If you believe the hype, the life of a freelance writer is endless inspiration – we spend our time flitting from coffee shop to gorgeous, wood-panelled coffee shop, wafting around in ethically-manufactured slub-wear, and producing wonderfully imaginative content day in, day out.
Sadly for us, that’s not the case. Running your own copywriting business is much like running any other business, except that the level of creative output does have to be consistently high – day after day after day after…
But – and you can choose whichever analogy you like best: a plant in barren soil, a car with no petrol – the problem with having to be endlessly creative is that you expend creative energy. And if you’ve got nothing inspiring going in, nothing good’s going to come out.
So what can you do? Here are 5 simple ways to freelance writers can keep their creative juices flowing.
Control your input
I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately, and a blogpost by the lovely Sara Tasker over at Me & Orla prompted me to include it today. Sara writes:
And she’s bang on – if you’re consuming uninspiring trash, don’t be surprised if you run low on inspiration. It might feel counter-intuitive to have to make an effort to consume better quality content, and consequently get inspired, but once you do it, trust me – you’ll feel better for it.
Limit mindless negativity
A few months back, I was feeling pretty low on creativity – the weather was dark and dreary, and I was doing a lot of marketing for my newly restarted business after a long, exhausting stretch of mat leave.
It’s not a great combination for feeling inspired and empowered, and sure enough, I didn’t.
Without really knowing why, I found myself spending a lot of time reading the infamous “Am I Being Unreasonable?” boards over on Mumsnet, where posters go to get brutally honest opinions on the (frequently infuriating) situations affecting them. It’s popcorn-worthy reading, and I found myself reading post after post, getting het up by the real-life dramas. I lost hours and, what’s more, I felt cross and depressed afterwards.
By allowing myself to get lost in other people’s problems – problems that didn’t affect me – rather than dealing with my own frustrations, I was just sucking in mindless negativity when I could have been feeding my creativity and pouring the gains from that into my work.
Set the stage
We humans like to think of ourselves as pretty complex creatures but, when it comes down to it, we’re actually pretty easy to manipulate. Our environment has a huge effect on our mood – and our level of creativity – so make sure your space is set up to maximise inspiration.
Clear the clutter from your desk, beautify your walls – even a few pretty postcards will help! – and set your soundtrack to whatever gets you in the mood: ambient sounds of rain, a carefully crafted playlist, or something else that you can learn to associate with creative work.
Feed your creativity
It’s a cliché but it’s true – if you want your creative output to be at its best, you’ve got to feed that sucker. Much like plants, our creative selves thrive on the basics – good soil (see my previous point about your workspace), good food, fresh air, natural light, and plenty of water.
Try and get out and about at least once a day, even if you just take yourself off for a walk at lunchtime. Get a stash of healthy snacks on the go and don’t skip meals. Drink plenty of water – herbal and fruit teas are a good way to up your intake – and try not to wait until you’re thirsty before you stop for a watering session; a 1.5l bottle refilled every day and tucked on the corner of your desk can make a big difference.
Streamline your day
Like I said in this previous post on how to avoid distractions, your creativity will take a massive hit if you’re sitting at your computer 12 hours a day – it’s not rocket science, but a lot of freelance writers seem to forget it.
Check out your daily activities and see what’s working and what’s not. Streamline your day by cutting out or adapting the tasks with little or no ROI; consider outsourcing monotonous stuff if you can afford to. No only will you be winning back time for yourself, you’ll be freeing your mind of unnecessary clutter as well.
We humans aren’t half as complicated as we’d like to think – even us creative types. Our needs are pretty basic, but the consequences of ignoring those needs can be far-reaching – we get tired, depressed, overwhelmed and that can have a serious impact on our businesses. So, it’s a question of feeding your creativity or dealing with the period of creative starvation that follows.
As freelance writers, we need to stay creative – it’s literally our job to create content. So clear some space – both in your physical surroundings and your own head – and fill that space with things that inspire you. Read better and you’ll write better. Quit the mindless negativity and you’ll feel more positive. Control what goes in, and get better results from what comes out.
How do you cope with lapses in inspiration? Have you got any advice on reacharging your creative batteries? Comment below or come and chat on Twitter – I’m @LorrieHartshorn 🙂