Compartmentalizing Your Freelance Writer’s Life

“I’ve got it made.”

That’s what you should be able to say every morning, just after you gain consciousness and give yourself the liberty to choose what you’re going to do with the next 16 hours.

If you’re a self-employed writer, maybe you’ve felt this privilege: this freedom to spoil yourself into a blessed existence.

Or, maybe you haven’t reached the point where you feel in control of your own schedule. Perhaps deadlines are lording over your life, or all the other things you should be doing, instead of writing, are worming into your brain and taunting you into believing that you’re just a failed artist with no followers, no footprint…no future.

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Photo Credit: Fran Rosa of https://medium.com/@franrosa

I’ve been in both places, and in case you can’t hear me, I’m yelling: “You Can Choose!!”

I have found that by compartmentalizing my life, I can accomplish everything I need to accomplish–and maybe more importantly, all the things I want to accomplish.

Here’s the strategy:

  1. Wake up. That one’s easy when you love what you’re about to do.
  2. Determine your Mood. Ask yourself how you feel today. Goofy? Serious? Intelligent? Artistic? Melancholy? Ecstatic? Now choose an area or a task that will most intensely benefit from that state of mind. There’s no use trying to change the way you feel. Your work will suffer…as will you.
  3. Work Ahead.  This is the KEY component, and the one that will allow you to put point #2 to work. Determine where your focus will fall and do it full-on. Get more done than you have to. This will give you the freedom to make those disposition-based choices, rather than having to do what you’re not ‘feeling’ based on deadlines.
  4. Go All-In.  No matter what task or area you choose for a particular day or block of time, give it every bit of your attention. This should be easy if you’ve made the right choice.

Before I discovered this method, I felt like I was doing all the wrong things on the wrong days. I was cramming for band rehearsal while my mind was busy rolling over the best ways to brand a consulting business, or I was crunching numbers for a statistics blog with a mind distracted by the question “How am I gonna hit that note tonight?” I have even caught myself backspacing over lines of my own fiction because I couldn’t stop thinking about the flow problems erupting in the client’s book I was editing.

The people in my life have come to accept my working in this way. A ghostwriting client will have my undivided attention for a week, and then I might drop off for a few days. Or, my band members might feel pummeled with messages one day, and then think about checking with the morgue the next. The people in your life will learn this about you, too. And when you deliver work of exceptional quality, with a smile in your heart and earlier than expected, they’ll learn to love it.

What are your tips for building a blessed writer’s life? I’d love to hear about them, and learn from them. Comment here.

Have you heard? My Facebook page Jacinda Little, Writer for Hire is now called Jacinda Little. I made the change because I want that space to be for all lovers of books, reading, writing…not just those who wish to hire a copywriter or ghostwriter. So get on over there! We’re talking about stuff that’s gonna light you up (and if we’re not, I want to know what will). See you there.

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Trust your Readers

As happens every six hours, AM talk radio had begun to depress my mood. There was nothing on FM to sing along with. The silence was too much to bear, considering I’d been alone all day.

A small voice came from the back seat. “Mom, I want to read to you.”

“That would be great! Let’s go.”

A rustling of pages ensued and my 10-year-old daughter started, “The animorphosisms stood before me. Around each one was an extremely disgusting pile of slime.”

“Honey?” I interrupted. “What did the pile of slime look like?”

She thought for a moment and responded, “It was disgusting.”

“Yes, but what color was it? Did it smell? Was it moving? Was it making any sounds?”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t say.” She turned the page forward and back again. “It’s just disgusting…that’s it.”

This reminded me that, in my own writing, I must remember to strive for a “show, don’t tell” process and product. Regardless of the age of the reader, the author must remember that the reader will feel much more satisfied — more fulfilled and willing to keep on reading — if he or she feels a part of the deductions made in every story, every chapter…every paragraph. Don’t tell your readers that something is disgusting. Tell them that the pile of flesh-pink and mold-green, coagulated material moved with sucking waves of nauseating slurp and expelled clouds of stink — stink that could only be duplicated by plunging 3 dozen rotten eggs into a vat of decaying skunk flesh.

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Trust your readers and they’ll trust you. Give them the information they need to draw their own conclusions — and if the information is crafted with heart and plenty of thought, their deductions will match your expectations.

Food for Fiction: Newspaper Funnies

Where do you get your short story and novel ideas? No matter your chosen genre, you might look to authentic life for subject matter…and where better to find real life than in the newspaper? There, you’ll find the best, and most often the worst, of this pack we call humanity. When I have the occasion to generate a short story (the bills aren’t stopping, and therefore neither is my ghostwriting), I like to consult local and national newspapers for help with sparking story ideas.  Today, I stumbled across some funny headlines and couldn’t help searching for some of their twisted cousins. Here are my favorites:

  • One-armed man applauds the kindness of strangers
  • Caskets found as workers demolish mausoleum
  • Alton attorney accidentally sues himself
  • Condom truck tips, spills load
  • Man eats underwear to beat breathalyzer
  • Sewage spill kills fish, but water safe to drink
  • Panda mating fails; veterinarian takes over
  • Marijuana issue sent to joint committee
  • Students cook & serve grandparents
  • Hippo eats dwarf
  • Lost:  African elephant
  • Topeka cemetery clean-up in need of volunteers:  A light lunch to follow provided by Waste Management of Kansas
  • Tight end returns after colon surgery
  • Miracle cure kills fifth patient
  • All you need to know about Obama’s package
  • A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt
  • Hooker named lay person of the year
  • Blind man denied Minn. gun permit
  • Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25

Deeper probing took me to the police blotters:

  • A deputy responds to a report of a vehicle stopping at mail boxes. It was the mailman.
  • Wal-Mart: Police receive a report of a newborn infant found in a trash can. Upon investigation, officers discover it was only a burrito.
  • The Learning Center on Hanson Street reports a man across the way stands at his window for hours watching the center, making parents nervous. Police ID the subject as a cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And I have to give proper credit to the classifieds:

  • Human skull, used once only. Not plastic. $200 OBO
  • Full size mattress, Royal Tonic, 20 year warranty. Like new. Slight urine smell. $40
  • Potty chair, solid oak, light brown stain

Quick — grab a pen. By the time your diaphragm stops cramping, you’ll have come up with a storyline involving a Hannibal-Lecter-wanna-be mailman who delivers special-recipe burritos, or a veterinarian who learns to embrace both the yin and the yang. Come on — if you write it, I’ll read it.

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This gallery contains 8 photos.

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