Monday, 19 March 2012

Coping with writer despondency

I've Googled this subject before.  I'm an impressionable, soft-hearted little thing and sometimes I can't separate work from life.  Or work from work, when work temporarily equals no work.  Or when the weather outside is just so sodding grey (welcome to England) that it drains your spirit out through your pupils.

And I've run out of coffee and the money that I buy coffee with.

How does one cope with working as a freelance writer when you feel despondant and just straight-up plaintive?

Write about it

Struggling to write?  Write about that.  You don't have to show it to anyone but it will solve the resounding problem you're facing.  You might write about it in your journal, on an online board you frequent or maybe, like me now, in an informative blogpost designed to help others.  Whatever form of writing you plump for, it will at least keep that part of your brain ticking over. This kill some time until a more pressing or timely option is available (whilst writing this, I got some clarification on some volunteer copywriting I am doing so, once I've written this, I can get on with that!).  At the very least, it will be therapeutic or act as a kind of mind-mapping exercise.

Solve your basic needs

I've struggled with depression for a long time and there are three things I will always do when I feel a mope creeping up.  I put on a big jumper so that I'm warm and comfy (sometimes, extra socks too); I have a cup of tea (black, green, white or herbal - it doesn't matter) so that I'm hydrated, get a change of scene, warm up and maybe natter to the people I live with; and thenI turn on another light in the room I'm in.  I'm not saying that my bedside lamp is on a par with a SAD lamp or the like but it always seems to work for me and light exposure has been scientifically linked to serotonin production (serotonin makes you feel better and more able to cope).

I worked out this little strategy through basic anecdotal living choices but if you read around the area, you'll find science to back it up.  It also puts me in mind of Maslow's hierarchy.  Maslow was a psychologist who developed a theory that behaviour is based on meeting needs.  The most basic needs we have are physiological;  warmth, security, sex, oxygen, food, water, excretion.  Try withholding any of those and you'll notice it  (with all respect to asexuals - I gather some people really, really don't feel a need for sex).

Make sure you are clear on what you need to do

Half the battle is knowing what you're supposed to do next.  Working as a writer can be a real storm of options; social media, mentoring, networking, blogging, cold-calling, content mills, reading endless blogs on what to do without quite managing the actual doing of it and most importantly - the writing itself.

One way I've coped with this is to make a grab-bag of options and I pull out 3 every day.  I know that these things will be useful for me because I compiled all the information I've learnt into one long list of 'things that will help my career' (more on that to follow later).  It makes the work fun, challenging and less like a slog that I have to force myself to do.  I like games (I run game sessions - click here) so it makes sense to incorporate that.

The other is to make a flowchart of things that are really, really fundamental to getting myself set up as a freelance writer;  the business plan (not as hard as it seems it has to be - see here), the 'Dream' (so you know what you're working towards), your prices, your price packages and so on and so on.  If I'm really stuck, I do something with a tangible benefit so even if it's not writing per se, it contributes towards the likelihood that someone will pay me money to write.

Have these three strategies in place and the mundane blues will be easier to cope with.  I really believe the biggest problems in finding your motivation are basic discomfort, not knowing what you should be doing and feeling unproductive.  I think of them as swampy holes.  Walking down a road is much harder when you have to wade through three claggy, swampy holes of discouragement.  Get the road paved - as it were - and the basic act of walking along will come a lot easier to you.

What helps you get up and go when it's the last thing you want to?  Have you tried the tea/jumper/lighting solution?

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