For me, going into “writing mode” means that I reach up and turn on the invisible keg tap stuck in my forehead and let it do its thing; I’m mostly a quiet bystander that watches the writer in me pull together an article in real time. This arrangement worked great until the day I noticed the seal in that tap was getting a little shaky. I’d be cooking dinner and adjectives would fall into the salad. I’d be taking a bath and product descriptions of my shampoo bottle would start dancing in my consciousness. My writing was sneaking into the “real world” without my consent, and learning how to handle and contain that has been my hardest assignment yet.
Here are a few tricks I’ve learned from fellow professional content writers on how to stay creative—and sane—while still producing quality content:
Timing Is Everything
While some pro writers advocate a strict working schedule in a home office, I’ve found through my own experience as well as training new writers that personal preference is more important. While a 9-to-5 schedule may work for those that need structure, many new writers prefer to work in batches, taking breaks between assignments for food or rest. Forcing oneself into a schedule that’s too restricting will only build resentment towards writing, which is why choosing working time and a writing speed that feels natural is very important.
Keep The Well Full
The creative mind will, given a little downtime, refresh itself and produce more readily. While intense work periods are inevitable in freelancing, care must be taken to engage and interact with the world to help rebuild creative stores. Keeping up to date on the news, striking up conversations and even doing some just-for-fun writing are all great ways for professional content writers to keep their head in the game. Word-based games and participation in online forums will also stimulate the section of the brain; The New York Times‘ Kit Eaton also recently recommended using a memory-building smartphone app to improve writing skills.
Finish Writing—No, Really This Time
With content creation sites, the lure of just-one-more assignment is powerful. Writers that don’t feel a compelling demand for their time elsewhere will often pick up one assignment after another after another. While this productivity is a positive aspect in many ways, it can also lead to a never-ending loop of deadlines and an inability to “switch off” of writing. If you have trouble putting down the proverbial pen to go to sleep, run errands or do other important chores, enlist the help of a partner or friend to yank you away from the keyboard every once in awhile. It’s important to stay well-rested to produce solid work, and putting off necessary chores will only end up as a muse-busting distraction sooner or later.
In general, the best way to sustain writing creativity is to listen to the demands of your mind and body. If you feel sluggish, tired or irritable at your subject matter, go for a walk, grab a nap, play a few games or open a bottle of cold water and take five. Your content—and your client—will thank you.
Delany M is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.