Stop Whining: How to Crush Your Freelance Writing Excuses

Tips to Crush Your Freelance Writing Excuses. Makealivingwriting.comIt’s the middle of the afternoon. You’ve got a client deadline. And all you’ve been able to do for the last few hours is think up writing excuses for why you’re not cranking out copy.

  • Your desk is too cluttered.
  • You’re behind on dishes and laundry.
  • You don’t feel like writing.
  • You didn’t get enough info from your client to complete the assignment.
  • And then the thought crosses your mind: I’m not really a writer. I’m just pretending to be one.

Been there, done that?

If you’ve made any of these writing excuses (FYI…there’s many more), you’ve probably done your share of whining, crying, and flailing around.

All that, when you could have been, you know, working.

Tired of writing excuses holding you back from moving up and earning more as a freelancer?

Stop whining, and crush your freelance writing excuses once and for all. Here’s how:

Linda Formichelli

Meet writing excuse buster Linda Formichelli

Freelance writer Linda Formichelli has heard just about every excuse in the book from other writers. And she’s done her fair share of excuse making during her 20-plus years of writing for a living. But that hasn’t stopped her from a successful freelance career. Her work includes:

We recently caught up with Linda for a Freelance Writers Den podcast to find how to bust your writing excuses once and for all.

Q: What if you can’t come up with any new story ideas?

Formichelli: Just about every idea you can come up with has probably been done in some way. Here’s a magazine example. If you look on the newsstand, you practically see, “ Walk off the weight,” on every single health and fitness magazine. It’s easy to think, “How can I come up with something any different?” It seems like they run the same thing all the time. But you can.

The trick is to figure out how to put a spin on an idea that only you can do. For example, maybe, there’s this new trend of walking backwards, or what if you walk with weights, or maybe an opposite idea about why it’s impossible to walk and effectively lose weight.

Q: What if you spend too much time on research and over-analyzing every assignment?

Formichelli: Lots of writers have problems with getting stuck in research mode. It’s another excuse used to avoid actually writing. The problem is, that if you don’t know already what exactly you need, it’s easy to go down that rabbit hole of just researching and researching.

For example, you’re writing about some health topic, and you don’t know exactly where your article or your pitch is going to go. Before you call some experts to interview, you just spend hours and hours researching to make sure you cover all your bases.

Here’s how I handle this. No matter what the writing project is, do just enough research to write a barebones piece. Then you look through it during the editing phase, and if you’re missing any information, you gather and add that information with research and interviews.

Q: What helps freelancers avoid the classic writing excuse, procrastination?

Formichelli: It’s not that complicated. Get started as soon as you get that assignment. Boom! You’re off to the races. When you take this approach, you’ll have time at the end, instead of being stressed out about your deadline. You’ll be a lot more confident, and you’ll be able to get the research you need.

Q: What if you don’t get all the info you need in your first interview with an expert?

Formichelli: Well, you could easily use that as another writing excuse. But there’s trick to take care of that you can use at the end of every interview.

Just ask: “Is it okay if I get back to you if anything comes up as I’m writing this piece?”

They always, always, always, always say, “Yes.” And that makes you feel a little bit better like, “OK, even if I don’t have everything right now, I can write what I have and then come back if I need something.”

Q: What if you get bored with an assignment and don’t feel like writing?

Formichelli: I’ve heard that kind of writing excuse from freelancers a lot. “I don’t feel like doing it.” “I’m not in the mood.” “I’m not inspired.” “I’m tired.” “I’m sick.”

If any one of these things makes you want to put off writing, don’t just do nothing. Choose tasks you can work on based on the amount of time and energy you have. If you have a half an hour and you’re really tired , maybe you update your website, or file your expenses, or just do something that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower.

But if you find that you always have the time and energy for research or posting on social media, and you never seem to have the time and actually writing, you know you’re in writing excuse territory. If you want to learn more about how to deal with this problem, go read this blog post by Mark Manson: F*** Your Feelings. It’s perfect advice for this situation.

Q: What should you do if you get stuck in I-don’t-feel-like-it mode?

Formichelli: Think about it this way. If everybody waited until they felt perfectly calm, energetic, centered, happy and healthy before they started writing, nobody would ever get anything done.

Your feelings come from your actions and not the other way around. If you get started writing, even if you don’t feel 100 percent in the mood, soon you’ll find that you are in the mood.

But it doesn’t work the other way. You can’t sit there and mentally motivate yourself with a motivational speech in your head, meditating, or wondering, “What the heck is wrong with me?” You need to just take action.

Q: How do you handle the ‘I don’t have enough time’ writing excuse?

Formichelli: It’s easy to think it’s all about time management, like if only you could figure out how to manage your time better, you could get more writing done. But that really won’t solve your problem. It’s more about attitude.

Just look at writers who get a lot done and are published everywhere. They’re all busy with their lives like everyone else, except they use the small amount of time they do have better. We all have the same 160 hours per week as everyone else, so you need to think about why some writers are able to produce so much in that amount of time, if you feel like you can’t.

Q: What if age is your excuse for not putting yourself out there as a freelancer?

Formichelli: In my experience, editors, publishers, readers and clients, care more about what you can do for them than anything about your personal situation, especially how old you are. If you present yourself professionally, have a great idea, and write really well, nobody cares if you’re 17 years old or if you’re 70 years old.

Q: What if you’re afraid to put yourself out there as a writer?

Formichelli: Remember this. You’re not the center of everyone’s universe. It’s so easy to feel like we’re always in the spotlight, everything revolves around us, and there’s some magical powers that are doing nothing but judging our writing. But the truth is, everyone is thinking about themselves too much to worry about whether or not you’re a writer.

Q: How do you deal with Impostor Syndrome?

Formichelli: You’re in a big club. So many writers feel like they’re frauds, like someday everybody’s going to realize that you’re not the real deal. Even Maya Angelou and Seth Godin have felt this way. It’s not uncommon for people who have this affliction to be the perfectionist-high-achiever type. So, if you feel like a fraud, I think it helps to remember that it probably means you’re not a fraud. It just means that you’re overly critical of yourself.

The formula for freelance success: No excuses

Ready to move up and earn more? Now is always the best time to start. If you’ve let excuses get in the way of freelance success, take Linda’s advice. Stop whining, stop making excuses, and get to work.

What excuses are holding you back from freelance success? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline, or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultramarathon.
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29 comments on “Stop Whining: How to Crush Your Freelance Writing Excuses
  1. Wonderful article, Evan, and brilliant advice from Linda Formichelli.
    Carol, you are doing an incredible job to help writers grow their income.
    Keep blushing.

    Best Regards

  2. Krishan Pandey says:

    your tips to crush freelance writing excuses are simply amazing.
    It gives value addition to the readers. Brilliant piece of work.
    Cheers 🙂

  3. Beth Casey says:

    Great article, Evan, and great advice from Linda Formichelli.

  4. Gena Gilcrease says:

    Thanks. Good advice. Action over agonizing!

  5. Anyone who has a real problem with getting their mind on the right track might be helped by this post from BeAFreelanceBlogger.com, beafreelanceblogger(dot)com/mental-illness/. Between them, the three contributors struggle with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, PTSD, and clinical depression–any one of which is a major recipe for constant “I don’t feel like it” and “it’s no use anyway” issues. And all of the writers of that post have managed to keep up regular and profitable writing schedules.

    A summary of tips for dealing with such a situation, drawing also from my own struggles with medical depression:

    1. If you suspect you have a literal mental illness (or a physical one, for that matter), make an appointment with your doctor before you make any other coping plans.
    2. Don’t try to copy what worked for someone else and expect identical results on an identical schedule–that may be a recipe for “I’m under a bad-luck curse/a born failure” depression if your expectations are disappointed. You can learn general coping principles from others’ experiences, but each of us is unique in the way we can best apply them and the specific results we will get.
    3. Listen to your mind and body, but don’t respond to every pain with instant gratification. Consider what your pains are trying to tell you about larger changes needed in your life: a healthier diet? More time with loved ones? Earlier to bed, or more frequent breaks? (Concerns about procrastination notwithstanding, medical science confirms that regular breaks and weekly days off actually improve overall productivity–IF those breaks are genuinely refreshing, not filled with thoughts about your next to-do item or with the sort of “play” that generates its own performance anxiety.)
    4. Use your skill with words and imagination to create images of yourself succeeding and enjoying it. Pretend you’re writing a “how to like yourself better” article, and talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a discouraged reader.

    And one tip I’m going to follow right now for myself: don’t feel you have to proofread your blog comments and casual emails as though they were your first assignment for a major magazine!

    • Katherine Swarts says:

      As a P. S., if you have your own additional reading to recommend on this thread, be aware that pasting in full links can screw up the comment system.

    • Evan Jensen says:

      Hi Katherine,
      Great insight. Thanks for the BeaFreelanceBlogger resource. Keep going.

  6. Tina Marie says:

    Hitting publish is one of my biggest obstacles. Feeling as if all my editing had to be perfect or it’s not worthy of someone to read.

    • Evan Jensen says:

      Hi Tina,
      See Linda’s response to: What if you’re afraid to put yourself out there as a writer?

      If you have to, think of the worst case scenario of publishing. What’s the worst that could happen? It almost never happens.

    • Carol Tice says:

      What’s the worst thing that happens if you self-publish your own blog? No one reads the first few posts usually anyway… go for it!

    • Yeah, SO not true! I recently turned in a project that ended up being a rush because some key sources were unavailable. After I sent it to the sources for their approval (the M.O. with this pub), two of the sources pointed out several typos. I was mortified and emailed my editor an apology…and she was like, “Whatever, we caught them in proofreading.”

  7. Nicholas says:

    I’m really impress with this creative insight on how to crush freelance writing excuse. Sometimes, I feel like abandoning freelance writing craft because it involves lots of research. I gained a lot from what you stated as means of crushing this excuse.

  8. Hi Linda!
    Awesome tips!

    Any smart tips for freelance writers with full time job? Managing time with both becomes very difficult at times.

    • Evan Jensen says:

      Well, I was hustling a full-time day job as a copywriter and freelance work for quite a long time. Officially made the move to full-time freelancing about six months ago. Is it easy to do both? No. I have three kids. It’s gonna be busy. You’re gonna be tired. But if you really want it, you’ll figure out a way to make it work. Some things I’ve done:
      -Work a couple hours a night on freelance marketing/client projects after kids go to bed
      -Take a sick/vacation day from day job to get freelance work done
      -Schedule time for marketing, even if it’s limited. Do it consistently.
      -Work on marketing/client projects on the weekened when others are sleeping or partying

    • Thank you! What Evan said, and also:

      managed to write an entire novel on the side in the last year—half which time I had a full-time contract job, and the rest when I had a full roster of freelance projects.

      I committed to working on it every single day, even if it was only for a few minutes. Some nights I was so tired I’d lie in bed and dictate parts of chapters into my phone, and the next day I’d paste them into the manuscript and edit. (That counted as only ONE day’s work, not both.) I didn’t miss a single day, even when I was sick or traveling.

      So maybe just committing to doing *something” every day toward your freelance writing…the amount you do can depend on the time and energy you have available. I got a lot more writing done on weekend than on weekdays!

      Hope that helps!

  9. Ronn Jerard says:

    Great article, Linda. As a newbie, the fear of not being able to book an assignment drives me nuts.So much so that I self sabotage my desires to achieve my writing goals. I need what you offered in this article. Thank you.

    • Evan Jensen says:

      Hi Ronn,
      Nice. Glad you found Linda’s advice helpful. If you’ve got halfway decent writing skills, you can get some freelance clients with a solid marketing effort. Keep going.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ronn… walk down any small town’s main drag, or walk through an industrial park, and you will find companies happy to have your help. Assignments are everywhere! It’s moving up and getting paid enough to live on that’s a challenge.

  10. What an inspirational article, and a bit of a kick in the butt, which is what so many of us need, to just get off our duffs and start writing. I think you hit every one of my excuses, so as I read, I was saying, “Guilty, guilty.” Thank you for the encouragement.

    • Evan Jensen says:

      Hi Cassie,
      Here’s the crazy thing. I read Linda’s book “The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success” a lifetime ago, kind of thinking full-time freelancing was an impossible pipe dream. Took me a lot longer than most (lots of excuses mainly), but finally made the leap. Keep going.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well…try not to beat up on yourself, Cassie! Think instead about maybe affirmations you can write to counter each of those excuses.

      I study dialectical behavior therapy in a support group I’m in, and we learn to say, “I am procrastinating and not doing my marketing… AND I can start taking baby steps to change that today.” Turn it into a positive!

  11. Thanks for having me on the podcast and blog…here’s to blasting your excuses!