I’m excited to be returning to my blog after a month hiatus. (For those wondering: baby is doing well, though we had a bit of a scare when she went into hospital with an infection a couple of weeks ago.) While I continue my ‘maternity leave’, I will be hosting a series of guest posts over the next two months. Today’s guest post comes from freelance writer Amanda Tradwick. She looks at how to find inspiration for personal writing when you work as a professional writer, but her advice can equally apply to those of us who work in any industry–it’s all about being able to switch from business mode to creative mode.
Many aspiring writers find work as professional writers for another content area. For example, maybe you want to write romantic fiction, but you work as a newspaper reporter. Or maybe you want to write dystopian fantasy stories, but you work as a professional blogger. When you spend the majority of your day writing in a professional capacity, it can be difficult to then come home and spend the time and energy writing your own stories. You have been staring at a computer screen all day stringing together words in a purely functional capacity — how do you then switch modes to rediscover your love of joining words for the magic of creating a new world? Here are a few ways that you can stay inspired and keep working on your personal writing, even when you’ve had a full day of writing for pay:
Create a Separate Space
Much of the writing process is intuitive, based on our thoughts and our emotions. Often, we just need to change the way we think or feel to help us get in the mood to write. Creating a separate writing space for your personal projects can help you do this. If you do your professional work in a home office, go to another room to do your personal work. Create a special place to do your personal writing, setting it up with all the things that you like and that you put you into the frame of mind for doing your personal work. Outfit it with your favorite pens, a comfortable chair, pictures of your favorite authors, books that inspire you, or other special objects like pictures or sentimental items that inspire you to write.
Take a Break
Another way to help you create some mental distance between your professional and your personal work is to take a break between these sessions and do something enjoyable. Clear your mind by doing something that is not related to work or to writing. Watch a movie. Spend time with friends or family. Go for a walk. Any activity that does not require you to use a considerable amount of mental effort can help you to feel more refreshed and ready to work when you sit down to do your personal writing.
Set a Schedule
When you get into the groove of writing, it can become easy to lose track of time and to spend hours upon hours working on a project. If you let this happen with your professional writing, it can easily lead to burn out. Don’t allow yourself to spend an excessive amount of time on your “work” writing. Set a schedule for yourself that gives you an appropriate amount of time each day to complete work tasks, to take a short break, and then to work on personal writing. Your personal writing time can be as little as a half an hour or an hour. By scheduling in this time, you ensure that you don’t allow yourself to devote all your time to work and that you have the time for personal projects. Scheduling in personal writing time also ensures that you will spend time working on it, rather than pushing it off in favor of other projects.
Take Small Steps
Starting a project can be overwhelming. There is so much to sort out: character, plot, outline, and more. Instead of allowing yourself to procrastinate because you’re overwhelmed, give yourself permission to take small steps toward your goal. Start by just writing a sentence — good or bad. Or you can just write down a few notes about character, even just a character name. The next day, write another sentence or short note about story or character. Over time, you can begin to add more sentences or more time spent on the project.
Review Your Goals
Why do you want to be a writer? Why do you want to write novels, or children’s books, or other works of fiction? Asking yourself these questions from time to time and reflecting on the answers will help you remember why you are doing what you’re doing, and it will help you find your inspiration. Remember what made you want to start writing in the first place and reconnect with that feeling.
Writing everyday for pay can lead to burn out and make you feel uninspired to do any other writing at the end of the day. Finding ways to stay inspired is important to your progress as a writer. Setting a schedule, reviewing your goals, and creating a separate space in which to do your writing can help. What other ways have you found to stay inspired to write, even when you spend your days writing for others? Tell us about them in the comments!
About the author:
Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for CollegeGrants.org. She has a Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on scholarships and grants for college students and colorado scholarships and grants.