Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I'm Feeling Like a Slug

I'm new to freelancing and am lucky enough to have found some work already. But there are days when I find myself really lacking motivation. How do you keep up your enthusiasm?

Ah, excellent question. And here's my first secret: there are days when I DON'T manage to muster up any enthusiasm. That just like any other worker bee, I want to crawl back into bed or hang out in the company of my Tivo or surf gossip sites all day. More on this later.

But most of the time, yeah, I manage to tackle my work and my assignments with, if not a cheerleader level of energy, then certainly, an adequate amount of enthusiasm that translates into my writing. The first thing I keep in mind (and please forgive me if this is too much of a Hallmark moment for you guys) is how DAMN lucky I am to not only be writing for a living, but to enjoy the fact that I write for a living. How many people trudge off to work every morning with the knowledge that they're really doing what they want to do? Not many, I'd guess, and whenever I'm feeling uninspired, tapping into my good fortune helps spark a little ounce of motivation. The thing is: I KNOW how lucky I am to be in this position - to make a good living working out of my house, to have the flexibility to spend more time with my son, to start with a blank piece of paper and put words on it and spin it into a story and get paid for it. I KNOW this. And reflecting on this every once in a while certainly helps me appreciate things.

The second thing that helps, and I blogged about this a while back when we were just getting started here, is sticking to a schedule. If you're haphazard about when you write, you're probably going to find 100,007 reasons not to write. By establishing a schedule, you'll get yourself into a groove - sort of like going to the gym at a set time - and this can really help boost your motivation. KNOW that you have to work from 10-1, for example, and you're much likelier to do so.

The next thing, and this isn't always possible, is to take on only projects that goose your juice. In other words: if you find an assignment boring, you're probably not going to go at it with your guns a-blazin'. Again, I know this isn't always possible - hell, some of my assignments still bore the hell out of me - but even if it's just one or two that really float your boat, you'll be able to translate that energy over to your other stories.

Finally, and this gets back to my first paragraph, the one about pulling the covers back over my head and bunkering down with Felicity reruns all day, if you really, REALLY can't muster even an iota, a cell, a spark of enthusiasm, then don't. Blow off your day entirely. Give yourself a chance to recharge. I did this one day last week: I simply COULD NOT get myself into first gear, much less fifth. At ten, I swore I would start writing. I read every last spoiler (want to know what's going to happen on ANY show, even shows I don't watch? ask me!) on TelevisionWithoutPity.com instead. At eleven, I swore I would start writing. I drained my brain on YouTube.com instead. At noon, I SWORE I would start writing. Really. I shopped online for new maternity jeans and clothes for my son instead. By one, I gave up, surrendering to the fact that this was simply a freebie day. Hell, I barely had the energy to walk the dog, much less turn around a 1500 word piece that was due a few days later.

And you know what? I woke up the next morning and was raring to go: I got more done in those first few hours of my day than I had in the past few days combined. I just needed to step back, give myself a break and return refreshed. So when in doubt, call in a personal day, even if you're just calling it in to yourself. No one will really mind.

What do you guys do to boost your energy and motivation?


Trish Ryan said...

That's a good point - sometimes you just need to declare a freebie day and not spend all 18 waking hours beating yourself up about it.

Larramie said...

Whether physically working at the keyboard or mentally composing new ideas, writing requires non-stop brain activity. Inevitably, when my brain "crashes" from the overload of dealing with reality and the world of creative imagination, I take a step back to appreciate the time. It's either that or continue being frustrated and getting nothing accomplished. Besides, shopping online saves energy and motivation down the road, so my holiday gift list is waiting! ;o)

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Larr-great point about always having our brains "on." Now I REALLY don't feel guilty when I tune out for the day! :)