It’s the middle of the afternoon. You’ve got a client deadline. And all you’ve been able to do for the last few hours is think up writing excuses for why you’re not cranking out copy.
- Your desk is too cluttered.
- You’re behind on dishes and laundry.
- You don’t feel like writing.
- You didn’t get enough info from your client to complete the assignment.
- And then the thought crosses your mind: I’m not really a writer. I’m just pretending to be one.
Been there, done that?
If you’ve made any of these writing excuses (FYI…there’s many more), you’ve probably done your share of whining, crying, and flailing around.
All that, when you could have been, you know, working.
Tired of writing excuses holding you back from moving up and earning more as a freelancer?
Stop whining, and crush your freelance writing excuses once and for all. Here’s how:
Meet writing excuse buster Linda Formichelli
Freelance writer Linda Formichelli has heard just about every excuse in the book from other writers. And she’s done her fair share of excuse making during her 20-plus years of writing for a living. But that hasn’t stopped her from a successful freelance career. Her work includes:
- Writing for more than 150 trade and consumer magazines
- Working for 35-plus copywriting and content marketing clients
- Guest posting for many top blogs like Copyblogger, about the business and craft of freelance writing, and
- Publishing multiple books, including Whine Less, Write More: The No Excuses Guide to Getting Your Butt in the Chair, with co-author Diana Burrell
We recently caught up with Linda for a Freelance Writers Den podcast to find how to bust your writing excuses once and for all.
Q: What if you can’t come up with any new story ideas?
Formichelli: Just about every idea you can come up with has probably been done in some way. Here’s a magazine example. If you look on the newsstand, you practically see, “ Walk off the weight,” on every single health and fitness magazine. It’s easy to think, “How can I come up with something any different?” It seems like they run the same thing all the time. But you can.
The trick is to figure out how to put a spin on an idea that only you can do. For example, maybe, there’s this new trend of walking backwards, or what if you walk with weights, or maybe an opposite idea about why it’s impossible to walk and effectively lose weight.
Q: What if you spend too much time on research and over-analyzing every assignment?
Formichelli: Lots of writers have problems with getting stuck in research mode. It’s another excuse used to avoid actually writing. The problem is, that if you don’t know already what exactly you need, it’s easy to go down that rabbit hole of just researching and researching.
For example, you’re writing about some health topic, and you don’t know exactly where your article or your pitch is going to go. Before you call some experts to interview, you just spend hours and hours researching to make sure you cover all your bases.
Here’s how I handle this. No matter what the writing project is, do just enough research to write a barebones piece. Then you look through it during the editing phase, and if you’re missing any information, you gather and add that information with research and interviews.
Q: What helps freelancers avoid the classic writing excuse, procrastination?
Formichelli: It’s not that complicated. Get started as soon as you get that assignment. Boom! You’re off to the races. When you take this approach, you’ll have time at the end, instead of being stressed out about your deadline. You’ll be a lot more confident, and you’ll be able to get the research you need.
Q: What if you don’t get all the info you need in your first interview with an expert?
Formichelli: Well, you could easily use that as another writing excuse. But there’s trick to take care of that you can use at the end of every interview.
Just ask: “Is it okay if I get back to you if anything comes up as I’m writing this piece?”
They always, always, always, always say, “Yes.” And that makes you feel a little bit better like, “OK, even if I don’t have everything right now, I can write what I have and then come back if I need something.”
Q: What if you get bored with an assignment and don’t feel like writing?
Formichelli: I’ve heard that kind of writing excuse from freelancers a lot. “I don’t feel like doing it.” “I’m not in the mood.” “I’m not inspired.” “I’m tired.” “I’m sick.”
If any one of these things makes you want to put off writing, don’t just do nothing. Choose tasks you can work on based on the amount of time and energy you have. If you have a half an hour and you’re really tired , maybe you update your website, or file your expenses, or just do something that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower.
But if you find that you always have the time and energy for research or posting on social media, and you never seem to have the time and actually writing, you know you’re in writing excuse territory. If you want to learn more about how to deal with this problem, go read this blog post by Mark Manson: F*** Your Feelings. It’s perfect advice for this situation.
Q: What should you do if you get stuck in I-don’t-feel-like-it mode?
Formichelli: Think about it this way. If everybody waited until they felt perfectly calm, energetic, centered, happy and healthy before they started writing, nobody would ever get anything done.
Your feelings come from your actions and not the other way around. If you get started writing, even if you don’t feel 100 percent in the mood, soon you’ll find that you are in the mood.
But it doesn’t work the other way. You can’t sit there and mentally motivate yourself with a motivational speech in your head, meditating, or wondering, “What the heck is wrong with me?” You need to just take action.
Q: How do you handle the ‘I don’t have enough time’ writing excuse?
Formichelli: It’s easy to think it’s all about time management, like if only you could figure out how to manage your time better, you could get more writing done. But that really won’t solve your problem. It’s more about attitude.
Just look at writers who get a lot done and are published everywhere. They’re all busy with their lives like everyone else, except they use the small amount of time they do have better. We all have the same 160 hours per week as everyone else, so you need to think about why some writers are able to produce so much in that amount of time, if you feel like you can’t.
Q: What if age is your excuse for not putting yourself out there as a freelancer?
Formichelli: In my experience, editors, publishers, readers and clients, care more about what you can do for them than anything about your personal situation, especially how old you are. If you present yourself professionally, have a great idea, and write really well, nobody cares if you’re 17 years old or if you’re 70 years old.
Q: What if you’re afraid to put yourself out there as a writer?
Formichelli: Remember this. You’re not the center of everyone’s universe. It’s so easy to feel like we’re always in the spotlight, everything revolves around us, and there’s some magical powers that are doing nothing but judging our writing. But the truth is, everyone is thinking about themselves too much to worry about whether or not you’re a writer.
Q: How do you deal with Impostor Syndrome?
Formichelli: You’re in a big club. So many writers feel like they’re frauds, like someday everybody’s going to realize that you’re not the real deal. Even Maya Angelou and Seth Godin have felt this way. It’s not uncommon for people who have this affliction to be the perfectionist-high-achiever type. So, if you feel like a fraud, I think it helps to remember that it probably means you’re not a fraud. It just means that you’re overly critical of yourself.
The formula for freelance success: No excuses
Ready to move up and earn more? Now is always the best time to start. If you’ve let excuses get in the way of freelance success, take Linda’s advice. Stop whining, stop making excuses, and get to work.
What excuses are holding you back from freelance success? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline, or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultramarathon.