Fear and loathing in freelance writing

Last month, I was marvelling at one of our fruiting shrubs unfurling with its seasonal buds. Its dainty flowers, the colour of purple candy, bear fruit that tastes like rockmelon. We always fail in our attempts to grow rockmelon in Melbourne, so this surrogate fruit has become a surprise member of our family.

It’s going to be a great season, I bellowed to my partner as I walked back inside the house.


A few days later we had a cold snap and the top five inches of the shrub were cremated by frost. I winced as I surveyed the damage and figured that for the most part it’s season over.


The changing temperament of nature is a lot like freelance writing.


Exciting, bountiful, wild, unpredictable. Nature and freelance writing actually have more in common than I realised. But while we can’t control nature, the way we navigate the less desirable feelings associated with freelance writing (or writing in general) can say a lot about our staying power.


Meet the inner writing critic

Our little shrub would agree that the week before the frost set in was a good week. A cost proposal blossomed into real work. I was feeling more confident in general. I felt like I was finally hitting my stride in terms of balancing writing and marketing my business. On a cold and blustery Monday, I suffered a crisis of confidence.


I’ll never sustain a full time living this way.

This is too hard.

I fucking hate the hustle.

I’m not cut out for this.

I’m going to fail.

Worse. I’m going to fail AGAIN.


And then I remembered what I promised myself I would do when I felt like this – I’d burst out of my pity bubble and reach out to my writing support group on Facebook.


Stretching your comfort zone

I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable about posting on freelance writing networks – it feels like I’m on a stage and at risk of bumbling or forgetting my lines. Hello peer pressure. Still I forced myself to write a post about how I was feeling even though I felt more vulnerable.


Did you know that many writers suffer from imposter syndrome?

I didn’t. As the supportive comments rolled in, I noticed a common thread. It seems that many writers suffer from what is known as “imposter syndrome”. Even Jennifer Gregory who earned more than $150,000 freelance writing last year says that she suffers from frequent self-doubt. Whaaaat? Check out some of the ways she pulled herself out of a funk.


Tempering the fear and loathing may take a little more work

Sometimes all we need is a little support, someone (or a group) with whom to share a common experience, and that’s enough to shift our mood. And then sometimes it’s not.


While I’d like to say that I’m back with a renewed sense of confidence in full-time freelance writing, I’m not. Rather I’m feeling like our little shrub that’s currently looking threadbare and working desperately hard to sprout new growth. It’s happening. Albeit slowly.


I started writing this blog a month ago but a technical issue on my website prevented me from posting it. In retrospect, I’m grateful because the blog wouldn’t have been complete without this final section. Recently work and life have culminated in such a way that I’ve been feeling burnt out. So I’ve taken stock, slowed down a bit and I’m spending some time reflecting on what brings me joy (at work as well as in life). In fact, I’ve just been on the phone to an old mate who I’ve only contacted recently when I’ve needed a bit of design work. Picking up the phone just to say hi, not talking about work, having an honest conversation about how things really are, is the kind of stuff that makes us feel connected. I’m still smiling after our conversation which feels like the sunshine that follows a frost.


The other thing that has become apparent to me over the last few weeks is how my perfectionism can thwart progress. It’s certainly handy when work is going well and I’m thriving, not so great when it’s not. So in my next blog I’m going to tackle the subject of perfectionism for all those (pathological 🙂 perfectionists out there like me.


How is freelance writing going for you?

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