Do you consider yourself a success as a freelance writer?
I ask because I’m seeing articles and ads that imply you can’t experience success as a freelance writer if you don’t write a book in 90 days or make a six or seven figure income, or have a gillion followers on social media, etc. etc. etc.
It seems a push toward more money, more prestige, more stuff comes around every year or so. Maybe I’m wrong, but some of it feels like they’re trying to convince me I’m not a real writer or a successful writer until I do it there way. When it does I feel like pushing back.
Although I love having money, it’s not what defines success for me any more. I have enough – which for me is I can easily pay my bills, pay for some of my wants and set aside a reasonable amount for the future. The same thing with stuff – lord knows most of us have more stuff than we actually need or can use gracefully or sustainably. As far as writing a book in 90 days? That’s simply not the way I work or want to work. Could I do it? Sure, if I did nothing else. Would it be a good book? Only maybe;I know benefit from at least a second 90 days to polish and hone it, maybe more.
Success as a freelance writer for me
In addition to the above, another way I define success is a sense that I make a positive difference in people’s lives with my writing. Sometimes I get actual confirmation. Readers say I do, in comments, via email and in our forum. I also get the same sort of feedback when I contact those who take advantage of my no-cost, no obligation gift coaching session.
I love it when a client from the past gives me a call out of nowhere! That happened yesterday and it’s going to mean some additional work – writing work that’s easy for me.
And writing is still fun for me. I truly love watching the words appear on the screen, almost like magic. When I’m writing I almost always get lost in it – a meditative state I thoroughly enjoy.
All this adds up to a sense of success to me.
What gives you a sense of success as a freelance writer? Or… what gets in your way? Tell us in comments!
Have you bought into any of these freelance writing myths?
While it’s more likely a beginning writer will fall for these false beliefs, it’s not unknown for writers with some experience to discover they are trapped in one or more of them.
These freelance writing myths are indeed traps because they can slow your freelance writing career or stop it entirely.
Here they are:
A college degree is a must-have
This one has been around since the beginning of college degrees. I don’t know if it originated as part of the marketing of universities and other institutes of higher education or not. It may have fallen out of the academic world.
It’s patently false. There are a ton of writers without degrees. Paste magazine lists 10 famous ones.
While a degree might help you land a writing job – that is, get hired by some corporation to write in their offices about their stuff – in the freelance writing world the idea you need a degree before you can write only stops or delays you. If you decide you want one anyway, great. Just be sure you understand why you’re going for it and that you also understand it’s an extra as far as freelance writing goes.
Your writing has to be perfect – one of the most damaging freelance writing myths
This one makes me crazy for a simple reason: There is no way to know what’s perfect. Particularly about something human created – like writing. There’s no way to judge. Sure you can say you do or don’t like a piece of writing – yours or someone else’s, but that says nothing about how good it is. Demanding perfection can ruin your writing.
Hanging on to the idea that you know or will recognize when you write the perfect sentence, or paragraph etc. simply means you’ll never ever be satisfied with your writing. Chances are with this sort of unworkable standard you’ll never really start writing.
It’s impossible to earn a living writing
I often wonder how many parents have perpetuated at least some freelance writing myths. Lots is my hunch, and this is one of most likely. They probably don’t mean to be nay-sayers, they just want to protect you. Others who discourage you may simply be jealous of your willingness to follow your dream.
The trick is to just ignore them. Don’t try to convince them. When you become a successful freelance writer they may change their minds – more likely they’ll call it luck. Just smile and keep doing your thing.
It’s easy to make millions
If only this were true! It’s not. Even those few who look like they make millions writing and always have will tell you how long it took to get there. Oh sure, a few may have stumbled into a great title that made marketing a snap, but they are certainly a limited number.
More likely you’ll run into some internet marking scheme that purports to tell you they have the secret to easy cash. And they do – by promising way more than they can deliver they get gullible folks to pay them lots of money for little solid information. Scams in other words.
There are great teachers and classes out there – make sure to check references and do the rest of your due diligence before you sign up and pay.
The internet makes freelance writing easy
No, the internet doesn’t make writing easy, although there are scammers out there that try to sell you on that idea.
The ‘net does make it easier to find markets for your writing – that’s absolutely true. It also makes it easier to actually learn how to write, how to improve your writing and how to market your writing. It’s easier to get information, but that info must be put to consistent use if it’s to pay off for you.
You must discover your niche and stick to it
A niche can be handy. I’ve got one telling freelance writers how to write and market themselves. It’s kinda cool, but I certainly don’t stick only to this one. I also write about 12 Step Recovery, Buddhism, and sometimes weird industrial topics like steel tanks etc. Back in the day I wrote about running and sailing off shore.
A writer friend of mine has a niche but also finds writing gigs about things she wants to learn – great approach.
The real secret to writing is to write – I find niches develop. It’s one of freelance writing myths that you need one.
You get to take lots of time off
Well, maybe. But usually not in the beginning. While it’s true you have more control over how and when you spend your work time, chances are you’ll work more than a 40 hour week. Maybe half of that will be time actually spent writing. The rest is marketing and managing your business. Terry Cole-Whitaker once said “we entrepreneurs will spend 80 hours to avoid working 40 for someone else.” I understand, and if you don’t, you will.
What other freelance writing myths are you familiar with?
Ever wish you could spy on those folks actually hiring writers? What clues might you find? How do they think? What makes them decide one writer over another? Any information on these issues is welcomed.
I clicked on a link that I think I’m going to reference on my pro site.
The first roughly half of the article addresses just about everything we freelance writers for hire gripe about when we mutter about the folks who hire us. Since this article is aimed at our customer, it seems worth studying. Not only are we likely to lean something, we could use of these ideas could be used by us when we’re demonstrating our value to existing and potential clients.
Her advice to companies about what figuring out what they need to know to hire a writer that will meet or exceed their needs is darn close to revolutionary! She even sets out some pay rates that look good.
Megan also suggests that businesses can find writers through writing services. As a writer looking for work I’ve always stayed away from these because I’ve found their pay rates to be poor and the support of the writer almost nil. Maybe I’ve not looked closely enough.
Social media to show my chops?
I haven’t thought much of shaping my social media posts in order to generate interest in my writing. I can see how that might become a valuable strategy – something I will be thinking about more now.
Work with a digital agency
I’m sure there are some digital agencies hiring writers. Vertical Measures doesn’t seem to be one of them unless you want to work in their Phoenix offices – not my definition of freelance at all. Who knows, you might love it. And I’ll bet there are digital agencies who would love hiring writers who work from home.
I want more about business hiring writers!
I wanted to know more so I googled how to hire writers 2018. Yikes, millions of pages, and a bunch of dreck too. That’s one reason I added the year – advice from 1999 probably doesn’t totally apply.
One middling example is Hire a freelancer writer in 2018 and get a good return on money you spend on outsourcing. It’s a long guide and you need to read it if only to discover where some of the notions about low pay for writers come from. I would guess following this advice the employer would receive only marginal ROI. Use it to build counter ideas demonstrating your value. It does, I fear, reflect the thinking of many – which only means we have to do some educating.
Google your way to hiring writers insights
You can search on much more specific terms. I’ll spend some time with how to get hired as a book writer in 2018 and the same as a life coach.
It turns out we can look to business to tell us what business is thinking. Consider Forbes’
You will, however, gain valuable insight into how business thinks about us. Those insights will help you build more effective pitches and become better at your business. Not bad for reading a handful of articles.
Make sense? Let us know what you think of this learning and marketing idea in comments.
Freelance writing advice comes in three flavors – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
How do I know? Simple. In my literally decades of writing I’ve often looked for freelance writing advice. I’ve experienced all three types.
Since I give freelance writing advice I suspect I’ve also given both good and bad advice. I’ve tried to avoid the ugly. I’ve got readers who seem to appreciate and use what I suggest for years at a time. Occasionally I run into a detractor.
The quality of any advice about anything is hard to quantify. So much depends on the motivation of both the advice giver and receiver.
Good freelance writing advice
Good freelance writing advice comes from someone whose been in the business awhile. As a rule of thumb, I’d want to know the advice giver had been successfully working as a freelance writer for at least five years. That’s fairly arbitrary. I’ve certainly learned more and more every year I’ve been writing, but by the end of five years I’d figured out the basics.
People who truly want to learn the game of freelance writing, and are not looking for a get rich quick scheme, are most likely to find advice that works for them. Advice that helps is truly a two way street.
Bad freelance writing advice
It’s a judgement call, but I think any advice giver who insists they have the only way is likely to be giving poor freelance writing advice. For example, I’ve found one person who is positively dogmatic that everyone start their day with a cold shower. Now, I have no doubt this works for this person. That does not make cold showers a good idea for me!
Others insist we must write every day. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s also not the only way to approach writing.
For example, I like to write first thing in the morning. Works for me and has forever. Which doesn’t mean it will work for you.
About the only advice that is always true is to get some writing done, somehow, some way. I’ve said that over and over again, and so have many others.
Ugly freelance writing advice
Scams are where we find most ugly freelance writing advice. Oh, it’s not the only place, but perhaps the most damaging one. The scams involve charging you money, which is NOT to say that all coaches, courses, etc. that cost are scams.
Pay attention to the claims. While it’s possible to write a book in a month or two or three, it’s truly rare to be able to write a good one in that length of time.
Ask for references. If they say no because of privacy concerns, suggest they pass your contact info to a couple of people for the purpose of finding out more. Check the references!
Use Google to double check the person and what they’re offering.
You can also get horrible freelance writing advice in some forums, and from friends and family. You know what I mean – the naysayers who insist it’s impossible to… not only earn a living writing, but doing anything out of the ordinary. Most negative people don’t mean to hurt you. They can damage your outlook regardless of their intention. Listen cautiously. Tell them you don’t want to hear it. Move away from them. Your attitude and your success is up to you.
Pay attention to your intuition! That still, small voice, or persistent thought or the feeling in your gut is there for a reason. Honor it.
Yes, there are a ton of places these days to get good freelance writing advice. This is one of them, but certainly not the only one.
The Declaration of Independence was written to celebrate our breaking away from the Kingdom of Great Britain on July 4, in 1776, some 242 years ago.
The opening of the second paragraph is perhaps best known:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (Read the full text here.)
The Declaration of Independence left out some folks
It’s a pretty good document. The gaps and misunderstandings can be forgiven as long as we don’t continue to perpetuate them. Consider:
They were not mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, they were absent in the Constitution and they were invisible in the new political democracy. They were the women of early America. ~Howard Zinn
Zinn could have included blacks, Native American’s and any other person of color.
Although a slave owner himself, Thomas Jefferson proposed adding an attack on slavery, which stated in part:
Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he (England’s King George) has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.
This effort kicked off what may be the first recorded debate about slavery in the United States. It was defeated. You can read more about this debate at BlackPast.org Of course, people of color were not considered equal or of having unalienable rights, or many rights at all.
The right to alter or abolish destructive government
I’ve also grown fond of:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…
It was Thomas Jefferson who also said:
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. ~ Thomas Jefferson
Words are indeed powerful
Those who write the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution as well as many other writings from the same period had a way with words. They recognized that both the written and spoken word could fire the imagination and move the arc of history toward love, freedom, and justice. (With a deep bow of respect to Thomas Parker and Martin Luther King.)
My wish for you this holiday is to never lose sight of the power of words to both heal and hurt.
Claudia Suzanne will teach you to become a ghostwriter
Think you’d like to become a ghostwriter? I stumbled into the book ghostwriting part of my freelance writing career.
These days, there’s an easier, softer way. Several years ago I was asked to be a speaker at what was probably the first-ever conference for ghostwriters. It was put on by Claudia Suzanne.
A successful ghostwriter herself she felt the profession needed some opmph and a bit more respectability. She started a certification program for folks who wanted to learn the skills involved.
To earn the certificate you need to take her class. And it’s a wow of a class.
Offered under the auspices of California State University at Long Beach it’s available online and in person.
I grill Claudia about her become a ghostwriter program
I asked here a bunch of questions – they, along with her answers, follow:
How did you become a ghostwriter?
When I couldn’t play the drums anymore (yes, this is a true story), I wrote a book with my pianist husband and our road manager about making a living in the clubs. Our only competition was Kenny Roger’s book, so we were picked up by Watson-Guptil/Billboard Books, plugged on MTV, and sold out quickly and repeatedly around the country–including Samuel French, the biggest music-industry bookstore at the time. We made… enough to cover rent + two bags of groceries each. Six months later, our royalties came to two bags between the three of us. We did better playing dive bars! A friend who was helping me get a handle on my MS had a friend who needed help with a book. Since I’d written one, I wrote another. Then I wrote another. Then I met a literary agent who sent me a client, but he wanted me to write like him, not like me. And the journey began.
Do you include ghosting articles as well as books in your program?
No. I never really learned the knack of writing short. I used to be Executive Editor of a small magazine and had to ghost/rewrite all the submissions into the publication’s voice (rather PEOPLE-ish), but I have little to offer there.
Why did you start your certification program?
Oh, my… well, because I wanted my students to understand they were not just adding another skill to their bag, they were launching a completely new career. It took me quite some to get there, of course, but since we’ve been in CSULB, the program has grown from a 15-week course to a two semester course to its current 11.5 month, masters-level, soup-to-nuts course. And our Professional Certification has grown in stature and respect as a result.
Why do you think ghostwriters need certification?
From Colorado Springs publisher, “A lot of people claim to be ghostwriters, and I’m tired of sorting through them all to find someone who knows how to do the job right!”
What do you say to a writer who isn’t sure they want to be a ghostwriter?
There are three ways to find out: 1) get a gig and see if you can do it on your own by trial and error (that’s how you and I did it, right? and I reply with YES!); 2) find an established pro who will mentor you; or 3) take INTRODUCTION TO GHOSTWRITING and get a taste of what the it’s all about.
How can a writer get a sense of your program so they can decide if it’s for them? That is, in fact, the whole point of taking INTRODUCTION TO GHOSTWRITING. We reveal the entire scope of a ghostwriter’s knowledge base, skill set, mindset transitions, and necessary business acumen–and we jump right in with prerequisite skills, industry information, and an initial mindset transition so students can get a real taste of both the full program AND the real-life profession.
What benefits do students receive?
INTRODUCTION TO GHOSTWRITING students will learn what they need to command $35,000+ fees; the industry-standard style guide (and exceptions for the book business); how to code manuscripts for 21st century acceptance and reflow; an overview of the book business from an insider’s perspective, including the difference between market and audience; the scope and responsibilities of professional ghostwriters vs. freelance and work-for-hire writers; and techniques and approach to interview like a professional ghost rather than a journalist or freelance writer.
Details of the full GHOSTWRITING PROFESSIONAL DESIGNATION PROGRAM
Professional Designation Certifications are signed by the college dean. As of Fall, 2018, graduates will also receive a Digital Badge that includes the industry-specific knowledge bases and skills (*) mastered to complete their certification:
Microsoft Word Coding/Decoding*
Industry and Direct Sale Market Placement
Industry and Chicago Manual of Style Standards
Slinky® flow Restructure*
Nonfiction Musical Line Editing*
Fiction Musical Line Editing*
Nonfiction Book Proposal*
Analysis & Recommendations*
They will also go through a series of mindset transitions:
Freelancer to industry insider
Work-for-hire writer to client equal
Journalist to ghostwriter
Habitual/reactive opinion to deep thinking
Familiar/comfortable to array of possibilities
Writer/author to ghostwriter/project manager
You on the page to you off the page
Critic/evaluator to colleague/supporter
“Literary” not “visual”
Copy editor to musical line editor
Media consumer to industry authority
Ghostwriter to publishing guide/service provider
Client equal to expert authority
One of several competitors to in a class of your own
Book-industry service provider to entrepreneur/business owner
What about graduates?
Professional Ghostwriter Certificate
Signed by the Dean of CCPE/CSULB
Displays your name, the year you earned your certification, and the unique knowledge, skills, tools, and mindset transitions you acquired in the course. Post it on your website, SMN profiles, email signature, and any other digital media or location
The Invitation is to join CertifiedGhostwriters.com for continuing education, news, resources, and community with other certified ghosts to share questions, kudos, and best practices. Among other things it offers one-on-one coaching through your first (or any) professional gig via Wambtac Ghostwriter’s unique apprenticeship program.
What else do you want to tell me about your program?
Lots more info as well as student testimonials at: http://certifiedghostwriters.com/gpdp/ This is a one-of-a-kind, mind-blowing, life-changing, career-launching program that will change the way the student reads and writes for the rest of their life.
Use Promo Code AW2018 and get a 10% discount (and yes, I get a commission as well.)
Vacation plans, or other conflicts? You can register now and take the class asynchronously. They just have to get their assignments in by August 15.
I recommend this class if you want to become a ghostwriter
No, I haven’t taken it – like Claudia I figured it out on my own. I have, however, gotten to know several of her students well enough to be sure they know exactly what they need to know to do a great job ghostwriting books.
Post questions in comments and I’ll make sure Claudia sees them.
Making mistakes is always difficult and having to admit big ones is even worse. Professionally, if this happens, it can be catastrophic and a game ending experience for your business. That is why I almost did not try to resurrect my writing career after some life events knocked out my credibility.
Channeling my constant perfectionism and fear of failure and also being basically somewhat allergic to deadlines, I have always struggled to get to the finish line. Don’t get me wrong; I love what I do and seeing my name in print or on the Web is the ultimate high for me.
Also, since I have always worried that my best will never be good enough, I hesitate when pressing the send button. This has resulted in my having not-so–good relationships with some editors.
Mistakes in communicating circumstances
This situation escalated one winter when I was writing feature articles for a regional magazine and writing test questions for a text book. Everything was going along swimmingly until I fell, broke my wrist (writing hand, of course!) and got a concussion, to boot.
The wrist factor wasn’t so bad, but the effects of a delayed concussion diagnosis went on for some time. I thought my brain could heal as quickly as a broken bone, but I never imagined how light sensitive and computer sensitive my eyes could be.
To my credit, I did stay in touch with my editors, assuring them of my capability. To their credit, they asked if I was able or uncertain and how could they help. Meanwhile, I struggled with every concept and sentence and the stress of the situation made it worse. I had never had a concussion before and I did not understand my limitations. I just knew that I could not think straight and I could hear my professionalism gurgling down the drain.
Four years have passed and the memory of these projects is still very painful, as I realize what a mess I made for them by not being very, very honest early on.
In fairness, sometimes life happens with the most ironic of timing. I just did not want to lose these great projects; so instead, I lost more: the projects and my self-esteem. I did write the editors of the projects to apologize. They didn’t respond. I didn’t think they would, but it was a step in my recovery of the mindset of my career.
The road to recovery is never easy. The writing and editorial world is changing and taking a step a back to adjust and learn new skills has been a good move. I also have created a work plan to be more agile for life events.
That is one of the reasons I chose freelancing in the first place. I know that I can only recover my reputation by cleaning up my resume and increasing my online presence ( different applications work for different people), demonstrating what I did do well in and doing an exceptional job on the work I now have been hired for.
Moving forward, I am building up my portfolio again. I am working on as many leads as I can, and taking less well-paying gigs to get new experience and gain exposure.
I have found that the writing world has moved on, in the venue for submissions, but that is good news. Realizing that media is usually at the forefront of change and that being willing to learn new skills quickly in the ever changing world of publishing has been beneficial. Social media is the main way to network and market. Realizing that posts and blogs are good ways to get published, gain exposure, and build revenue, I am finding new ways to work.
I am grateful for these lessons my mistakes taught me, and think I might not have been so willing if I had had to be pulled, kicking and screaming, from the old paths of writing. For anyone who has had a similar professional journey as mine, be encouraged by author Napoleon Hill’s words, when he said, “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”
So, here’s to what’s around the corner! Mistakes and all!
Copyright 2018 Leslie F. Doyle
Leslie Doyle has finally admitted that she is a real writer after working on all kinds of writing projects, starting with writing short stories when she was ten years old. She has now moved on to working on writing projects in healthcare, non-profits and healthcare, while working in higher education. She also currently works as a writing and public speaking coach for Wyzant and Chegg. She is a proud graduate of the University of Alabama, but now calls Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania home. She gets her best writing ideas when she is gardening or kayaking and one of those is a blog, which she is starting called “57” for those of us who are in the middle of life. You can check out the blog’s progress as you visit her website: LFowlerDoyleCommunications.com
My history with meditation is simple enough. For 25 or 30 years I attempted to meditate from time to time. I failed over and over again. I kept making the effort because I sensed the ever growing number of people suggesting one way or another that meditation could be a huge positive benefit were right. About 10 years ago I found out what I was doing wrong and began to develop a meditation practice.
What is meditation?
Meditation is one of those words that has innumerable meanings. It’s often associated with various religions which confuses things. That’s why, although I’m a practicing zen Buddhist, I like Wikipedia’s definition of best:
Meditation can be defined as a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.
Meditation has been practiced since antiquity in numerous religious traditions and beliefs. Since the 19th century, it has spread from its origins to other cultures where it is commonly practiced in private and business life.
It seems to me that the ability to achieve a sustained “mentally clear and emotionally calm state,” which is pretty much my experience, is desirable for any writer.
I think it’s worth noting that as near as I can tell that while meditating is taught in one form or another by probably all religions, it’s not strictly a religious or even spiritual practice. Google ‘secular meditation’ and you’ll find a ton of information. I am also aware that in some churches there are cautions expressed about the practice.
Meditation can be quite simple. Although most meditators sit, often cross legged on a cushion on the floor, that’s far from the only way. Some use chairs, some lie down, some stand, some walk and sometimes the intense focus we writers develop is a meditative state.
So, find a comfortable posture you can maintain for 10 minutes to an hour.
Ideally the place will be quiet, or quietish, but that’s not necessary. Meditation can take place where it’s too noisy to talk.
Settle in and relax.
Start with your breath as the focus for your meditation. Just watch it as it moves in and out of your body. Let it flow as it will, in and out, in and out. One real advantage to using your breath as your object of meditation is that it’s always with you.
The mistake I was making for so long
So why did I have such trouble learning and using this? Somewhere I had picked up the notion that I should be able to clear my mind of all thought and keep it clear – that if my mind wandered, it didn’t count and I had to start over.
Oh how wrong I was! And I’ve discovered I’m not the only one who has been deluded that way.
Finally I heard someone say “When your mind wanders, just come back to your breath.”
When my mind wanders? Not if, but when!
Minds are meant to think. While my mind might be briefly interested in watching my breath, it soon begins with other ideas like:
wonder if I’ve turned the iron off
noticing that I’m getting hungry and start planning lunch
complaining because someone else in the room is breathing too loudly, or moving to much.
wishing the birds would sing more or shut up
revisiting an argument
remembering a love making session
thinking up new article ideas
scratching or not scratching itches
altering my position or no to get more comfortable
The list is literally endless.
Now here’s the secret:
Just keep bringing your attention back to your breath. Over and over again.
One teacher I heard said it this way, “Even if you have to come back to your breath 10,000 times, it’s a good meditation.”
It is after all referred to many as a practice. And like piano lessons or exercise, or writing it’s hard to get worse at something you practice.
Start with 5 or 10 minutes every day at the same time. See what happens. Chances are you’ll begin to feel some positive results pretty quickly.
These instructions are deliberately simple. They work and you may want to explore any of the 10,000 ways to meditate. Go for it. A lot or a little. You’ll find what works for you.
Let us know your experience with mediation in comments.
thought, thinking, consideration, contemplation, deliberation, pondering, meditation, musing, rumination; formal cogitation “after some reflection, he turned it down”
Your mom and/or some of your teachers may have called it daydreaming, or wasting time.
Productive reflection happens in many ways
Maybe you set aside time to reflect (aka meditate). Or maybe you spend some time skipping stones at the shore, relaxing your mind and allowing it to ponder the secrets of the universe or your corner of it. Sorting buttons, or chopping potatoes can open you up to reflection. There’s something magical about repetitive action. Singing in the shower can also work.
The rush, bustle and constant pings, beeps and burps from our so-called smart phones tend to drive us away from reflection and day dreaming. When we catch ourselves staring out our office window the first thought is often “Oh, I’d better get back to work!”
Even a moment or two of allowing your mind to relax can reap benefits. It allows you to let go of the extraneous and focus on what’s really important.
Expanding brief reflection time to a regular meditation practice can do amazing things. According to a study called Seven-year follow-up shows lasting cognitive gains from meditation, published in Science Daily, benefits can include reduction in age-related mental decline, increased ability to focus and more. What they don’t tell you is you can start with 10 minutes a day and begin to take advantage of the results
Quieting your mind opens it to new ideas
Time spent in quiet reflection about a topic or a train of thought does wonders for opening your mind to new ideas. It makes sense, for example, to reflect on your writing business at least quarterly. This could be a formal meditation or it could be time set aside at a beach, or art museum but with the intention of thinking creatively about your business.
Another approach is to do it monthly and reflect on specific topics. Topics might include:
Branding me and my business
Who now is my perfect client?
I need help; how and who can help me?
What’s worked – and what have I learned from it; what hasn’t worked and what have I learned from it?
Let your mind soar on multiple topics and see what happens.
You learn from both good stuff and not so good
One of my favorite benefits I get from reflection is solid learning as I think about what worked and what didn’t. A recent example is me getting a client’s instructions totally backwards. It led me to undo stuff that shouldn’t have been undone. I didn’t understand how I could have been so completely off base until I sat with it. What came to me is that I had read his instructions in a hurried manner – but the real problem came because I read them assuming he and I agreed on a key decision. We didn’t, not even close. The lesson is clear: read instructions more carefully, particularly when there’s more than one viewpoint on the issue.
It was a comment in our forum that led me to think about how important reflection time is. Some additional thought let me to see the similarity of reflection and meditation… and here we are.
You can begin to form a productive habit of reflection by recognizing when your mind wanders it may be a good thing. Take a moment and see where it wants to go. Schedule a time – at least 20 minutes or so to contemplate your business, or a part of it and see what you can discover. Pick a time and a place to do some reflection and put it on your calendar.
How do you start your writing day, with a boring routine or a helpful ritual?
If you’re like me, it probably varies.
Oh, unless I have an early morning meeting or some other unusual event, I tend to do roughly the same things every morning. Get up, feed the cat, unlock the buildings where I live, make coffee, spend a bit of time reading, mediate for 30 minutes, etc. etc. etc.
It’s my attitude that mostly determines my mood which governs my approach to the moment. I want to be in an optimistic, happy frame of mine because it’s way more fun and it makes the writing and coaching go so much better then they do when I’m gloomy or discouraged. I find a helpful ritual or two can make all the difference. Here are some of the helpful rituals I’ve developed over time:
Years ago I bought this wonderful rug at a garage sale in the most expensive area of town. I bought it because I liked the look. When I got home, it really perked up my living room. Not only that it feels marvelous when I walk on it barefoot. It’s thick and dense. I’m usually without shoes and I’ve made a habit of noticing how good that run feels at least a couple of times a day. Sometimes I’ll just stand there and wiggle my toes in it.
I water my tomatoes daily and talk with them. They often thank me with that wonderful smell of tomato plant they exude when they’re healthy. I also do some other gardening because it makes me feel good to do it and then to look at it as it grows. Come winter I find something else to do in the garden.
Do you see how this kind of helpful ritual sets me up for several hours of productive writing?
Now, each one of these helpful rituals can also, if I’m not paying attention, become boring routines. I promise you I’ve let it happen that way more than once.
Boring routines are not conducive to good writing. Think about it. If you’re bored or annoyed, or unhappy with the neighbor’s dog, what will your writing be like? Maybe boring routines are best used for a strong opinion piece – which is okay, as long as you are aware of it and choose it.
That awareness and conscious choice is really what let’s you write something that moves the reader, which is what we all want.
Creating helpful ritual
Ritual isn’t hard to create. In one sense ritual is simply a habit of behavior. It’s what you bring to it that makes it count. Awareness, appreciation, gratitude and choice all work to generate the kind of helpful ritual that will make your writing and, really, your whole life easier and more enjoyable. Experiment. Create rituals that lift your spirit and start your creative juices.
Write well, and often,
Image Note: The title is CHRYSANTHEMUM | THE BAMBOO CURTAIN | JAPANESE ZEN. I practice Soto Zen which might be called Cultural Appropriation, maybe with permission. It’s not clear cut.