Free Advice Friday: Killing Your Worst Freelance Writing Enemy

What I’m reading: Alexander’s Bridge by Willa Cather
What’s on the iPod: Afire Love by Ed Sheeran

Ever have one of those days where your wheels don’t just spin, but they get mired deep in stuff you can’t control? Welcome to my Thursday. As much as I tried to get projects going, I was pulled away to do things that made no impact other than waste my damn time. And it was all necessary.

I did get a chapter edited on a friend’s book, and I’m getting excited to see where this goes. He’s got a publisher interested and we’ve not come close to halfway through the edits. The pressure is on.

I came across some Facebook wisdom (ironic, I know) that was pretty inspiring. Well, inspiring for Facebook, that is.

“Always believe that you will ultimately succeed at whatever you do, and never forget the value of persistence, discipline, and determination.” – Author unknown

Easier said than done, right? Oh, the believing part we think we get. But do we? I wonder.

Why I was drawn to this quote — it holds the key for you, freelance writer, to succeed. It holds also the key reasons why you’re not.
You may believe plenty, but do you put the persistence behind it? Are you disciplined in your approach? How determined are you to reach your latest goal? Do you have a goal? 
If you don’t act on the second half of that quote, you can’t possibly own the first half. 
Belief is great, but if you don’t act on it, you’re sending a daily message that you don’t really believe all that much in your abilities. And guess what? You’ve become your own worst enemy when it comes to a successful freelance writing career.
Here’s how to kill off that enemy starting right now:
Stop pondering. Don’t get locked in the cycle of “Should I do X? What if I do Y? Here’s why I can’t do Z…” It’s what I call “bullshit brainstorming.” You’re talking yourself right out of doing anything. Stop thinking — start acting.
Use your brain. Chances are you know what you need to do, but you’re ignoring your instincts and your common sense. Stop dancing around your decisions or your goals. Think. Then do.
Do the damn work. Oh gawd, just stop thinking about doing it and buckle down! That blank page will stay that way until you lift a finger. Put one word on the page. Then a few more. And if you’re too stuck to know where to start, just start with the thought that you can scrap it all. You won’t, because you’ll find what comes out is good. 
Stop erecting roadblocks. You know you do it — you ask for advice, then you pick apart each nugget, examining exactly why it won’t work. You say “but” a lot. “But the client may not like it” or “but I might not know where to go next” or whatever excuse you’re using to keep you right there at Square One. Maybe it’s insecurity, fear, or that you don’t want to appear not to know the answers. Whatever the reason, it’s holding you back big time. Plus, you may find that after a while, your requests for advice go unheeded.
Forget who’s not going to like it. Repeat after me: I cannot be all things to all people. Know why that’s important? Because right now, there’s a good chance you’re tripping over yourself trying to do the right thing by all people. Who cares? Only the person who pays you needs to be happy. Make decisions (and please, do make them) based on how it will affect your most important person — your client. That doesn’t mean start kissing ass, either. It means do the job you promised and do your best within your abilities to satisfy your customer.

Lighten up. If you’re a talented writer (and you are), this isn’t hard. Don’t make it hard by worrying it to death. Stop being afraid of mistakes you haven’t made. Stop dwelling on the ones you have made. Stop second-guessing every scenario, every impending conversation, and every possible objection. Learn the basics, continue learning every day, and don’t allow your fears to talk you out of the best damn job you’ll ever have.

Writers, have you gotten in your own way before? 
How did you overcome it?
What advice would you give beginning and stuck writers on how to build a more positive attitude?

About the author




  • Cathy Miller June 26, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Can you see me standing and applauding? Great post, Lori. We all get stuck at times. And if you think you're past that, think about the list of "personal projects" that remain untouched. I'm guilty as charged.

    When I find myself stuck in analysis paralysis, I go back to a kick-in-the-pants question – what's the worst that could happen? I don't get the gig? Do I honestly believe there will never be another one? Hardly. I make a mistake? Some of my best lessons came from my mistakes.I charged too little? Charge more the next time.

    In my corporate days, I had a colleague who had her own kick-in-the-pants inspiration. She'd ask, what – is this a cure for cancer? No? Then quit treating it like it is.

  • Lori Widmer June 26, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    AMEN, Cathy Miller! 🙂 You're right — we all do it on some level.

    And I've always loved your "analysis paralysis" line. It's perfect. I think your colleague's perspective is spot on. We do tend to over-analyze something, often to the point of killing it.

  • Paula June 26, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Amen, Cathy.

    Maybe it's how I grew up, but I'm good at keeping things in context. As long as nobody dies, whatever you're dealing with is not The Worst Thing Ever.

    Like Cathy said, What's the worst that can happen?

    When you're talking about freelance writing, that's probably having a your byline on an article the editor did a hatchet job on. And the solution? You don't use it as a clip. Most negative situations freelance writers face can be turned into lessons – that way you won't make the same mistake twice. And you'll grow as a professional.

  • Lori Widmer June 26, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Great advice, Paula. You grow when you try. Inertia is failure, not trying and making mistakes.

  • EP June 27, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Funny thing about those roadblocks. Why do we insist on creating them for ourselves? I feel like I'm in some obsessive-compulsive Monk episode sometimes. Just do it!

  • Lori Widmer June 29, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Very good question, EP. And I'm with you on the Monk similarities — too much in the head is never a good thing!