s writing skills?

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Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Sometimes, we need motivation from outside of ourselves to be as productive as possible.

We live in a world which is designed to distract us endlessly.

From never-ending emails to ceaseless app notifications, everything is set up to rob our attention away from us.

This conflicts with our desire to be as productive as possible and produce the best work we can.

So how can we regain control of our productivity and do our best work?

I’ve found that books are the best way to regain my focus and drive to work on the things that matter to me.

Today, I’d like to share three of the books that have helped me the most, along with some takeaway tips you can use to make more of your time.

Let’s get to it!

4 Hour Work Week

The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss is a classic in the digital nomad genre.

It’s focus is on teaching people to attain a target income that allows them to live an adventurous lifestyle full of travel and other delights.

As well as an overall philosophy, the 4 Hour Work Week also includes a range of practical tips on how to set up an automated business.

This can be very useful for you as a writer or other type of creative freelancer. You can directly apply the ideas Ferriss advocates to do more with your time and get better results from your work.

So what are some takeaway principles from the 4 Hour Work Week you can use to be more efficient and effective?

  • Automate. Where possible, you should put systems in place that allow you to maximize the use of your time. For example, if you regularly check out the blogs of other writers, you could sync them all to an RSS feed. You can automate your budgeting as a writer. This saves on the time wasted navigating between different sites. You can also use a grammar app to automate your proofreading. Automation equals time saved for creative work.
  • Limit your time on email. In these days, with our smartphones and even our smart watches now, it’s almost impossible to escape the endless cascade of notifications. Tim Ferriss strongly suggests limiting your time on email to a strictly defined period, such as twice a day. This allows you to regain control of your time and not get interrupted while you are in the middle of a flow state.
  • Test your ideas. The 4 Hour Work Week strongly advocates testing a business idea before fully carrying it out. For example, if you are thinking of taking up a new form of writing, you could trial it with one or two small projects before devoting too much of your time and energy too it. This stops you wasting time on ventures which are doomed to go nowhere.

Ultimately, the 4 Hour Work Week stresses taking advantage of ways of doing more with our time and focusing on the things that matter to us. As creative workers, we can all make use of this advice in our day to day lives.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Steven Covey wrote one of the definitive works on personal effectiveness and prioritizing our time in a way which serves us the most.

His 7 Habits provide valuable advice on allocating the hours given to us in a way which serves our larger aims.

He also provides a set of philosophical values and ideas which are intended to then underpin all of our other deeds and actions.

So, what are the lessons we, as writers, can take from Covey’s work and apply to our own writing lives?

  • Start with an end vision. The 7 Habits strongly advocates having an end goal for one’s life. You can apply this to your creative life as a writer as well. By having a vision of the writer you eventually want to end up as, you ensure that all your choices serve this ultimate aim along the way.
  • Think win/win at all times. Covey is a strong advocate of the principle of win/win or no deal. He stresses that both parties should benefit from an agreement or no deal should be struck. You can apply this to your life as a writer or a blogger. If you collaborate or partner with anyone, ensure that both people genuinely stand to get something of value from participating in the agreement.
  • Renew your juices. The 7 Habits advocates taking the time to renew your abilities and do the things that recharges you as a person. This is important for writers. By taking the time to renew your creative juices, you allow yourself to have new inspiration and enthusiasm for the work you do. Taking a writing class or learning a new style of writing are great ways to do this. Working too frequently is a recipe for burnout.

By following the ideas found in the 7 Habits, you can ensure that your time is spent serving a larger vision for your life. You can also write with the knowledge that any partnerships you carry out will be engaged upon on a win/win basis.

Awaken the Giant Within

Tony Robbins is a famous motivator and success strategist.

He has recently reached a far greater audience than ever before thanks to his Netflix documentary.

Tony Robbins has also published a number of works which have resonated with people seeking to enhance their personal productivity and effectiveness.

One of his classic books is Awaken the Giant Within.

It teaches people to boldly get in touch with their deeper values and live the life of their dreams.

So what are some of the ideas from Awaken The Giant Within we can use to better our own productivity as writers?

  • Think of your deeper values. Our times of deepest motivation come when our actions are in line with our deeper values. We all have a set of personal values which we should try and align our work with. For example, you might have the personal value of being charitable. If so, you should try and ensure your writing is of a type which helps and serves others, in order to be aligned with your value system.
  • Make your today part of a bigger tomorrow. Sometimes, it can be hard to do the things which we know will benefit us in the long run. As humans, we are wired to seek short-term comfort over long-term reward. Therefore, having a bigger aim can increase our motivation to do what we need to do on a daily basis. Examples include exercising, learning new writing skills, and taking the time to build our networks as authors.
  • Your language matters. One of the key teachings found in Awaken the Giant Within is that the language we use to describe things to ourselves and others directly influences the way we think about them. For example, if you tell yourself you are furious about something, as opposed to merely annoyed, it directly impacts the level of emotional energy you have about that situation. As writers, we know this to be true. Therefore, choose the language you use to describe things very carefully.

Applying the ideas found in Awaken The Giant Within can inspire us towards far greater levels of motivation and personal productivity as writers.

Productivity Boosting Books for Writers – Final Thoughts

Thanks for checking out my thoughts on the best books to boost your levels of personal productivity as a writer.

Whether you need a short-term boost of your motivation, or a longer-term realignment of your vision and values, you should find something here that is able to help you out.

I’ll now turn the discussion over to you guys

What are your favorite personal productivity tips as a writer?

Which books have helped you achieve the best results in your own creative life?

Be sure to hit me up in the comments and I’ll respond!

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Oh, the lovely struggles of a writer’s life — bloodthirsty deadlines, toxic clients, lack of inspiration… These things come with the package, whether you like it or not. But did you know that you are the greatest enemy of your own work?

Out of hundreds of excuses — bad days, the dreaded writer’s block or simple laziness — you, as a writer, bear the sole responsibility for whether words appear on the page or not. It took me a while to acknowledge this and improve (a bit). Now I want to make it easier for you.

Take a look at these four signs and see whether you’re making the same mistakes!

1. You Don’t Prepare an Outline

As much as I like to get “adventurous” with my writing once in a while, my disorganized soul always craves for a grain of order and structure. It’s surprising how even a simple plan can help with all kinds of writer’s ailments.

I’ve battle-tested working without and with an outline, and the writing has always been smoother and more pleasurable for the latter. Even the roughest of rough outlines will give you a solid direction and keep your thoughts from going astray. It will also prevent you from constantly adding and changing things!

Don’t get me wrong. You probably won’t need a master plan for a simple Tweet. But as your projects get more complex and wordy, an outline will be the only thing standing between you and a rambling disaster. You don’t have to go to extremes and follow your plan to the letter; an outline is meant to give you a heading, that’s all.

2. You’re Getting Your Deadlines All Wrong

A reasonable deadline will help you to stay on track with your writing, be it your next big novel or that blog post you should deliver in two days. An unreasonable deadline will give you a headache at best.

Now, I get it. It’s difficult to set sensible timelines for your work when you’re just starting your writing career. It takes time and many finished projects before you can estimate the time needed to wrap an assignment. But are you honest with yourself when you’re setting those deadlines?

I sometimes try to fool myself that a certain project is going to take longer or shorter than it really should. I realized that I do this get more downtime between assignments or simply postpone the work as much as I can.

What to do instead?

  • If you struggle with setting attainable deadlines, review your past projects for estimates.
  • If you’re just starting delivering projects, make sure to track your project time for future reference.
  • Give yourself a small time margin for unforeseen hiccups (10-20% of the total project time).
3. You Try to Do Everything at Once on the First Draft

Do you sometimes stop writing your first draft only to improve a sentence or use a better word? If so, then you’re sabotaging your writing big time.

Silencing your internal editor may be difficult, especially if you’re a perfectionist and want to write a masterpiece on the first try. That’s what would happen to me when I was just starting writing longer pieces and delivering client work. I’d constantly halt and ruminate on a phrase or a sentence that just didn’t seem like a good fit.

If you’re like me, then the spellchecker probably drives you crazy with all those red marks popping up all over the page (Ok, if your page is covered in “blood” from header to footer then you can probably slow down, just a bit!). But the truth is, everybody gets spelling wrong on the first run, and for some, this remains true all the way till the final draft.

It’s even more tempting to combine writing your first drafts with research. Some people prefer to look things up as they go instead of digging into a topic in advance. This approach is even more destructive and totally breaks the creative flow.

If you’re still troubled by your spelling mistakes, you’ll find many interesting insights in this post.

What to do instead?

  • DO NOT attempt to fix all the flaws of your fledgling text on the first draft; your first draft should be free from criticism, both internal and external.
  • Do your research first, and don’t you dare google things up as you write!
  • Unleash your internal critic on the 2nd, 3rd and all the consecutive drafts, but not before that.
  • If the spellchecker distracts you, turn it off.
4. You Celebrate Way Too Early

There are those moments when I finish a paragraph or a substantial part of a project and think: “I’ve done a solid piece of work here…It’s time to rest now!” And so I rest…

I grab a sandwich, take a walk, read a book or even go for a bike ride. The possibilities here are limitless, and since my brain has just done the heavy lifting, it deserves some downtime, right?

While taking occasional breaks from writing is absolutely necessary to keep your mental nuts and bolts in place, I learned the hard way that short breaks tend to beef up in duration if you let them. It’s tempting to notoriously stretch break time and justify it with a flabby “I’ve accomplished something and deserve this!”

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t reward yourself for little successes and reserve some time for small celebrations. By all means, please do (a stroll in a park makes for a great brain-reset). But sometimes it’s better to be a bit tougher on yourself than to despair over a deadline that has just flashed by because you got lost in a book, again.

Does any of these signs sound familiar? Are you guilty of committing similar crimes against your writing? Let me know!

The post 4 Signs You’re Sabotaging Your Writing (And What to Do About It!) appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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What’s the most important piece of paperwork in your freelance arsenal?

The contract, right?

It’s that little piece of paper that outlines the scope of work, ensures your client is legally obligated to pay you, and is the official start to all new working relationships.

But here’s the thing.

If the contract is the start, then what’s the end of your agreement? What is it that ties off the agreement and lets all parties involved know that the job is, officially, complete?

The answer is your invoice.

Your freelance writing contract and invoice are the book-stops to the job you’ve agreed to take on. They’re the hard start and stop for each job. And sure, contracts might get more love in the freelance advice world, but these two should always go hand-in-hand.

The invoice you send to the client doesn’t just officially close the agreement (pending payment of it of course), but it reminds the client of the payment terms and work completed.

In my humble opinion, the invoice is almost as important as your freelance contract, but its one of those elements that gets very little coverage online.

And we’re going to change that.

I’m going to run through the key considerations for crafting a killer invoice, as well as list some awesome tools to help you look even more professional.

Why You NEED a Professional Looking Invoice

I’m not going to BS you here and say an invoice is an ironclad solution to the problem of non-payment.

If a client never had any intention of paying you, there’s very little you can do except take them to court. And then you have to weigh up whether the legal fees will eclipse the payment itself (more on mitigating this risk later).

However, a solid contract and invoice combo will go a long way to ensuring you avoid clients who never had any intention of paying you. It gives you the paperwork to properly battle any non-payment and secure the money that’s rightfully yours.

And thats incredibly important because there’s a huge issue in the freelance world with non-payment. It doesn’t take long to find various studies explaining how difficult some freelancers find it to secure the payment that’s rightfully there.

  • This Paypal study explains 58% of surveyed freelancers had trouble securing payment (source)
  • FreelancersUnion puts the number at 71%, and puts the average monetary loss at $5,968 (source)
  • Experience reports 1 in 10 freelancers have struggled with rent/mortgage payments due to delayed payment from clients (source)

It’s a big issue, right? I mean, over 50% of us are struggling to get the payments we’ve rightly earned form people who promised to pay up.

But that’s not the only use for a well devised invoice. No, the other use is, arguably, even more important. If you’ve ever been subject to an impromptu tax audit, you’ll know how necessary it is to have kept proper documentation of all the payments coming your way.

This is all a very long winded way of saying that an invoice is not something that’s nice to have. It’s a necessity for your business. But what’s included in a professional invoice?

The Anatomy of a Freelance Invoice

Rather than a long list of elements you should be including in your invoice, I’ve gone into my accounting software and created a test invoice so you can see what it actually looks like.

However, don’t think this is the only format you can use. You should be using all of these different elements, however, you can do so in whatever order or design best suits you and your brand.

Here’s what a basic invoice template of mine looks like; I’ve followed it with an explanation of what everything is and why you need it.

1 – Your Business Name

The client has to know who’s sending this invoice so they know who they’re paying. If you’re established as an LTD/LLC, then use your business name. If you’re working as a sole trader, then use your own name or the name you trade under.

2 – Your Logo

Technically this is an optional inclusion. I always think it’s nice to include as, even a simple logo like the one above, adds more of a professional veneer to everything.

3 – Your Contact Details

Immediately after your business name be sure to include your business’s contact details. You can include as little or as much of the below as you want, just be sure there’s at least 1 method through which the client can contact you.

I include all of the below just to ensure everything moves forward smoothly.

  • Physical address
  • Phone number
  • Website
  • Email address
4 – Client’s Contact Details and Address

Again this is super important. This is an official request of money, you need to make sure the client’s business name address, and contact details are included. Otherwise it could be for anyone.

5 – Invoice Number

This is important because, if you ever do get hit with an audit you’re going to need things in order. Numbering your invoices allows you to keep better track of everything. However, this goes hand in hand with another tracking method. You’re going to need to keep the invoice numbers in either a piece of software or a simple excel spreadsheet with other details like date and amount.

It sounds like a boring process, but this will save you so much time when it comes to doing taxes later on.

6 – Date and Payment Terms

As mentioned above, your invoice is an official request of payment. You have to not only list the date the invoice is sent, but also the terms for payment.

The most frequent terms are:

  • Net 15 (to be paid within 15 days of receipt)
  • Net 30 (to be paid within 30 days of receipt)
  • Net 60 (to be paid within 60 days of receipt)

You can see above that I favor Net 15, however, you can also request payment upon receipt which I do for deposits for jobs.

You’ll notice above that I include the due date for payment as well, just so there’s no confusion. Just be sure that the payment terms were outlined in your contract as well.

7 – Payment Method

This is optional and, honestly, I rarely use it. I have some clients who prefer bank transfers, others prefer Paypal. If they have no preference, I’ll list a specific method, usually bank transfer unless they’re international as it saves me paying PayPal fees.

8 – Deliverables

The deliverables area is one of the most important on the invoice. It’s here you list what you did, and the price it’s going to cost the client. Now, depending on the client and any pre-agreed format, there’s a couple of things that I’d always recommend doing.

8.1 – Don’t bundle everything together. If you’ve done 4 blog posts at $300 each, don’t say “blog writing – $1200”. I wouldn’t even use the quantity box for this to say “blog writing $300 x 4 = $1200”. No, write the title of the articles as individual deliverables so the client can quickly cross them off as done and paid for.

8.2 – Do use the quantity for things on an hourly rate, but be prepared to provide proof. For example, the handful of times I’ve worked hourly rates I’ve listed my research by the hour. So It would read something like the below:

“Researching target audience for landing page creation at $100 per hour. Qty = 8 // Rate = $100 // Amount = $800.

8.3 – Don’t itemiz, etc.,e too much. I focus on the deliverable, but that’s because I charge by the deliverable. Don’t think you have to break everything down into the bare bones steps. If the client is paying you for a case study on a flat fee, don’t give them an hourly rate for research, drafting, editing , etc., Just put the deliverable in and the fee.

9 – Total Due

So this is what you’re really after. This is where you list exactly how much your clients are going to have to pay you for the job. All it is is a sum of the total deliverables’ amount. However, if you’re charging tax on top, be certain to include that addition prior to listing the total.

10 – Payment Details

So how’s the client going to pay you? You’ve got to include your business bank details on the invoice so they now where to send the money. You’ll note in the above that I have listed my full bank details (including my name) but have also added a sentence which explains which Paypal account t use should they prefer PayPal.

11 – A Final Reminder

I include a final reminder of my payment terms and the late payment penalty at the end of the invoice. This is just to cover my own back in case they say the late payment fee wasn’t clear. I can then point to it in both the contract and invoices.

Getting Started with a Professional Looking Invoice

When I first starting freelancing I couldn’t afford some fancy software or an accountant to handle these things for me, so I needed a pretty cheap solution.

And there’s nothing cheaper than doing this yourself.

I actually built my own invoice template in Google Drive. I’d fill this in every single time I closed a job and sent it to clients and a PDF (so the details couldn’t be amended). Here’s a look at that template, and here’s a link to download a copy of it yourself if you’re just starting out and want a free solution.

I’d fill this out every single time and log the details of each invoice in an Excel spreadsheet so I could keep track of everything. Here’s a look at that sheet:

This was a good solution for the time, and I’d recommend every newbie freelancer to do something similar simply because it’s free. All it costs is time. And once again, if you want a free copy of these templates, simply click here.
However, after a while it’s going to become too costly for you to keep this up to date. It’s simply not an efficient method of storing your invoice details once business picks up because it takes too much time.
I’d recommend that once you’ve hit a certain income level, I’d recommend $1000 per month, you invest in some accounting software.

Where to Progress From Manual Sheets?

Once you progress to $1000 per month (or if you’re already there), you should look at investing in some accounting software. What this will do is make it far faster for you to invoice clients and track payments. Much of it can be automate (to an extent) with things like direct debit set ups for repeat clients, and even the simple things like populating client details with the click of a button save time.

I haven’t tried every accounting service under the sun, but I have tried a few and here’s what I’d suggest.

I’d recommend you use either QuickBooks Online or Dubsado.

Quickbooks Online Breakdown

If you’re looking for a tool purely for accounting, Quickbooks will be the best bet. The invoice I used above with the numbers is from Quickbooks.

However, where Quickbooks really shines is its ability to sync with your bank accounts so you can more accurately track your income and spend. You can accept payments directly through your invoices for a small charge (2.9% = 0.25c)

Quickbooks will  also quickly log all of your profit and charges so, at the end of the year when tax season rolls around, you can get detailed reports on profit/loss, expenses etc at the click of a button. That alone is worth the money in my mind as it makes taxes incredibly easy to do.

Also, when you progress to the point of needing an accountant, the majority of them will be able to log straight into your QB account (QB actually has a list of qualified accountants who use the tool to make finding an accountant easy).

Getting an accountant once you hit a livable wage with your writing (or before) is a necessity as these guys will be able to point out where you’re wasting money and how to reduce your tax to more manageable levels.

Right now, the price of QB starts at $20 per month. There’s always a free or half price offer somewhere though, so see if there’s any affiliate links to get you a discount.

Dubsado Breakdown

I’m relatively new to using Dubsado. I came across it after one of the writers I hire sent me both the agreement and invoice through from this service.

And whilst we’ve not been together long, I absolutely adore Dubsado.

Dubsado is both more and less than Quickbooks Online. It struggles to keep up as an accounting tool as it doesn’t have the accounting functionality of QB. But then again, it’s not a specialized accounting tool.

What Dubsado is a customer relationship tool for creatives. In this tool you’ll be able to put together proposals, attach contracts, and send invoices.

It’s pretty much a one stop shop for everything you need to get your next client relationship off to a flying start. It does have bookkeeping options, but as my accountant works in QBO, I’ve not used it.

I can say that the proposal, invoice, and contract options are awesome. There’s even the option of one click payment for your clients. You can add a button to invoices so the client can pay with card through the invoice directly.


Dubsado is a great tool but if you start earning a full time wage I’d recommend using it in tandem with Quickbooks (they do offer a full integration) and getting an accountant just to help you not fall foul of the tax man.

If you fancy trying Dubsado out, feel free to use my affiliate link to get 20% off your first month.

Invoices are an Integral Part of Your Client Strategy

And you can’t overlook them.

Whether you’re at the beginning of your freelance career or somewhere later on and already earning good money, you’ve got to have a firm focus on your finances and how you’re requesting them.

Don’t let an otherwise perfect collaboration end on a weak note by sending through an unprofessional, amateurish invoice.

It might look like a single piece of paper, but your invoice is the official close of your professioanl relationship.

Make sure you end on a strong footing with clients.

The post How to Invoice Your Freelance Writing Clients Like a Pro appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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Do you know what happens when you allow fear to take up ownership of your life?


Some define F- E- A- R as False Evidence Appearing Real

You know that all too familiar fear when you your client likes your pitch and now-you-have-to-put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is fear.

I struggled with fear management for two years, every time I decided to write something I would stare at the screen for hours at a time and produce absolutely nothing.

What happened when my fears tried to get the best of me?

I developed 6 ways to manage my fears and it turned around my freelance blogging career.

I’m NOT saying it’s the solution to all your freelance writing fears.

But it helps!

1. Rob fear of its symptoms

Here’s the thing, nobody really cares about your fears. People just want to read honest and precise advice from other people who have had the same experiences as them. For example if you keep telling yourself you’re sick you will eventually end up being sick. So for freelance bloggers it’s simple, fear is the sickness and doubt its symptom.

So what do we do?

Don’t define it as “something”, its best to ignore the concept all together.  Instead, make a choice to NOT allow it to take root in your life and it will eventually become a “nothing.”

2. Rejection is real – just deal with it

Every sane person cares about what others say about their writing. Your choice lies in, do you take it personal or do you just get over the ‘rejection’ and fix your writing so that you are able to learn from your mistakes.

Do you crawl into a ball and wait for the universe to be kind to you? Just because someone did not like your work, it does not mean that someone else won’t like it. There could be a thousand reasons why your pitch wasn’t chosen i.e. it wasn’t suitable for the potential client blog’s style.

Just deal with it and say “I’ll do better next time.”

3. It’s a choice – you decide

You can gather all types of advice on how to better your freelance blogging career from the leading industry experts, but if you refuse to admit that fear is a problem and utilize their advice, then what’s the point.  There is nothing that anyone can do to help you become a better blogger, let alone make you a freelance blogger. Trust me I’ve been there, done that got the t-shirt and it never worked out the way I thought it would.

If you the type of person that listens to other people’s advice and keeps on wishing that it was you. Listen up, the leading industry experts are only able to tell you their stories because they took a chance and made the decision to pursue freelance blogging as a profession. If you want to be able to tell your stories, I suggest that you make that same choice.

4. Don’t pre-anticipate

DO NOT PRE-ANTICIPATE, what’s to come because you cannot control the universe. My biggest mistake was to try and reason out, whether or not I would make it as a freelance blogger before a single attempt was made to win a freelance blogging job.

If you try and run through every single scenario in your mind, you still won’t know whether or not you’re going to make. If anything, it will leave you with more questions than before.  You just have to plunge into it and trust that the process will treat you right.

5. Shift your perspective

Do you see adventure and growth or do you see nightmare after nightmare?

By shifting your perspective, you allow yourself to see your circumstances in a different way.

For example, if you put a positive spin on things, you can see adventure and growth but if you focus on the latter, that’s exactly what you’re going to get.

6. Writing is a gift – what will you use it for?

If you could save at least one person with your writing, why would you not want to share it with the world? Remember, instead of fearing the unknown, embrace that different people need different types of writing styles and techniques to capture their attention. What will be your motivation to push through your fears and share your gift of writing to the world?

But…how can you make money from managing your fears?

Well, it’s quite simple; once your fears are managed there are NO MORE obstacles stopping you from experiencing life as a freelance blogger and reaping what you’ve sowed. .  The energy that’s released in managing your fears enables and equips you to do the impossible, that’s if you’ll allow it.  You’ll remember what motivated you to start writing in the first place or rather what passion you have for writing. In turn you will start to write for the love of writing and it’s at this point that you will start to make money as a freelance blogger!

A few ideas I came up with, off the top of my head; you could target writing experts and start pitching to these major publications or go out on a limb and start your own YouTube channel which could focus on writing and everything related to writing, including helpful tips and hints.

The possibilities are endless!

Let’s face it, as freelance bloggers we love writing but writing alone won’t help you maintain your website domain or the upkeep of your home and family life. These tried and tested techniques allowed me to use my gift, shift my perspective and more importantly not pre-anticipate about what’s to come to be the best freelance blogger that I can be.

Come on, what are you waiting for make a choice, you decide! And leave no pitch unpitched for and no heart unmoved!

The post 6 Ways to Manage Your Fears and Turn Around Your Freelance Blogging Career appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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Blogs are well-known as internet logs or platforms that allow you publish your thoughts on almost any subject you’d like to.

Nevertheless, if you’re a beginner to blogging, as well as to advertising, there are some essential things that you will want to know.

Choosing Your Blogging Purpose

Blog marketing is straightforward if you have a marketing mind. Then you can use the blog as the place to let people know about your products or services.

Or, you may find that many people use blogs as a just diary but not to make them money. When used this way, your blog can be used as an awesome hobby for you — a place to talk about your interests and meet new people.

If you have never managed a blog before, the first step that you can do is to start one. By simply jumping in, your new blog will teach you what the blog is, how to it set up, and manage it. Through trial and error, you’ll discover what to write about, and how to make it popular.

Blogs Versus Websites for Beginners

Using a blog to market something is cheaper than creating an entire website. There are so many free blogging platforms on the market that you can to use to get the word out — and they’re just as good as having an internet site that you pay for.

There are, of course, some advantages to having own URL; but, for a newbie, a free one will work until you get the hang of it and wish to move it onto your preferred domain name.

However, free blogs are not as customizable. If you’re not acquainted with HTML, you will soon discover that your blog will look like everyone else’s. That’s okay from the to start off with! Right now, you just need a practice playground (you can even choose to make your blog “private” until you feel more comfortable with what you’re publishing!).

Content is Vital

When you’ve got your blog set up, you’ll be accountable for the content material that is posted on it. You can determine what is said, and what is not.

However, there are a lot of blogs on the web. So, to beat your competitor’s your blog, yours should be distinguished by the high-quality content. It should be useful for your readers, provide them some benefits, and be well-written.

Thus, blog writing requires a lot of focus, dedication, and knowledge. Be it poem writing, article writing, story writing, or any other piece of writing you are struggling with; you need to begin and end in a way to create a better (and lasting) impression with your readers.

I have gathered some essential tips you should pay attention to when writing your content:


Brainstorming is essential to find out your purpose and goal of writing. Once you are clear with this, you should hardly face any trouble while writing.

Think as much as you can and jot down all your creative ideas on a piece of paper. You can create a file on laptop or mobile where you can note all your ideas that appear at any time.

Choosing the right subject

This is another important step to write an impressive piece of writing. Always keep in mind your target audience and write whatever you think they will value. It can be the solutions to the reader’s problems, for example. So, choosing the right subject is extremely important. Doing so can help you create a better “story.”

Concise and clear

You need to be very concise and clear so that one can easily understand.  Readers don’t have a lot of time for reading. Write an attractive and compelling “hook” to reel them in, then write short and clear text about your subject using numbering, bullets, infographics, photos, and any other relevant content to explain the issue better. 

Use of short sentences and simple words

It is extremely important that your message should be clear and concise. Use of short sentences and simple words can help you create a story that is easy to understand for readers. Long sentences and tough words not only make the piece of writing complicated but boring as well.

Grammatically correct

You need to be grammatically correct as it creates a better impression and trust in your work. Nobody wants to read text with mistakes.

These are some of the major tips that, if followed while writing, can help you create an impressive and interesting blog.

Blogging is a superb skill to learn. Keep improving your skills. In the end, your blog will not only provide you hours of entertainment, but a profit as well.

The post Better Blog Writing Tips for Beginners appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Becoming an efficient blogger with a productive way of working is crucial to success.

It’s unlikely that your blog will fail from a lack of love for your topic. After all, you took the time to get started. That’s more than most people with an idea will ever do.

It’s more likely that life will throw curveballs that make it difficult to stick to your original vision. Unless you treat your blog as a priority, a ‘must’ rather than a ‘should’, it’s easy to let it stagnate and die.

If you want to give your blog every advantage, read on to discover:

  • How tech can help you stay focused while blogging
  • How mapping out your creative process can help you stay productive
  • How a strict schedule can make your blog resilient to life’s challenges

Use Tech to Stay On Track

The information age is a double-edged sword for most bloggers.

While we enjoy instant access to more information than ever before, we also run the risk of greater distraction.

If you find yourself starting out with the intention of researching a blog post, but end up in an unproductive mess of opened tabs and social media notifications, help is at hand. Studies have shown that willpower is a finite resource. If you struggle with staying focused, take your willpower out the equation.

The following apps will help you focus on blogging, regardless of how much willpower you feel at the time.


More often than not, especially when starting out, you will be the sole boss of your blog.

You won’t have another person to monitor you, cajole you or put pressure on you to use your time well. As a result, you run the risk of losing track of exactly how your time is spent.

RescueTime give you a clear understanding of exactly how you spent your day. The software offers detailed reports of how long you spend on particular apps or activities. You can set limits, and review your progress in making changes to the way you spend your time.

As busy bloggers, we are often so caught up in getting things done that we lose the big picture oversight of exactly how we got them done. RescueTime will help you better understand yourself, and use your time in a way aligned with your priorities.


Do you ever feel trapped in your own head while trying to write?

Sometimes, getting words down onto the page feels like drawing blood from a stone. It can be easy to get waylaid by self-judgement, criticism or a lack of urgency.

FlowState is an extreme solution to force you out of writer’s lethargy. You simply set a period of time and begin to write. If you pause for longer than five seconds, you lose everything.


Perhaps the toughest part of staying on track as a blogger is resisting the sheer variety of demands on our attention. Smartphones with push notifications, tabbed browsing, and mobile apps engineered specifically to be addictive are the sirens we must ignore.

Freedom allows you to totally customize which websites and apps you can access. For example, there might be a period of your day where access to email is conducive to productivity, and another where it is not. Freedom makes it easy to choose exactly when and where you will focus your precious attention.

Understand and Improve Your Blogging Process

If blog posts are like recipes, then bloggers are like chefs.

Although blog posts share many common ingredients, there are unlimited ways of putting them together.

When you understand your own blogging process, you are able to write ‘recipes’ of how to get a consistent outcome from a defined series of steps.

Mapping out the way you produce blog posts isn’t intended to kill your creativity. Far from it. Instead, it gives you a structure to work with, and improvise around as you see fit.

There are days when it can feel absolutely overwhelming to sit in front of a blank screen, knowing that you have to produce a certain amount of content you feel happy enough about to share with others. On days like this, having a simple step by step process of ‘do a, then b, then c’ can make the task a lot more manageable.

If you feel you could benefit from having your personal blogging process mapped out, consider the following ideas:

  • How do you define the start and end of your process? Does it begin when you first start thinking of an idea, or when you sit down to write the post? Does it end when you hit publish, or when you finish promotion?
  • Define the complete range of tasks needed to produce a blog post. Which are essential and non-essential? For example, you might define hitting publish as essential, but optimizing your image alt tags as non-essential. Doing this makes the complex process of blogging effectively seem more manageable. You know exactly what is involved, and how important each aspect is.
  • Is there a particular sequence of work which tends to produce the best results for you? For example, if you notice your best blog posts result from researching carefully before sitting down to write, you should make this sequence a part of your process.

Taking the time to map out the way you do your best work gives you a valuable recipe to follow on those inevitable days where you feel uninspired or overwhelmed.

Scheduling Your Success

Once you’ve unlocked your most productive way of working, it’s time to devise a schedule to keep your blog on track. Advance planning, both in terms of a content publication schedule, and batching tasks together, keeps your blog consistent and in line with your intended vision.

  1. Devise a content schedule, but make it achievable and in line with your aims. It’s better to keep your goals manageable and steady. If you try to publish too often, or in a way which doesn’t mesh with your life, you run the risk of burnout and blog abandonment.
  2. Look for opportunities to batch tasks together. When we switch from one type of task to another, we lose focus and take a while to ‘get in the groove’ again. You can overcome this by batching related tasks together, and scheduling them appropriately. For example, you could consider creating headlines for your next 10 pieces of content at the same time, or producing top images in a single session.
  3. Make use of tools such as Trello and Google Drive to schedule and collaborate. Or keep it old-school and use a paper calendar. Whatever works for you.

Have you got a personal spin on any of the above ideas? Do you have any other powerful productivity advice for your fellow bloggers? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

The post 3 Powerful Productivity Tips to Become a Better Freelance Blogger appeared first on LittleZotz Writing.

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