The Freelance Writing Trenches: Write It Down

Monday, February 20, 2012
Clever, right?

Here I am, penning a freelance writing "how-to" article, and my advice to you is "write it down."

"No shit, Sherlock," says you.

But I'm not actually talking about writing articles, essays, short stories, or what have you. (But just to clarify, if you want to earn a living as a writer, you will eventually have to "write it down" at some point. Just saying.) I'm talking about writing down those hazy goals we all have for our writing, for our careers, for our lives.

Let me admit that it has not been a sterling winter at Of Woods and Words. I mean, it hasn't been a disaster. The off season certainly started off strong with plenty of freelance work and I've done my set, "must be done" work diligently and with a surprising amount of consistency. But since about December, I've been stuck in a creative rut. The novel that I worked so hard on editing two winters back and shopped around last winter has been sitting patiently in its three ring binder, wondering if I'll ever give it the rewrite attention it needs. I've spent a lot of time hovering around, scrolling through Pinterest,   waiting for the next move.

I've been frustrated with myself these last few months. I look at some of my peers' writing success and wonder why I can't drum up that much motivation. And with the ever-tight winter budget, I've felt far too much like the stereotypical penniless writer.

So on Saturday evening, I finally pulled out a pad of paper and wrote down simple, concrete goals to get me out of my slump. I wanted to start increasing web traffic, actively return to my fiction work, and increase my monthly take home by $250.00. Then underneath each goal, I wrote down specific ways I was going to achieve each goal. Write 500 words of fiction 5 times a week? That sounded do-able. Actually get three queries out the door each week? Heck, I could probably handle that too. Just by writing down the goals, I felt the stress start to fade and the control return.

I'm all about dreaming the big dream. But if you write down "become a freelance writer" on your goals list, you're going to be overwhelmed. It's too big of a goal. Instead of nibbling away at a piece of pie, you're trying to shove the entire pie, straight out of the oven, down your throat. Ouch!

So write down the big goal and write down all the little goals you'll need to meet to reach the big goal. Then write down all the things that can help you accomplish all those little goals. Don't assume your goal is ridiculous or unachievable. With a little focus, you can shake the uninspired blahs in no time. 

Trust me. Write it down. Break it down. Plan it out. It helps.



  1. Very good explanation of writing down the "doables" under the main goal. You're right, if you only look at the end goal it can get very overwhelming, thanks for the tips and good luck reaching yours!

  2. Thanks, Ada. I really appreciate you keeping freelancing and its nuts and bolts on my radar.
    I would add that at least for a couple of months (until the daily tasks really become true habit, meaning you feel something is really missing if you don't do them) have an accountability buddy--call them or email them daily to report, check in over tea at the end of the week. They don't need to be doing anything like you are (could be rearranging all their closets). I find this very important because freelancers lack coworkers.
    (I called someone every morning by 8am for about 2 months to report that my desk was clean. Really. And then it became the norm--after a whole lifetime of just being disorganized).

  3. I write everything down!! Literally. :)

    Great quote. Perfect for me right about now.

    Thanks for this post. It was exactly what I needed at the moment.

    Newest follower from the I Love My Online Friends Monday Blog Hop.


  4. Hey Ada! Just Stopping by via the Make My Morning Blog Hop!! I write everything down! I have to in order to remember! I also write down to-do list all over the place!! I hope you have a great Monday!!

    Please stop by either of my blogs: or

  5. Thanks! I'm right here, right in this very spot. I've been mentally clarifying my goals, filling in my editorial calendar, but actually writing down my "writing goals" never crossed my mind!

    Found you through the hop!

  6. Stopping by from the Make My Morning Blog Hop !

  7. Remember my vision board I blogged about 4 months ago? You were all keen on it - I am glad that you came up with your version of it. You go girl!

  8. I would add one thing to this that has been successful for me. Not only do I have very specific and measurable goals for my blog and my writing, I also spend a few minutes each week collecting and charting some data on my goals. Sort of answering the... "So just how did you do on these goals this week?"

    I tend to be a visual person, so if I can see that things are on a steady line up, 2 posts per week suddenly becomes 4, becomes 6. I'm motivated by my own momentum. Likewise, if I see things are starting to fall apart, I can revise my expectations or set some new smaller steps forward sooner rather than later.

  9. I was doing really well taking a lot on right after christmas, but then I got "scared off" by biting off more than I could chew and I haven't really pursued much since then. Maybe I'm ready to write down some goals!

  10. I love the quote. In addition, keep your own dream. I have a very dear friend and think I have finally been able to make her understand that when I am creating something, my mental image does not have to change to her mental image. We have both been going to a knitting group. When I was making something with a stripe she wondered why it wasn't a solid color. If I was making something solid, she thought I should make a stripe to add some color. She is now knitting and jumping in without a pattern and doing a great job. But when I asked her if she had a picture in her mind of what she wanted, she said yes. And when I asked if she understood, how I felt when she kept trying to change my mental picture of what I was trying to create. She understood. I am so thrilled with her work on her own project. We have been friends for over 50 years.

  11. My previous comment seems to have disappeared when an advert popped up. Never mind. Yes, you have to either write it down or perhaps better still, type it out on the computer so you can keep redrafting it more easily. And I agree with Lita Jones (who has commented above): Keep your own dream.

    Visiting from 99% blog hop.


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