Focus For Freelance Writers

Like many of you I suspect, I’ve got lots of projects on the go at once, with three different pro identities: web editor, psychologist and creative writer. And from your comments in our course discussions, I know lots of you experience pull in different directions, which can end up making you feel stretched laterally, but not necessarily making forward headway at all…

So here are a few suggestions to ease the stretch and get that forward momentum going:

Create a Mission Statement

Your mission statement might be something like: ‘To write video scripts for busy owners of professional services businesses’ which is concrete and usefully specific – or it might be more abstract ‘To create a fantasy series based on canine world domination, the like of which the world has never seen before…’

Either way, this mission statement creates your core priority, the one aim that can keep bread on the table, comfort your brain or help you feel you are doing something that truly matters to you (The bread and the brain comfort do not always go together, unfortunately).

Practice Energy Management

The book ‘On Form’ champions energy management as opposed to time management, with lots of sensible advice like doing energizing work first thing, rather than keeping it as the reward-you-never-get-to, at the end of your day. And we all know that when we do energizing work, time seems immaterial.

Become a Checklist Fanatic

In surgeon Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto, the author reveals how using a specific checklist in operating theatres cut deaths by a half. As writers, we can use them to improve our writing and stick to the appropriate priorities if we’re writing for different platforms. So my most used checklist has just four categories: is it clear? have I used the best word? is it entertaining? can a shorter version replace any ‘-ing’ words? (bad habit #no 97 here)

Look After Your Body

Your life of the mind may be riveting … but your ole bod is housing this mind. Can you do exercise before starting at your desk, break up your day with physical activity, check your neck and shoulder tension periodically, or maybe get a standing desk?

Use Simple Organizing Systems

I can’t remember where I picked this tip up from, but if your e mail contains a lot of organizing information, – like for who you are writing, on what and to what deadline – then it makes sense to keep other information there, such as progress reports on clients and meeting summaries. Just put these into drafts and make sure you don’t send them. Get yourself another e mail address as sendee, for insurance.

Do Live Connecting

We write to reach others, but ironically to write well, you have to spend a lot of time alone. Now a lot of us who write may find solitude and the ordering of our worlds through words most energizing… but to keep perspective and remind ourselves we write for others, we need to go amongst them… Find people like yourself in writers groups, library events and book festivals.

Get Philosophical

Whether you write commercially or do it for other reasons, a philosophical approach can help focus your practice. Here are some recommended practical philosophy books, from the always-interesting Ryan Holiday.

Quite a find for you this month, thanks to writer Hilary Shepherd at Penfro Lit Fest. You Write On is a forum where you can get feedback for your writing from editors at top publishers. And it’s free…

Here’s a list of useful sites for indie authors, some of which I’ve mentioned before, but not all:

Not everyone’s taste as he’s irreverent and sweary, but I just recently discovered Chuck Wendig’s blog and his book on writing. Here he is on how he hates self-promotion.

Happy chuckling.