As a freelancer, there is a constant conflict between the practical side and the creative side of your brain. Your practical side works at 1,000 miles an hour, quickly navigating the logistics of pitching a story, negotiating fees, and creating connections with editors.
But once you land an article, you have to immediately switch to your creative side, that part of your brain that generates innovative ideas and the unique language to convey them. It’s like changing from Clark Kent into Superman. You quickly have to toss aside your business attire and put on your thinking cap (or is it cape?).
So how do you negotiate this abrupt shift when you sit down to write an article?
Balancing your creative spark with your entrepreneurial spirit is a challenge for even the most experienced of independent journalists and freelancers. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
5 Tips to Help You Find Your Writing Rhythm
Finding your writing rhythm can help you to get in tune with your creative side. Here’s how to do it:
- Timing is Everything. Find the time of day when you can channel your creativity. In my own freelancing career, I discovered that my optimal writing time is at 5 am, before the flood of PR emails and editors’ revisions. By working with my natural writing rhythm, I could create pieces with language that flowed, instead of text produced between frantic emails from editors. We all have natural rhythms and connecting with yours will make you a better writer. We all want to put our best words forward, and if you are able to interface with your own creative clock, you’ll certainly improve your craft.
- Break It Down. If while you’re writing and you feel like you’ve hit a mental block, don’t be afraid to take a break. Step away from your computer, go for a walk, make some lunch, meet a friend for a coffee, or even take a nap. Everyone needs a break every now and again, and sometimes a mental block is your brain reminding you to take a moment to breathe. Simple meditation exercises can help you to regain your creative center. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has a good (and easy to memorize) meditation to calm your senses. During your break, maybe take some big breaths and recite the following poem: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” Sure, being on deadline isn’t exactly a “wonderful moment,” but in those few meditative moments you can open your mind to new possibilities when the cloud of stress clears from your brain.
- Avoid Distractions. Your computer can be so many things. It’s where you write your stories, but also it is where you watch videos, listen to music, and communicate. To connect with your creative side, sometimes you need to cut yourself off. In this digital age, breaking away from your wired existence can be akin to amputation, and you’ll probably experience some phantom pains when detaching from your iPhone, but for the sake of your creativity, being a temporary Luddite is a necessity. Whether that’s taking your laptop to an area without Wi-Fi or temporarily blocking digital distractions like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, your sense of focus will be laser-sharp when remove any digital avenue of procrastination. Sometimes a little isolation will do you some good.
- Freelancing Jams. If you’re the kind of writer who can’t work in silence, maybe some music will get you in the writing mood. Make yourself a writing mixtape (or playlist) and title it “Music for Writing.” Listening to Brian Eno and Steven Reich puts me in a creative mood. The circular rhythms and instrumental journeys help to inspire me to dull the distractions of the everyday. It also helps to drown out the noise of family/roommates/coworkers too. In the notes of music, we can make a moment into a special one, where the stress of that looming deadline fades away. Music can be an antidote to creative stagnation.
- Snack Subterfuge. Often when a serious deadline lurks around the corner, writers tend to go into emergency mode. We drop everything to get that piece done, lunch included. Sometimes we’ll ignore our own body just to make a deadline. But being stressed and hungry can only hurt the piece you’re writing. When there is a rumbling in your stomach, there is no way to focus on the task at hand, let alone write compelling prose that will blast your reader’s socks off. Take a minute to slow down and snack for a minute. Taking a moment to nourish your body will help make your brain healthier too. And maybe for a minute, you’ll forget that deadline lingering just two hours away.
These are just some of the methods you can use to find your creativity.
How do you keep in the rhythm for writing? Share your tips in the comments.
Image by Minette Layne