Stress and the Freelance Writer

Writing in itself is probably not a difficult job, except when it comes to writing for money (especially if you aren’t a celebrated writer who bags huge bucks for a couple of articles, or editorials). When you’re focused on small freelance writing jobs like writing articles, blog posts, or press releases, there are certain demands that you need to meet.

In fact, freelance writing requires immense focus, resilience, staying power, and verified facts. You can write without any stress or constraints whatsoever when you are writing for fun, but as soon as you take it up as a job and start writing for others, you’ll have certain deadlines to meet, demands to fulfill, and criticism to bear.

Freelance writing jobs are often well paid, but they can turn out to be a little too stressful for many freelancers. Why wouldn’t they be? A writer often has to meet certain goals both in terms of quality and quantity at the same time, and the stress can double up if you are required to do some creative writing every once in a while.

In this post, I list some common causes of writer’s stress (or distress). If you’ve been doing freelance writing for some time, you will be able to relate. In fact, if you are going through some of these stressful situations right now this post will help because when the mind is stressed it often fails to realize the reason why and you keep going in circles. I sincerely hope the post will help freelance writers out there, especially those who have just started and are now beginning to feel the heat.

Unrealistic Goals

If you can write an article in a half an hour, that doesn’t mean you’d be able to churn out 15 or 16 articles in a working day. I can hear some writers claiming, but I do just that. Well, I know there might be some writers producing that much on a daily basis, but I feel more compassion than admiration for those writers who are writing articles in bulk. (It’s no wonder we have to deal with so much spam these days.)

I am also against setting targets like 5000 words a day. Let’s be honest, an average mind is not capable of coming up with so much sense so it is inevitable that a big part of these 5000 words will be a rewrite or nonsense. Even if you or your client is not concerned about the quality, poor quality doesn’t allow you to realize your true potential as a creative writer, which is the real deal. When focusing on the numbers, you stop using your mind after some time and start working and using set patterns.

Setting unrealistic goals also means that you will be going to bed with a sense of dissatisfaction or unfulfillment every day. The frustration will keep adding up. Eventually you will feel stressed out even if you are doing well financially as a freelance writer.

Writer’s Block!

Writer’s block is a real problem. It’s affected the life of every freelance writer (unless of course, if you are merely rewriting or writing substandard articles for something like $4 per article). Any writer who says he or she never has to deal with a writer’s block is either a Martian or is lying.

There are days when you’ll be spitting out articles like a printing press, but after some time you’ll find yourself throwing up even at the thought of writing.

The mere realization of this mental impotence can drive you nuts, unless you know that every single writer goes through this phase every once in a while. It’s more like an in-built mechanism in the mind. When the mind gets too heated up it shuts down for a while. Any attempt to forcefully start it back up will further jeopardize the situation. So, you must let it pass on its own. If taking a break or totally quitting for some time is not an option, drop your inbuilt critique and just try to write without trying to meet a specific quality.

Lack of Physical Activity

Full time freelance writing requires you to sit in front of the computer for research, writing, editing, and publishing. Sitting and focusing on PC or your laptop screen, and that in an unhealthy posture–when you are writing, you barely realize that you are sitting in a weird and twisted posture until after it’s too late and the stress has taken over.

Lack of physical activity and wrong postures will inevitably stress your back and neck muscles and the strain will soon travel to your mind. Physical exercise is important for everybody, but for freelance writers it should be regarded as something compulsory. Not only does it help your muscles, but a healthy body will eventually help your creative juice flow more freely (it’s much better than free flowing caffeine).

Make a routine, go for a walk, go jogging, or join a gym, focusing especially on back and neck muscles.

No Change in Routine

Writing is fun for very short periods of time. But it can get really monotonous if you have to write thousands of words on similar topics. (Most freelance writers have to stay on a specific theme, thanks to SEO concepts.)

If you can’t change your job or topics, then at least change your routine. Being a freelance writer, you can try writing at different times of the day (in house writers cannot). You can try doing your first draft on a notepad to cut down the time spent with your gaze fixed on a computer screen. Even changing the Microsoft Word background from white to any other color may help.

Lack of Social Life

At times, when you’ve written lots of articles and you are getting some appreciation from your clients or readers you may start to believe the praise–resulting in too much time spent online and not enough time spent hanging out with your friends.

Even if the superiority complex hasn’t crept in, you will still feel like resting instead of going out with friends. Putting your feet up to relax is good, but some hearty laughter with friends can help in loosening you up more than just sleeping or trying to move your mind away from writing.

Don’t take on projects that will keep you busy for entire week and even require you to work through weekends. If you are a freelancer, make sure you’re taking some days off to spend time with your friends and family.

Your Turn

Are you a freelance writer? What stresses you out?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by David Mellis