You hear a lot about writer’s block and how to combat it, but for the professional freelancer, lack of words isn’t an option. As a website writer or other freelancer, you must push through “block” to get words on the page because bills must be paid and families must be fed. Generating content when creativity is running low is like jogging through mud, though. You usually expend more energy with fewer results.
Understanding why your creativity is refusing to cooperate is the first step to taking a metaphorical sledgehammer to the block.
Real writers know that creativity isn’t just something sprinkled out like fairy dust at the whim of a muse. Creativity is work, which means you can exhaust yourself through creative endeavor. Physical or mental exhaustion also reduces your ability to work creatively, which is why a list created by Debbie Millman for a book on overcoming creative block starts with getting enough sleep. She even repeats sleep twice in her ten-item list – it’s that important and is something many freelancers neglect.
Doing the same thing repeatedly turns certain parts of your brain off – everyone’s experienced a sense of autopilot when completing common tasks. From data-entry work to driving to and from the local grocery store, certain activities don’t engage your brain fully because they are so commonplace. If writing becomes one of those tasks, it’s time to step away from the topic, the article, or the computer. Do something different for a while to refocus your brain.
Stress about anything causes a strain on your mental energy. If you’re worried about finances, relationships, or the next piece of work in line, you won’t be able to bring full creative thought to the task at hand. You can’t wave a magic wand and make life go away, but do what you can to resolve as many issues as possible before you try to work on a difficult project.
Incompatible Work Environment
If you find your creativity wanes in your home office but rallies when you choose to work elsewhere, there’s likely an environment problem. Consider cleaning the space, decluttering, rearranging furniture, or adding a new and personal touch to make the space more welcoming.
Drive for Perfection
Any mental health professional will tell you that constantly striving for perfection is a good way to slay creativity. It’s especially true for freelancer writers, who may depend on client feedback or ratings for the “pat on the back” that doesn’t often come when you work alone. Demanding perfection from yourself or seeking 100 percent stellar reactions from clients doesn’t just destroy creativity – it also creates stress and burn out. Sometimes, satisfactory has to be enough.
When your body isn’t working properly, your mind isn’t either. Freelancers often put in long hours in front of the computer and neglect health concerns and fitness. Get up from time to time to stretch, get out of the house for exercise, and try to observe basic health maintenance such as well checks, dental cleanings, and eye screenings.
Self-fulfilling Negative Talk
Once you experience a lack of creativity, it’s easy to let it spiral into something bigger. Never put yourself down or fall into a cycle of negative self-talk. If you’ve been supporting yourself for years, then you know this too shall pass. If you’re new to freelance writing, know that it takes work, but success is possible. Don’t tell yourself you can’t – take a break, refresh your mind, and come back to the computer telling yourself that you can!
Sarah S has been freelancing fulltime for close to four years. Her creativity waxes and wanes on a sporadic cycle, but she finds that the right combination of a pizza night, a cookie, and a hike in the woods usually gets thoughts flowing freely again.