As you know, an increasing part of my income has started coming from my freelance writing. What I’m starting to realize is this: making it as a successful freelance writer isn’t easy. You have to be prepared for the reality that something that was once a joyful way to spend time has become a job. If you’ve decided to make your favorite hobby your main source of income, your favorite hobby will eventually come to occupy the same position in life as your previous job did.
Some friends suggest you may even start to resent writing to an extent, although I’m not at that stage yet (thank God!)
So, how can you survive the transition into full-time writing?
Whatever kind of writing you do, one thing that I’ve found to help you survive any ruts is this:
Whenever possible, write about topics that you find interesting.
Whether you’re a content writer or if you’re working on a novel, finding ways to write about your passions will help you keep your interest in writing alive when you have to endure frustrating spells of low inspiration or output.
People gravitate toward those who have passion and have invested in certain subjects. Passion for a subject can come across in writing and makes for more engaging content. So, when it comes to unlocking the writer in you, it is vital that you write about a subject that you are passionate about.
What is your passion?
You could be a history buff who wants to wants to write a historical fiction novel. Or a huge sports fan, who contributes to the underdog-triumphs tradition of novels with your book about Houston Texans overcoming the odds to win the SuperBowl LIV. Or even a dedicated political analyst writing about the Machiavellian power plays and towering egos in the corridors of power. It really doesn’t matter! What’s important is that the subject matter you are writing about animates you, so that your passion comes across in your writing.
Depending on what kind of writing you opt for, finding ways of doing this may require a degree of creative problem solving and lateral thinking.
Let’s say you’re a novelist who’s fascinated by quantum physics. There are plenty of ways to incorporate elements of scientific theory into certain types of novels. Science fiction would be a particularly pertinent example.
However, please don’t fill it with dry theoretical abstractions which only quantum physicists will understand, unless you actively wish to limit the commercial potential of your book!
It’s your job to make this obscure interest accessible to a general reader, to explain ideas and theories as stories that readers will identify with. To distill something very complex into something digestible and which comes alive on the page. That’s what writers do.
Unconsciously writing about your passions
Of course, in most cases, our passions permeate our writing even if we don’t intend them to.
Without wanting to get psychoanalytical about the whole writing process, writing activates your subconscious. You may find certain writing themes or subjects constantly reoccurring in your writing without you even being aware of it, as writer Carmen Maria Machado points out.
Your subconscious obsessions and ideas will find a way to express themselves in your writing. Let them. All you have to do is sit down at the keyboard and keep on writing.
Mundanity is your friend
Another thing to bear in mind is that you should never underestimate the value of the mundane activities that make up your daily life.
You know, all those tedious necessities and obligations that keep you from spending more time on the things you’re truly passionate about?
Those very things can serve as the engine which drives you towards whatever it is you’re passionate about! You should be grateful for their existence: they serve as the antagonist in your life story. They create the tension which adds depth and dimensions to your narrative, and generates that conflict which, as we all know, is the source of drama. Your disinterest in these things acts as a counterpoint to your passions, making them more intense and vivid, while the experiences you gain from having to engage in all those little burdens affords you profound insights on why your passions in life are so important to you, helping you to understand them more fully.
Writing, like any other way of making a living, isn’t always fun. But, unlike lots of other ways of making a living, it sure is worth suffering for!
Writing as a freelancer is certainly a challenge pretty often. Nothing was more remote from my knowledge or interests than prosthetic legs or jiu jitsu and yet I have to write about these every week. Surprise: I don’t dislike this. It got me stressed at the beginning, but I found it opened me to many new amazing stories, knowledge, readings that I would not have approached. And in the end I do enjoy it most of the time. Bonus: I get to amaze friends who can’t suspect I am a little expert in these subjects. Bottom line, if you are a curious person, you can enjoy writing about subjects that don’t naturaly attract your attention. I’m not sorry I gave it a try!
Hear, hear! Well said, my dear 🙂
Great post Nicholas. I’m thinking about doing some freelance writing and really not interested if the topic holds no interest for me. 🙂
How true! It’s much easier that way 🙂
An interesting post, Nicholas. I think beginning authors get stuck because they want to write about some earthshattering event or a topic that’s never been used before (as if there is such a thing).
That’s very true! Everyone dreams of being the next publishing wunderkid (me included) 🙂
Sometimes the mundanity (I love that word!) can be someone else’s passion and a source for writing. For example, I’ve worked for years with homeless people with mental illness. Most of my job is routine – home visits, paperwork, meetings, rinse, repeat – and yet other people seem fascinated by my career, perhaps believing that I’m constantly in danger or conversing daily with drooling lunatics. Even though most people understand/know someone with/are battling depression themselves, for some reason ‘Homeless & Mentally Ill’ is seen as something different.
I’m one of those people who are fascinated by your career 🙂
I’m totally into writing about my passions and I think that is obvious from my books. I agree.
Yay for passion 😀
Hi. Your posts are inspiring.
Thank you, Neelesh 🙂