Count on the Unpredictability of a Writer’s Life

My year so far has been a mix of swarms and dry spells in regard to work-related writing.

How have the first six months of 2014 been for you?

Ebbs and flows aren’t any surprise for a freelance writer, or probably any self-employed person. There’s only so much we can predict with certainty, and even that can change, right?

You’re probably familiar with the quote “The best laid plans…”. And it’s so applicable to freelance writing (or life in general) because no matter how well we plan and get our tasks mapped out, there are an infinite amount of things that can detour us.

This can sound like a stressful way to live or run a business, but I think it’s easiest to accept that change is a constant and know that challenges will pop up in new and creative ways — all the time. If you accept change as a constant in itself, your mindset shifts accordingly.

detour-signWhat can you do to alleviate the stress of not knowing _____? (fill in with what’s appropriate to you)

  • Plan – without a plan to your goal you won’t get anywhere, so a plan is required
  • Stay focused – keep your major goal front-and-center at all times
  • Expect the best – from your clients and yourself
  • Think positive – everything works out one way or another
  • Bob and weave (don’t duck and run) – when change comes, go with your Plan B or backup plan (see first point) to get back on the path

Other things that I do include:

  • Talking with other small business owners (similar experiences alleviate the ‘all alone’ feeling)
  • Keeping task lists in front of me – when slow times come or a client doesn’t get to back to me on time, I always have something to do
  • Save extra money during fruitful times – to alleviate stress during slow times
  • Savor the minutes where there is a slow period and remember them when I’m so busy I barely have time to eat
  • Exercise – it’s so easy to sit and when stressed or worried and that slows not only the metabolism down, but brain function – exercise keeps the blood flowing, the metabolism moving, and ideas ready to pop up when needed

When a week comes along (and it does) that goes exactly as planned, it’s as sweet as a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie. And, yum, I do savor those times (as much as the cookie), for when a super-busy week or a super-slow week comes along.

Having a plan to reach a goal is what keeps everything ultimately moving in the right direction – because without a plan you won’t know how to get back on the right track when life tosses you the unexpected.

How do you cope with the unpredictability of being a freelance writer (or being self-employed)? I’d love to know.


Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. Even though she knows her schedule can change any minute, she enjoys the writing life and the mystery of it all.  You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

21 thoughts on “Count on the Unpredictability of a Writer’s Life

  1. I could relate to all the points here. I write fiction and have just begun on the writing journey and sure enough I am facing long spells of dryness. Your post has great tips! Thanks 🙂

  2. I think a helpful attitude helps, i.e. helping (non-writers) because you can. Favours are returned when you least expect them.

  3. I have a year plan, a weekly plan and a daily plan. As a freelance writer, there are always new tricks of the trade to learn – new tools, new types of content that you have never written before. I love researching various aspects of my work….it keeps me feeling ” I have a long way to go” 🙂

  4. I spent years in business and ministry for myself. The best advice I offer is have clear goals as a vision, and plan short-term and long-term. Know your next steps but also where you want those specific steps to lead. If you will focus the hardest on the next steps, you will find yourself much further down the long-term path you envisioned. Value your time as it is the one resource you cannot replace once lost. Prioritize, because it identifies the intensity of your passion. Finally, never give up, in or out! Never quit! Commit to the next step. Your faith must be stronger than your fears…

  5. Hi Lisa
    For me writing is something to be developed for those looming-ever-closer retirement years (assuming I make it that far). It is also a past-time where I can thread the things I want to say into narratives (which I think is cool). However there needs to be discipline.

    I am self-employed, but don’t depend on my earnings from writing however, I agree with an organised approach. If you don’t organise your efforts the act of writing becomes random and unfocussed. This was something I recognised when I first gave writing a go; that was in summer 2009 when I set myself a target 60,000 words in 3½ months. I monitored my output daily. It wasn’t beautiful and much of it was consigned to the rubbish bin of rewrites and restructures – but I had completed a draft.
    That initial approach is still useful and now whenever I write a longer piece, I put my head back into that place. As an accountant, I have to say that self-monitoring does come naturally.

    Now if only I could apply the same rigour to research!!

    btw I connect to the exercise part; it’s so easy to forget that your body needs maintenance and exercise is a big part of this.

    I write Fiction/SF.

    • You have to keep the mind and body healthy enough to work toward any goal, I believe. that’s a great story about how you created a first draft – and that’s really the type of discipline and dedication it takes to be a fiction writer – you have to get the words on the page, and there WILL be a lot of crappy words, but they have to come out before the story can be finessed into the final product.

      Can you imagine how boring it would be if we could write a perfect novel in a first draft? Yikes! 😉

      • I like the idea of writing perfect but it’s just one of those unattainable goals. The reality is write, rewrite, read out embarrasedly, hide it away for a really rainy day and repeat. The patience of my local writing group know no bounds. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Count on the Unpredictability of a Writer’s Life | The Synod Caves

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