If prospective clients don’t know you by reputation, they need a quick, easy way to suss out your work, your style and your level of professionalism. While social media accounts can do wonders (having a few thousand Twitter followers never hurt a freelancer’s credibility), you’ll need more than that as your online calling card.
That’s where your online portfolio comes into play. In general, a website that promotes your freelance writing needs to have two things going for it:
Uncluttered design: If a prospective client can’t find what they need in less than 10 seconds, you’ve got too much going on. You’ve lost their attention…and a potential gig.
Easy-to-read clips: If someone is looking to hire you, their main goal in coming to your site is to read your work and see if they like it. Make it simple for them!
A website that fulfills these two basic criteria is not that hard to create, and you’ve got lots of good portfolio design tools to help you get there. We’ve looked at how Pinterest works as a writing portfolio, but here are six more of the best platforms to highlight your work and help you land your next freelance writing job:
On Journo Portfolio, you can create a modern, no-fuss online portfolio. The dashboard is easy to use: customize your site’s look with six distinct themes, and sort your clips into any number of pages or content blocks.
One of the other nice features is the range of ways you can share materials: link directly to clips (just type in the URL and Journo Portfolio will grab the title, publication, date, and content), or upload almost any kind of multimedia, including PDFs, videos and images.
Cool Feature: This platform allows you to blog directly onto Journo Portfolio. That way, you can use to site to highlight your past work and as a personal blog. Say goodbye to managing multiple platforms!
Price: FREE for a name.journoportfolio.com URL (10 articles max), or $5 to $10 per month for the pro versions (which include unlimited pages, article back-ups, and the ability to use your own domain, like www.yourname.com).
Clippings.me was created explicitly for the freelance journalist. It gives you a quick and easy way to show off as many clips as you want, and add just enough detail about yourself to make you seem human. Like Journo Portfolio, you can add links, upload PDFs or embed multimedia pieces, including podcasts.
Clippings.me also offers an open journalism directory where you can list beats you cover and (hopefully) gain access to more prospective clients.
Cool Feature: Simplicity is the name of the game. If you just need to get your work online and aren’t too worried about customization, this is a great choice.
Price: FREE for the basic version (16 articles max), $4.99-$11.99 per month for the pro version (which include unlimited clippings, custom domains, and features like resume hosting).
Muck Rack is a media database that helps connect journalists and PR pros — and their platform gives writers a slick way to easily showcase their work.
The best part? Because Muck Rack creates and maintains the portfolio for you (by automatically compiling articles, outlets, and social media profiles) this is one of the easiest options in terms of both set-up and maintenance. You can customize your page by adding a bio, listing your beats, and spotlighting your best pieces.
Cool Feature: As a writer on Muck Rack, you’re likely to receive a lot of PR pitches. One awesome related feature is the ability to post the specific topics or beats you don’t cover — which limits the number of off-target pitches coming your way.
Pressfolios is another portfolio site targeted squarely at journalists. It sells itself on two features:
The ability to easily show off your work: It’s extremely user-friendly and a good option for less technically-inclined.
The ability to back up your work: Every time you upload a piece, Pressfolios automatically clips a PDF version and saves it to the cloud. That way, you don’t have to worry about your writing disappearing even if the original websites go down.
Cool Feature: Pressfolios has a Google Chrome extension that lets you add to your portfolio with one click from a story’s source.
Price: $9.99 per month for the LITE version (up to 250 articles), and $14.99 per month for the Pro version (which includes unlimited stories and a custom domain name)
Squarespace is a slick drag-and-drop website builder that offers a stellar visual experience. While this isn’t a traditional portfolio site (nor is it targeted solely at writers), it’s a really good choice if you incorporate design or graphics into your work.
Their templates give off a clean, minimalistic and sophisticated vibe. And their responsive design is rock solid — an important factor when prospective clients want to view your writing on their phones or tablets. While there are many website building tools — like Wix and Weebly — Squarespace comes out ahead for its sleek visual design.
Cool Feature: Squarespace’s 24/7 client support (via email or live chat from Monday-Friday) is top-notch. Being able to communicate with a real human being when you have a question or issue can make freelance life that much easier.
Price: $12-$26 per month for pro versions (which all include unlimited pages, storage, and a free custom domain).
WordPress is the granddaddy of content management platforms. While not specifically geared towards writer portfolios, the joy of WordPress is that you can do pretty much anything you want with it. It’s available as a totally free, no-frills blog; a paid version with more bells and whistles; or the “install-it-yourself-and-do-whatever-the-hell-you-like setup,” as web editor Jon Norris put it.
Your standard WordPress themes aren’t ideal for portfolio work, but search Google for “WordPress portfolio themes” and you’ll have everything you could ask for — WordPress even offers this dedicated portfolio splash page! This is a great platform for people who want lots of options and total creative control (and who don’t mind fussing around with a little CSS).
Cool Feature: Since WordPress is so adaptable, it can be a good place to start if you think you may want something beyond a portfolio site somewhere down the line. That way, when you realize that you want to be both a freelance writer and photographer you’re not stuck on a platform where you can’t show off your other skills.
Price: FREE for a basic blog, the sky’s the limit for more creative options.
What are some of your favorite examples of freelance portfolios?
This post was originally published in August 2014. We updated it in June 2018.
“Trying to make it as a freelance writer is scary AF.”
With a subject line that bold (and accurate), I wasted no time in opening the email. It was from a young woman who’d recently graduated with a dual degree in English and journalism, asking me how, how, how in the world do I make a living this way?
It wasn’t the first time I’d received an email to this effect, which feels patently insane. If you’d told me just two years ago I’d be earning my keep as a full-time freelancer — let alone giving advice on the subject — I’d likely have laughed in your face. I was working a staff writing gig at the time, and had never so much as drafted a pitch to an outside publication.
I only got brave enough to start submitting ideas after lots of encouragement from my good friend (and fellow TWL writer!) Susan Shain. Thanks again, Susan.
Now, I’ve got over a year of working for myself under my belt — a year in which I actually earned more than I did as a staffer. I enjoy location independence and a workday uniform of yoga pants and tee-shirts, so it’s no surprise that fielding the how do you do it? question has become a common conversation.
But it’s never easy to answer.
So really though — how do you do become a full-time freelance writer?
Here’s the thing.
There’s no guaranteed, step-by-step process that will land you the freelance writing career of your dreams. Ask 10 different writers, and you’ll get 10 different how-I-made-it stories — or, more accurately, how-I’m-making-it-up-as-I-go-along stories.
The actual mechanics of the thing are pretty simple, though not easy: Have good ideas, be good at explicating them clearly, and spend lots of time and energy on the Sisyphean footwork of finding publications that will pay you to publish them. (And convincing them to do so.)
As far as stringing it into a full-time living, though, I’ll be honest with you: A *lot* of it is luck, and also getting very cozy with rejection. If I get a positive response for just 10-15% of my pitches, I count that as a huge win.
But if you have your heart set on making it as a freelance writer, there are some actionable steps you can take to make it happen. Here’s my best advice.
1. Use your education
If you’ve yet to go to college or are still in the process of earning your degree, you may want to consider formal studies that will help you achieve your goal.
Studying humanities flexes your rhetorical muscles, which will make you a much better writer and pitcher. Plus, these programs lend you the soft skills employers look for — which is good, since you’ll likely need a day job while you’re finding a way to make the whole yoga-pants-forever thing work.
If college is already in the rear view, you might also consider grad school. But be careful. The additional expense won’t guarantee you work down the line, and if you’re already dealing with student loans, you could just be digging the hole deeper. In the case of freelancing, it’s more about experience and practice than the fancy pedigree.
Fortunately, if you’re aching to go back to school, you don’t have to go broke to do it. Many MA, MFA and PhD programs come with tuition waivers, provided you teach, or assist in teaching, a number of undergrad classes while you study. You can also find fellowships, scholarships and other forms of loan-free financial aid if you’re diligent.
Yes, I know: Finding an editorial position — or any job, really — is easier said than done.
But websites and publications do hire writers, and getting a full-time position will give you two amazing, irreplicable benefits: an instant stack of clips and a world of hands-on education you just can’t get any other way.
Working closely with editors and other creatives every day will make you a better writer, period; if you work for a digital publication (likely), you’re bound to get some SEO training and other know-how in the bargain. I know for a fact I owe my success to my tenure at The Penny Hoarder, whose managing editor — Alexis Grant, who also started this website — essentially handed me a writing career whole cloth in hiring me.
3. Get out there and start pitching
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” – Neil Gaiman
At the end of the day, the only way to become a freelance writer…is to start writing.
That means taking a pretty scary leap: You’ve got to start pitching publications and applying for gigs even if you don’t have many clips to speak of. Hey, everyone’s a beginner at the beginning.
Of course, even if you’ve never published professional work, there are other ways to showcase your writing prowess. Do you have a personal blog or website? A killer short story that hasn’t found a home quite yet? Maybe even a particularly well-wrought essay from college? I applied for The Penny Hoarder with a short memoir I wrote in grad school and — I kid you not — wine-tasting notes. Most employers and clients are more concerned with whether or not you’ve got the goods than where you’ve managed to land them.
When I tell people I’m a freelance writer, they often think I’m publishing exclusively in glossy magazines with chic, single-word titles. The closest I’ve come to that, so far, is Yahoo! — a byline I’m very happy with, but whose trademarked exclamation point does not exactly bespeak elegance or sophistication.
The bulk of my paying work is far less illustrious, but critical for rounding out my bank account. Website copy, SEO work and listicle-style blog posts aren’t what anyone dreams of when they feel the pull of the pen, but they’re some of the most reliable ways for freelance writers to pay the bills. Many businesses can provide a steady stream of this kind of work, becoming the anchor clients by which you build a semi-reliable paycheck.
The idea is to pick up as much of this bread-and-butter work as you need to survive, and then use the rest of your time to pitch those dreamy projects you can’t wait to work on. It can be a hard balance to strike, but even un-fun writing always counts as valuable practice. You’ll hone your craft and earn your keep all while amassing more clips — and better chops — to show off when you’re pitching the big boys. Then, you can slowly scale up to working exclusively on better-paid, more interesting content.
5. Networking: Yup, it’s a thing for writers, too
As a serious-business introvert, “networking” has always felt like a four-letter word to me. In fact, I was drawn to freelancing in large part because it got me away from the noisy, crowded office environment. (I love you, The Penny Hoarder folks, but ya’ll are *not* quiet.)
Nevertheless, my first major client — the one that made quitting my day job possible, and whose work still makes up a sizable percentage of my income — was an opportunity I landed in part because of a shared connection. I’ve also written web copy for gym acquaintances, friends and family members, which were gainful projects both financially and in broadening my experience.
The Write Life’s managing editor Jessica Lawlor blogs about how she landed her first freelance client, as well as the ones she found thereafter. From sorority sisters to Twitter friends to existing professional connections, nearly every single story involves networking.
Case in point: Don’t overlook any of your current social spheres when it comes to writing opportunities, and get ready to actively work to increase them. Everyone needs the written word sometimes!
6. Market yourself
The networking we were talking about? It’s a whole lot easier and more effective if you have a proper business presence.
Websites, personal blogs, business cards, work-specific (or at least -friendly) social media accounts and portfolios are the best ways to show off and get the word out about your skills. And besides, they’ll make you feel way more legitimate. (Side note: Impostor Syndrome is totally a thing in this business, so get ready.)
There’s lots of advice here about creating your own blog and setting up a website, but as far as a portfolio is concerned, I recommend Contently. Not only is it a clean, easy-to-use digital showcase, but it can also land you valuable work: the platform matches editors with writers and other content creators based on specific beats and skill sets. I’ve earned literally thousands of dollars simply because I chose to use it.
At the very least, you’ll want to prepare yourself financially for things like invoicing clients and managing income flow and expenses, paying your own taxes, buying your own health care and funding your own retirement. And for even the best writers, clients come and go, so be sure to build up a significant cushion for those inevitable dry periods.
It’s also a good idea to impose rules to lend your otherwise-loosey-goosey day structure — like deciding you’ll only write at your desk as opposed to your couch, for instance, or making yourself put on real pants for the duration of your work day. (Or maybe not. Let’s not get crazy.)
If I had to summarize it all in brief, I’d say this: Becoming a freelance writer requires equal parts semi-pathological levels of type-A dedication, boundless curiosity, and total insensitivity to rejection.
Oh, and luck. A lot of luck.
But like all of the best things in life, even though it’s not an easy journey, the road to the write life is definitely one worth taking — and one we’re excited to help you travel.
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Not sure where to send those great short stories you’ve written?
As with writing contests and fellowships, sometimes it can be hard to know where to begin. To help you figure out where to submit short stories, we’ve put together this guide to 23 publications that publish short fiction. The list includes a mix of publications across various genres and styles, ranging from prestigious, highly competitive options to those specifically seeking new and emerging voices.
While we’ll give you a brief idea of the flavor of each magazine and site, you’ll definitely want to spend some time reading your target publications before submitting to become familiar with the sort of pieces they prefer. And before hitting “send,” make sure you’re not making any of these submission mistakes!
Ready to get started? Here are 23 outlets that publish short stories.
1. The New Yorker
Might as well start with a bang, right? Adding publication in The New Yorker to your portfolio puts you in a whole new league, though it won’t be easy. Author David. B. Comfort calculated the odds of an acceptance at 0.0000416 percent!
It accepts both standard short fiction as well as humorous short fiction for the “Shouts & Murmurs” section. No word counts are mentioned, though a quick scan of the column shows most pieces are 600 to 1,000 words.
Payment: Huge bragging rights; pay for unsolicited submissions isn’t specified. Who Pays Writers lists several paid pieces, though as of this post’s publication, no rates specifically for short stories.
2. The Atlantic
Another highly respected magazine, The Atlantic publishes both big names and emerging writers in fiction and nonfiction. Submission guidelines advise, “A general familiarity with what we have published in the past is the best guide to what we’re looking for.”
Payment: Unsolicited submissions are generally unpaid, although if the editors choose your piece for online content, you may receive $100-$200 depending on genre and length.
3. The Threepenny Review
This quarterly arts magazine focuses on literature, arts and society, memoir and essay. Short stories should be no more than 4,000 words, while submissions to the “Table Talk” section (pithy, irreverent and humorous musings on culture, art, politics and life) should be 1,000 words or less.
Payment: $400 for short stories; $200 for Table Talk pieces
4. Zoetrope: All-Story
Founded by Francis Ford Coppola and Adrienne Brodeur in 1997, Zoetrope: All-Story’s mission is “to explore the intersection of story and art, fiction and film” and “form a bridge to storytellers at large, encouraging them to work in the natural format of a short story.” Submissions should be no more than 7,000 words.
Payment: None, but this magazine has discovered many emerging writers and published big names like Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez, so publication here could win you some serious prestige points.
5. One Story
One Story is just what the name says: a literary magazine that publishes one great short story every three to four weeks, and nothing more.
Its main criteria for a great short story? One “that leaves readers feeling satisfied and [is] strong enough to stand alone.” Stories can be any style or subject but should be between 3,000 and 8,000 words.
Deadline: January 15 to May 31st and September 1 to November 14
Payment: $500 plus 25 contributor copies
6. The Antioch Review
The Antioch Review rarely publishes more than three short stories per issue, but its editors are open to new as well as established writers. Authors published here often wind up in Best American anthologies and as the recipients of Pushcart prizes.
To make the cut, editors say, “It is the story that counts, a story worthy of the serious attention of the intelligent reader, a story that is compelling, written with distinction.” Word count is flexible, but pieces tend to be under 5,000.
Deadline: Open except for the period of June 1 to September 1
Payment: $20 per printed page plus two contributor copies
Thought-provoking is the name of the game if you want to get published in AGNI. Its editors look for pieces that hold a mirror up to the world around us and engage in a larger, ongoing cultural conversation about nature, mankind, the society we live in and more.
There are no word limits, but shorter is generally better; “The longer a piece is, the better it needs to be to justify taking up so much space in the magazine,” note the submission guidelines.
Payment: $10 per printed page (up to a max of $150) plus a year’s subscription, two contributor’s copies and four gift copies
Published by an independent nonprofit literary organization, Barrelhouse’s biannual print journal and online issue seek to “bridge the gap between serious art and pop culture.” Its editors look for quality writing that’s also edgy and funny — as they say, they “want to be your weird Internet friend.”
There’s no hard word count, but try to keep your submission under 8,000 words.
Deadline: Currently open for books, comics, and a few other categories. Check the webpage to see all open categories and sign up for the email list to learn as soon as new open categories are announced.
Payment: $50 plus two contributor copies (print journal); unpaid (online issue)
9. Cincinnati Review
The Cincinnati Review publishes work by writers of all genres and at all points of their careers. Its editors want “work that has energy,” that is “rich in language and plot structure” and “that’s not just ecstatic, but that makes is reader feel ecstatic, too.”
Fiction and nonfiction submissions should be no more than 40 double-spaced pages.
This cool quarterly is all about jumpstarting that pesky writer’s block. Each issue contains short fiction stories (300-5,000 words) that each begin with the same pre-assigned first line. You can also write a nonfiction critical essay (500-800 words) about your favorite first line from a piece of literary work.
If you really want to get ambitious, you can also write a four-part story that uses each of that year’s first lines (which is due by the next year’s spring issue deadline). To find each issue’s assigned first line, check out the submission guidelines below.
Deadline: February 1 (spring); May 1 (summer); August 1 (fall); November 1 (winter)
Payment: $25 to $50 (fiction); $25 (nonfiction) plus a contributor’s copy
11. The Georgia Review
Another one high on the prestige list, The Georgia Review features a wide variety of essays, fiction, book reviews and more across a wide range of topics. You can read specific requirements for each in the submission guidelines below, but the common theme among them all is quality, quality, quality.
Bear in mind submitting requires a $3 processing fee if you’re not a subscriber.
Deadline: Open except for the period of May 15 to August 15
Payment: $50 per printed page
12. Boulevard Magazine
Boulevard Magazine is always on the lookout for “less experienced or unpublished writers with exceptional promise.” It accepts prose pieces (fiction and nonfiction) up to 8,000 words (note: no science fiction, erotica, westerns, horror, romance or children’s stories).
Camera Obscura is a biannual independent literary journal that publishes contemporary literary fiction and photography. Fiction should be between 250 and 8,000 words, although its editors have made exceptions for the occasional “exceptional novella” between 12,000 and 30,000 words.
You can also try your hand at a “Bridge the Gap” piece, where you review the current photo gallery and construct a story that “Takes the reader on an unexpected journey from the first image to the next.”
Deadline: Stay tuned to the guidelines page to find out when the next deadline is announced.
Payment: $1,000 to one featured writer published in each issue, as determined by the editors; all other contributors receive two copies of the issue in which they are published. The best Bridge the Gap piece receives $50.
Open to a wide variety of fiction from mainstream to avant-garde, Crazyhorse puts no limitations on style or form. If you’ve got something people haven’t seen before and won’t be able to forget, its editors are looking for it.
Crazyhorse also accepts nonfiction of any sort, including memoirs, journal entries, obituaries, etc. — we told you it’s open to anything! Keep your word count between 2,500 and 8,500 words.
Deadline: Open for submissions from September 1 to May 31, except for the month of January (when it only accepts entries for the Crazyhorse Prizes)
Payment: $20 per printed page (up to a max of $200)
Story Magazine is, you guessed it, all about the story, whatever shape it takes. Each issue is based around a theme, but its editors encourage writers to think outside the box when it comes to how to address that theme — fiction, nonfiction, hybrid forms, “hermit-crab essays” and more are all up for consideration.
Deadline: Open January 1 to May 1 (print magazine); open February, April, June, August, and October (online)
Payment: Not specified
16. Vestal Review
Prefer to keep your short stories extremely short? Vestal Review publishes flash fiction of no more than 500 words. Its editors are open to all genres except for syrupy romance, hard science fiction and children’s stories, and they have a special fondness for humor. R-rated content is OK, but stay away from anything too racy, gory or obscene.
Deadline: Submission periods are February to May and August to November
Payment: Ten cents per word (for stories up to 100 words); five cents per word (101-200 words); three cents per word (201-500 words). “Stories of great merit” in their estimation can receive up to a $25 flat fee.
17. Flash Fiction Online
Flash Fiction Online allows for slightly longer flash stories — between 500 and 1,000 words. Its editors like sci-fi and fantasy but are open to all genres. As with Vestal, stay away from the heavier stuff like erotica and violence. As of March 1, 2015, FFO accepts previously published works.
Payment: $60 per story, two cents per word for reprints
18. Black Warrior Review
Black Warrior Review publishes a mix of work by up-and-coming writers and nationally known names. Fiction pieces of up to 7,000 words should be innovative, challenging and unique; its editors value “absurdity, hybridity, the magical [and] the stark.”
BWR also accepts flash fiction under 1,000 words and nonfiction pieces (up to 7,000 words) that examine and challenge beliefs and boundaries. There is a $3 submission fee.
Deadline: Submission periods are December 1 to March 1 and June 1 to September 1
Payment: A one-year subscription to BWR and a nominal lump-sum fee (amount not disclosed in its guidelines)
19. The Sun Magazine
The Sun Magazine offers some of the biggest payments we’ve seen, and while its guidelines specifically mention personal writing and provocative political/cultural pieces, they also say editors are “open to just about anything.”
Works should run no more than 7,000 words. Submit something the editors love, and you could get a nice payday.
Payment: A one-year subscription, plus $300 to $2,000
20. Virginia Quarterly (VQR)
A diverse publication that features both award-winning and emerging writers, VQR accepts short fiction (2,000 to 8,000 words) but is not a fan of genre work like romance, sci-fi, etc. It also takes nonfiction (3,500 to 9,000 words) like travel essays that examine the world around us.
Payment: Generally $1,000 and above for short fiction and prose (approximately 25 cents per word) with higher rates for investigative reporting; $100 to $200 for content published online.
Ploughshares’ award-winning literary journal is published by Boston’s Emerson College. They accept fiction and nonfiction under 6,000 words and require a $3 service fee if you submit online (it’s free to submit by mail, though they prefer digital submissions).
Deadline: June 1 at noon EST through January 15 at noon EST
Payment: $45 per printed page (for a minimum of $90 per title and a maximum of $450 per author).
Shimmer “encourages authors of all backgrounds to write stories that include characters and settings as diverse and wondrous as the people and places of the world we live in.”
Traditional sci-fi and fantasy need not apply; Shimmer’s editors are after contemporary fantasy and “speculative fiction” with strong plots, characters and emotional core — the more unique the better. Keep your stories under 7,500 words (4,000 words is around the sweet spot).
Payment: Five cents per word (for a minimum of $50)
23. Daily Science Fiction
Sci-fi and fantasy writers, this one’s for you. Daily Science Fiction is looking for character-driven fiction, and the shorter, the better. While their word count range is 100 to 1,500 words, they’re especially eager to get flash fiction series (several flash stories based around a central theme), science fiction, fantasy, and slipstream.
Deadline: Open except for the period between December 24 to January 2
Payment: Eight cents per word, with the possibility of additional pay for reprints in themed Daily Science Fiction anthologies
Where to find more places to submit your short stories
These 23 magazines and online publications are just a small subset of what’s out there. For more potential places to share your short fiction, check out the following resources, several of which helped us compile this list:
I love reading about other writers’ routines: Ernest Hemingway wrote at dawn, Maya Angelou wrote out of a hotel room, Alice Munro writes for three hours and walks for three miles.
Freelancers also need routines — and because we have multiple demands on our time besides writing, we need our routines to be a little more specific than, to quote Hemingway, “write every morning as soon after first light as possible.”
I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for six years, and having a daily routine — one that includes time for writing, rewriting, pitching and administrative work — has been one of the secrets of my success.
In fact, I’m pretty sure my routine has helped me earn more money. Here’s how.
If you don’t make time to send out pitches, you won’t book any work. If you don’t make time to complete the work, you won’t earn any money. If you don’t take time to do all of the administrative work associated with freelancing — following up with clients, keeping track of business expenses, maintaining a website — you won’t grow your career.
Turning my day into a daily routine helped me make time for all of the work that freelancing requires — and it also helped me avoid the decision fatigue that comes with asking yourself “what am I going to do today?” over and over again. I already know: I’m going to check the news, I’m going to check my email, I’m going to check social media and then I’m going to write for an hour. Knowing what you’re going to do every day helps you get it done.
2. A routine prevents procrastination
If you start writing every day at 9:30 a.m. (or at dawn, if you’re like Hemingway), you’ll get used to spending that time writing. You’ll be less tempted to spend it doing laundry or refreshing Twitter, because your mind and body already know that it’s writing time.
Building a routine is a great procrastination-buster, because you’ll be able to schedule time for social media and afternoon snacks and anything else you usually do instead of doing your work. If you spend a lot of time reading sites like The Write Life, for example, add 30 minutes of “reading time” into your routine — and then when “writing time” comes around again, you’ll be ready.
3. A routine keeps you balanced
I start every day with 45 minutes of yoga. I also take two 30-minute walk breaks: one after lunch, and one and at the end of my workday. (Alice Munro isn’t the only writer who loves long walks.)
These breaks are non-negotiable; I don’t have to “earn” them, but I don’t get to turn them into extra writing time, either.
Building yoga and walking into my routine helps me stay balanced. It also helps me feel like I’m able to handle multiple priorities: the work I owe my clients, and the breaks I owe myself. Most of us have multiple priorities, whether we’re balancing work/life, writing/family, or freelancing/day job. (Or all of the above!) Make sure your routine includes time for all of your priorities — otherwise, you risk burning out.
4. A routine sets limits
If your day includes 30 minutes of morning email, a writing block from 9:30 to noon, an hour for lunch, an administrative hour, and then a writing block from 2 to 5, you know you can only schedule as much writing as can be completed in those two blocks. Freelancers often have trouble knowing when to say no—an extra assignment, even if it’s a bad one, can bring in a few extra dollars, right?
Once you have a routine, you’ll know exactly how many writing hours you have per week — and once you know how long it takes you to complete a typical assignment, you’ll have a good idea of how many assignments you can accept. These types of limits help keep your freelance work from taking over your entire life.
5. A routine requires you to maximize your time — and your income
So you’ve built your routine, you have your daily writing blocks, and you know roughly how much work you can complete in a week. There’s one more step in the process: Maximizing your time by working for the highest possible rates.
Whatever you choose to do, let your routine be your guide. You know how much time you have available to write, so don’t sell yourself short — literally. Set your writing blocks, stick to them, and make sure you’re earning as much as possible. Then get ready to do the whole thing again tomorrow.
Do you have a daily routine? Has it helped you avoid procrastination, balance multiple priorities and earn more money?
The day you’ve either longed for or dreaded has finally arrived.
You check your email and see a message from your editor with the subject: Edits Complete.
Your heart skips at least a beat as you scramble to save your edited manuscript to your computer. Then you open that just-received document, hoping to see the few things you missed so you can finally get to the next step of your publishing journey.
Except your expected quota of errors for your entire manuscript is already exceeded within the first five pages.
The longer you keep scrolling through your marked-up manuscript, the farther your jaw drops. Before even reaching the end, you close the document, slap your hand on your desk, curse your dog and swear that “this writing thing” is a frivolous waste of time.
Ten minutes later, you’re back at your desk, looking through your edits.
An optimistic thought passes through your mind: I can handle this. In fact, most of these edits seem pretty helpful. Guess I just need to dig into my manuscript. Again.
Receiving edits, especially for a first-timer suffering, er, undergoing their first edit, can be a reality shock. Many authors believe that writing “The End” is the end. Truth be told, that’s just the beginning of the writing phase of creating a book. The editing phase could take just as long.
And don’t even get me started on how long the marketing phase takes.
To help you make the most of your time during that last mile of the editing phase, consider these seven tips on what to do after your edit.
1. Don’t freak out
Although your manuscript may be swimming in a sea of red, you won’t drown in it if you refuse to freak out. To keep your head above water, take a deep breath.
Realize that even good, experienced writers may receive hundreds of edits within a book.
Understand that this is part of the process. Consider a heavy edit as your rite of passage into the family of authors. This is how you grow as a writer.
If you wind up denying a majority of your edits, you need to let your editor know that. Either you hired a bad editor — it can happen — or your knowledge of grammar or publishing standards isn’t what you think it is.
A major pain point for editors is having their names attached to books that are ultimately published with errors that the editor initially corrected. If you find yourself rejecting a majority of changes, talk to your editor about it. Either let them rectify the situation or humble your writer’s ego to learn why their edits are correct.
3. Ask questions where appropriate
If you’re deeply unsure about an edit and you’ve attempted to research the question at hand, email a short question to your editor about their change. If you disagree with their edit, have a legitimate argument for your disagreement.
Unless you’re discussing dialogue or poetry, “It just sounds right” is rarely a legitimate argument with an editor.
4. Return your accepted edits to your editor
Because their professional integrity is also on the line when your book will be released to the public, your editor may want to review the final product before it’s released.
Some editors may stipulate in their contracts that you return all accepted edits to them for final approval. Some editors may not.
However, consider it a point of professional pride to send your accepted edits back to your editor for their final approval. They will appreciate your thoroughness and thoughtfulness.
Nowhere is this more important than when you have a finalized, fully edited manuscript residing on your computer.
Considering how much time and expense you’ve put into creating that manuscript, you don’t want to lose it. Save it to your hard drive, an external storage device and a cloud service, and then email it to a trusted friend.
6. Hire a formatter and a proofreader
While formatting tools have a come a long way even in recent years — consider my Vellum review — I still recommend hiring a professional book designer to format your interior for both print and digital versions of your book.
When you hire a true pro, your book’s interior will show it.
To ensure that you’re putting your book’s best face forward, hire a proofreader too. Contrary to popular belief, an editor is not your last line of defense against bad book reviews citing “bad editing.”
While an editor will certainly be responsible for catching a majority of errors, a proofreader is necessary to catch errors introduced after the edit. For instance, you may have inadvertently rejected an edit on a typo. Or the formatter may have unintentionally inserted a hyphen. Or ebook conversion software may have changed your curly quotation marks to straight quotation marks.
Because errors may worm themselves into your book after the initial edit is complete, a proofreader proofs the final formatted version of a manuscript to ensure every line is ready for publication. Traditional publishers employ this last step; so should self-publishers.
Once you’ve meticulously worked your way through your edits, your editor has signed off on the final product, and your manuscript is being vetted by your publishing company or being formatted and proofed by freelancers, take a moment to relish your victory.
You’ve endured the rite of passage every author must face. You’ve walked through your personal red sea. You’ve nearly arrived on the opposite shore, the Promised Land of “published author.”
And you have at least a few months, and maybe even a year or more, before you have to — get to — do it all over again.
Project proposals are an essential tool for any freelancer.
Being able to put together a document explaining just what you can offer your client and how much it will cost can help you secure business.
Keep in mind there isn’t one ideal proposal format for every project. Every proposal will be unique based on your client’s needs and your offerings, but they will all contain the same basic elements: A proposal of what you can do for your client, a description of how you’ll do it and an estimate of how much this will cost.
Read on to learn how to put together a project proposal.
Be sure to include basic information in your project proposal like your name, contact information, website, the date, the company you’re preparing the proposal for and your contact’s name.
You’ll likely want to submit it to your client as a PDF to ensure you don’t have any issues with formatting. You may wish to include graphics or visuals or keep it simple with just plain text.
However you submit it, make sure you’ve spell-checked and edited it thoroughly. Making a good impression is very important.
When putting the proposal together, you’ll want to outline the various components of the project.
If you’re creating a proposal for website copy, don’t just write “website copy.” That could mean vastly different things to different people. You might envision that as 2,000 words, while your client might see that as an open-ended proposal to write 100,000 words or more.
Instead, detail the components you are able to provide. Specify that you can provide 300 words of copy for the company’s “about page,” 200-word bios for five staffers, and three 500-word pages of text detailing the company’s services.
Of course, you’ll want to have some flexibility and to be able to change things to meet your client’s needs.
The proposal is just a starting point. You’ll want to have all the details completely hammered out by the time you sign a contract.
Scope of work
Be sure to outline the scope of work you can provide to avoid any misunderstandings later. Some clients may not understand the services you offer, so be clear.
If they need a website designed and you only provide writing services, be sure to specify what you can offer. Will you subcontract a designer? Will you source images for them? Will you edit HTML? Will you upload the copy into their CMS? Or will you just provide copy?
Be sure to be as specific as possible so they know what is and is not included in your estimate.
Also be sure to clarify the number of edits you will provide. It often works best to say you will work with one point of contact on a specified number of rounds of edits. If you don’t specify one point of contact, you may be dealing with a dozen different staff members with different ideas about what they would like. By having the company designate one person to compile the company’s thoughts, that should help streamline the process.
You will also want to specify whether you are talking about “light copy edits” or “developmental edits” so you are on the same page. You may need to explain what these terms mean to your clients.
Finally, be sure to define how you will submit the final materials. You don’t want to run into a situation where you think you’re emailing a Word document and the client expects you to input material directly into its CMS complete with links and formatting. Be sure to clarify exactly how you will submit materials and be sure to consider that in your pricing.
In your proposal, provide an estimate for a timeline. You may prefer to say something like “two weeks from contract signing” or list specific dates. Be sure to keep in mind that it may take a while to get from the proposal stage to the point where it’s time to begin the project.
Look at your calendar when providing this estimate and realistically see when you have other big projects due, any upcoming vacations, or other plans that may require a reduced workload for a time.
Be sure to also provide deadlines for the company to provide information, interviews, edits, and other necessary information and feedback.
Remember these dates will likely change as you move forward toward a contract, but it’s good to have an estimate of how long each step will take as a starting point.
Pricing your proposal
Typically, when pricing your project many writers prefer to develop a project fee rather than provide an hourly rate.
To set your project fee, estimate how long a project will take you and multiply that by your hourly rate. You may wish to add a bit of a cushion if you think it may take a bit longer. The Editorial Freelancers Association has a good list of rates for different types of projects.
A flat fee for a clearly defined scope of work minimizes the chances of financial surprises for you and your client. If you complete the project a bit more efficiently than you expected, you earn more per hour. If it takes you longer, your client won’t have to pay extra. Of course, if you do quote a flat fee, it’s important to have a really good idea how long the project will take you so you don’t end up scrambling or feeling short-changed.
After you submit your proposal, be sure to follow up promptly. Depending on the urgency of the project and your relationship with the potential clients, you might want to follow up as soon as the next day (or even the day of submission if it’s urgent) to see if they have any questions or you can provide additional information.
Give them a little time to mull it over and reach out again to see if they’re interested in moving forward or if they have any additional questions.
Many freelancers prefer to have a signed contract before moving forward, and many require at least a partial payment up front. Find out what works best for you and go from there.
However you put your proposal together, just remember that it’s only a starting point. Collaborate with your potential client to make sure the details work well for both of you. Don’t be intimidated by putting together your first project proposal. The more you write, the easier they will become.
Whether you cover technology or hockey, it’s important to know what’s going on and stay on top of the latest news in your field.
Knowing what’s going on in your field can help you land more stories, and it might help you become your editor’s “go to” person for related topics.
Follow these techniques to stay on top of your beat.
1. Use Google Alerts
Writers use Google Alerts in all sorts of different ways. You can use this free service to subscribe to companies, people or phrases, and Google Alerts will send you an email notification when the keywords appear online.
Many writers have a Google Alert set up for their name so they see when they’ve been mentioned or have an article published.
This is also a useful way to stay on top of your niche and the main subjects you cover. If you cover technology, you might want to set up an alert for a specific technology company or a specific kind of technology or an aspect of the field.
Of course, when you receive an alert, that means someone else has already covered the topic. This is a great way to stay on top of current developments in the field, but not the best way to break the news yourself.
2. Subscribe to journals
Whether you cover penguins or parenting, there are likely at least a few research journals that may be of use to you. When you subscribe to academic journals, you can read studies and articles about your field and stay up to date on the latest research.
Joining a society or organization in your field is often a good way to access these journals as many memberships include a subscription or a way to access one or more relevant journals.
You can also read many subscription-based journals for free at a local public or academic library.
3. Network and use your contacts
In order to stay on top of the latest developments, cultivate great sources and have a chance to break some news yourself, it’s important to network and have contacts in your field.
If you cover aerospace, reach out to leading aerospace researchers and ask them to keep you up to date on their latest developments. Ask to be included on their public relations media list. However, they are busy with their research and reaching out to the media is likely not one of their top priorities, so you will have to be proactive.
Check in from time to time and see what’s new. They may be able to give you a heads-up on the research they are currently working on or an upcoming newsworthy project. See what’s going on and check in later to stay on top of their work.
Be sure to clarify with your subjects what is “on the record” and what is “off the record.” Some may give you a heads-up about a project coming down the line in a few months but not be ready to officially comment on the topic.
4. Attend industry conferences
While cultivating individual relationships with the top experts in your field is important, it takes up a lot of time to track down a dozen or more individuals and stay on top of what each one is doing.
In order to optimize your time, consider attending industry conferences and events to see a number of prominent experts in one place. Use the time to network, cultivate contacts and learn everything you can about the field.
Industry conferences are different from writing conferences. Writing conferences include writers, editors and agents, while industry conferences feature scientists, researchers and top industry experts sharing their knowledge.
Conferences typically host panels, speakers, and events where you can also get story ideas. Be sure to check with conference organizers and presenters to see what is “on the record.”
Sometimes, these types of events involve presentations on in-progress research and other developments they want to share with colleagues but aren’t prepared to share with the wider world. You don’t want to get on an important contact’s bad side by sharing preliminary results without the proper context, so be sure to make sure the findings are ready to publish.
Staying on top of your beat will take a certain amount of time, but it’s invaluable to cultivate important contacts and learn as much as you possibly can about your field.
When you know the people, the latest developments, and understand the field thoroughly, you can make yourself a “go to” reporter on the topic.
Though working solo has many benefits, everyone has moments when they wish they could stop by a coworker’s desk to ask a question, get feedback on an idea or simply share a crazy client story.
I worked on my own for several years before going in-house as a staff writer for a personal finance website. And, while I missed the freedom of working remotely, I loved the daily banter with my colleagues. Not only was the camaraderie enjoyable, it often sparked my creativity.
So, when I returned to freelancing a year ago, I wanted to bring a bit of that feeling along with me — and I started a writers mastermind group.
What is a mastermind group?
Napoleon Hill, author of The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich, is largely credited with introducing the word “mastermind” in the 1920s, though the concept has been around far longer than that.
Organized by entrepreneurs across industries, a mastermind is a group of peers who meet regularly to set goals, overcome challenges and use their collective brainpower to accelerate business growth.
Famous mastermind participants include Franklin Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates — even the Knights of the Round Table!
And they’re still very much in vogue today. As the legendary online entrepreneur Pat Flynn writes: “A mastermind group is mandatory to achieve online success… I would not be where I’m at today if it weren’t for the mastermind groups that I’ve been a part of.”
My mastermind consists of five female freelance writers. We meet once a month over Google Hangouts to share highs and lows, resources and encouragement.
I always look forward to our call, as it’s one of the only times I get to have honest conversations about writing with people who understand what I’m talking about. I also learn so much from my fellow group members, and love the support we provide each other.
5 steps for starting a writers’ mastermind group
Becoming part of a writers mastermind can certainly be a boon for your career — and your mental health.
So, rather than waiting around to be invited to one, why not start one yourself? Here are five steps to follow.
1. Outline your goals and rules
The first thing to figure out is what you want to gain from your mastermind. Collect your thoughts in a Google Doc that you can share with potential members.
For example, here was my mastermind’s main goal: “To grow our writing careers while traveling the world — and without going crazy.”
In the document, I also included secondary goals about accountability, perspective, support and inspiration, as well as the proposed schedule and rules. Some examples: “Show up every month (if you miss three calls, you’ll be asked to leave the group)” and “Listen openly and without judgment.”
Though I’m generally not a stickler for rules, I thought they were important to mention. That way, potential members would take the group seriously, as well as understand the type of environment I hoped to create.
2. Determine your meeting cadence
Most mastermind groups meet once a week or once a month.
My mastermind meets from 3-5 p.m. EST on the first Wednesday of every month. Having a regular time makes it easier for us to fit the meeting into our schedules (and to remember when it’s occurring!).
Determining your meeting cadence will also determine your meeting structure. In many weekly masterminds, for example, each member offers a brief update, then one person is in the “hot seat” with the rest of the meeting focused on their business and goals.
Since my mastermind only meets once a month, we all take turns sharing our highs, lows and goals, then it’s an open floor for any member to discuss challenges they’re facing.
3. Choose your tribe
This is the most important step in creating a writers mastermind: Who are you going to invite?
Here’s some common advice for choosing your mastermind’s members:
Invite three to five other people: Any more, and your sessions will go too long; any less, and it’ll be overly detrimental if someone can’t make it.
Choose peers: Try to find people in similar stages of their careers. If someone’s significantly further along, it’ll probably feel more like a coaching session for them — rather than an open exchange with peers.
In terms of the type of writing your members do, I’ve found it helpful that all of my mastermind’s members are freelance writers. I purposely also chose people who enjoy traveling, since it’s something we can all bond over.
To find my members, I turned to my personal network: Three were writers I’d met at conferences, and one was a friend of another member.
4. Create a shared space
You’re going to need somewhere to record the ideas generated during your calls and continue the conversation in between.
For my mastermind, I created a private Facebook group where we ask questions and share resources. We also have a few documents where we’ve written out successful pitches (though, to be honest, we don’t use this as much as we should).
If you’re not into Facebook, you could do this via Slack or another platform; choose what works best for you.
5. Get going
Now all that’s left to do is get started! It probably won’t be perfect, but you’ll be able to fix any bumps along the way — with the help of your new mastermind buddies.
Or, as those in the tech world would say, “Ship fast and iterate.”
One year into our writers mastermind, we’re still figuring out how to improve our processes. For example, we recently began assigning one notetaker per meeting, since so many good ideas are shared in the moment (and it’s tough to remember them all).
Bumps aside, starting a writers mastermind group was one of the highlights of my year.
It’s been so helpful to chat with these fellow writers; to know they’re on my side when I’m having a rough day (or month), to know they’re there for my silly questions and to know we’re all helping each other progress in our writing careers.
This may be my first mastermind — but I can tell you with confidence it won’t be my last.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!
Professional creators should use professional tools.
After all, how would you feel if you went to a restaurant and noticed the food was being cooked in cheap microwaves by chefs using low-quality equipment? You would probably rightly assume the output from substandard tools would be a substandard meal.
Writers are no different.
To produce the best work possible, it’s vital to find the right tools for the job.
How many writers do you know who still use a standard word processor app like Microsoft Word? Perhaps you even do yourself. Why? It’s often due to a lack of knowledge about what else is out there.
I still remember the day I found something better and tried it out for the first time.
That something better was a writing tool named Scrivener.
Here’s how this tool has made a major difference to my writing process.
1. Better research and planning
The self-publishing marketplace is more crowded and competitive than ever before.
In the past, it was possible to release a hastily written book containing the minimum of research, and still experience success. Those days are gone. Success in the current climate requires careful and conscious research.
Research isn’t easy. We live in an era of unprecedented information and ideas.
Curating the best and most suitable concepts for your book is no easy task. Yet so many writers make it even tougher than it needs to be by taking a scattergun approach to the collection and storage of information.
Before I discovered Scrivener, my research process typically involved a mess of folders, files and illogically named documents. Even worse, leaving my writing software and accessing my research disrupted my creative flow and led to procrastination and distraction.
Scrivener helped me to collect, organize and access my research in a way I never even knew was possible. Within Scrivener, you have all of your research directly available, next to the actual writing environment itself, as seen below.
Being able to see all of your research without having to leave your writing software is an incredible time-saver and productivity-booster. You never have to run the risk of forgetting about a useful piece of research while in the throes of creation.
Some of the best research and planning features of Scrivener for fiction writers include the ability to create, store and access detailed character notes, create a detailed and useful outline of your story, and to store images and ideas related to setting and location.
2. Writing well
Any specialist writing software worth your time and money needs to offer functionality and benefit when it comes to the actual activity of writing itself.
While research and planning are important, the core activity for writers will always be, unsurprisingly, writing itself. Thankfully, Scrivener does not disappoint in this area.
Some of my favorite aspects of writing while using Scrivener include –
The ability to write in a distraction-free fullscreen mode
The option to use a template created by another writer to structure my work in a tried and tested way
Being able to quickly and easily rearrange chapters and scenes as I write
Write without distraction
If you’ve ever struggled with the problem of being able to zone in on your writing and get things done, you will appreciate the full-screen composition mode offered by Scrivener. It’s a way of digitally tuning out the distractions of the world and zoning in on the vital process of stringing sentences together.
As you can see from the above image, Scrivener blocks out everything but the words you are writing. If you combine this with a time period where you turn off your internet and cellphone, you will truly be able to focus on your writing. The full screen mode shown above displays a plain background, but you can also customize the image seen. Views of nature are a popular choice.
Use templates for successful structures
One of the toughest challenges for me was knowing the proper structure to use when setting out to write a book. This is another area where Scrivener excels.
You can easily download, import and modify Scrivener templates. This gives you a predefined structure for your manuscript and research which allows you to focus on the act of actually creating.
Using templates in Scrivener can also give you the confidence to try out a style or method of writing you may not have experience with. For example, if you’ve wanted to write a screenplay, but haven’t known exactly how, a template can be your best friend.
The above image shows the template selection available when loading up Scrivener. You can always add and modify templates depending on your personal requirements.
Set targets and monitor progress
Almost every writer has a unique approach to measuring progress and monitoring projects. If you like to set targets for your writing, and ensure you stay on track, Scrivener makes it easy. You can easily set writing targets for an individual writing session, or an entire project, and quickly monitor your progress towards them, as seen below.
You can see that the progress box floats over your writing and shows both your overall and session targets.
Scrivener also allows you to quickly combine, separate and rearrange the individual pieces of a writing project. If you are rewriting nonfiction, and aren’t exactly sure of the order you want your chapters to be in, it’s easy to switch up the sequence, as seen below.
3. Formatting and sharing
Have you ever experienced the joy of seemingly finishing a writing project, only to experience unexpected frustration when finding the right format for your work, and exporting it, becomes a nightmare?
This is especially true when writing in software like Microsoft Word. It can be tricky to impossible to find a way of easily converting your work into the right file format. Even if you do manage to export to the file type you need, there’s often no guarantee that your work will look the way you wanted in its final form.
In Scrivener, you can ensure that your writing project will look exactly as you intended after you export it. Some of the options for doing this can be seen below.
Scrivener also supports a wealth of export file formats, which are suited to different types of writing.
Some of the file format supported by Scrivener include –
* .epub (used for Google, iBookstore, Nook and Kobo)
* .mobi (used for the Kindle store)
* .html (used for webpages)
* .PDF (used for Adobe Reader)
* .doc (compatible with MS Word and Google Docs)
This powerful export capability can save both time and money. Exporting with Scrivener can save on the need to hire a freelance worker to carry out the format process for your book. It also can help you to avoid having to invest in a separate piece of software to get the file format you want.
As well as being great for full ebooks, this file format versatility is well-suited to blogging. Bestselling author Michael Hyatt decided to switch to Scrivener for all his writing projects, not just his books. While you may not decide to go this far yourself, it’s good to know that Scrivener is suitable for whatever type of writing project you decide to engage in.
Better Books With Scrivener
Writing a book is a demanding endeavour requiring software that is up to scratch. Scrivener not only produces a better final product, but also makes each and every stage of the writing process easier along the way.
If you have any questions about Scrivener, feel free to comment and I’ll be happy to respond. I’d also love to know about any awesome Scrivener benefits you’ve discovered that I haven’t mentioned here.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!
My brain’s too foggy. The kids stressed me out. I don’t feel good. I’m too tired. My to-do list is calling. I only have a few minutes. The house is a mess. I need coffee. I’ve had way too much coffee. It’s better for me to write in the morning. I have no good ideas. I’m not good at writing. It’s too loud in my house. The kids will be up soon, anyways. I don’t know what to write. My desk is cluttered.
Do any of these sound familiar? Am I reading your mind? Are these types of thoughts keeping you from writing?
I could list 100 or more of these thoughts.
I come up with new ones every single day (if only I were so creative in my writing!). I have not written anything for about two weeks and this perpetual way of thinking really flatlines my writing efforts.
Most of the time, I feel like I am just waiting for the perfect conditions for writing. And as you would expect, those magical conditions never happen.
It’s like I am putting off getting what I need to done until the sun and the moon and the stars align just so.
Then, and only then, I believe I will be able to sit and write with no worries and the words will just flow effortlessly out of my brain and into my fingers as they tap delightfully on my keyboard. And nothing will distract me from my incredible focus because my brain is fresh and clear and I’ve had just the right amount of caffeine to keep me going until every last thought has been captured in the most eloquent way possible.
And yet, even the cosmic rarity of the sun and the moon meeting in a total solar eclipse was not enough to get me to write. Not even one word.
The truth is, the conditions will never be perfect.
I mean, they might have been if I had chosen to be single. And if I had been independently wealthy. And maybe if I lived in some beautiful remote location, with not a care in the world and even a personal chef to boot!
But I’m not and I don’t. Sigh.
I have 3, soon to be 4, kids and a husband who runs his business from home.
My house is loud and disorganized. I don’t even have a desk. Well, actually I do, but I had the brilliant idea to set up my writing station in the kids’ playroom. As if I would have been able to work while the munchkins screamed and played and climbed all over me. Now the desk is so deeply buried that I couldn’t even sit there if I wanted to.
Talk about imperfect conditions!
So, now I’ve come face to face to with reality. All my “perfect condition” requirements are just fantasies that are preventing me from getting into the nitty gritty. The hard aspects of writing. The sitting down and actually doing it, without the reasons and excuses that I allow to hold me back.
The hard part
Writing is an exercise that must be strengthened with practice. Is it hard to sit down at the computer and write while the kids are playing (or screaming or fighting or worse)? Yes.
Is it frustrating to be interrupted just when you’ve gotten to a really good stage of the writing process? Yes.
But, if you don’t work at it, you will continue to get the same results. Day after day of blank pages.
How can you get past the excuses and learn to write no matter the weather? Try these three tips.
1. Recognize the BS thinking
Learn to catch the habitual thoughts in action and recognize them for the excuses that they are. Just doing this removes their power.
Take “The house is a mess” for example. Is it really true that you can’t write until the house is clean? Or, perhaps, you can recognize that the urge to tidy up might be because it is easier to do that than write, and set a goal to pick up the house after you’ve accomplished a writing goal.
2. Stop taking your own temperature
Letting your mood dictate whether it is a good time to write is a quick way to end up not writing. It’s time to stop being so concerned with whether you feel “right” enough to write.
Writing is hard work, especially when you don’t have a formal job structure to keep you on target. Setting strict deadlines and blocking out dedicated times to write can really help get you past the excuses.
And with that, you can get back on track. A writing schedule keeps me committed regardless of how I am thinking or feeling about the task at hand. My silver spoon fantasies still linger but I know what happens when I heed them. Nothing. Nothing at all.
What is your most creative (or ridiculous) excuse not to write? Or, if you’ve conquered your own excuses, share your successful strategy to help other writers.