9 Non-Writing Things EVERY Freelance Writer Should Do Daily

by Alicia Sparks on October 25, 2011

Always with the coffee.

Once you become a freelance writer, it’s easy to become so immersed in the job – making it work and making it thrive – that you let the job become too immersed in your life.

We’re writers, and writing is our life – I get that.

However, there are elements of our lives we often neglect because we become so wrapped up in the freelance writing business.

For example, when was the last time you just chilled out with a book WITHOUT thinking about how you could actually use that time for catching up on blog posts?

Been that long, huh?

Below are nine things completely for the most part unrelated to work-related writing that every freelance writer should do each day.

1. Have one cup of coffee away from your computer.

(…or tea, or whatever you drink – I swear, I know someone who wakes up to hot chocolate.)

How many of us turn off our alarms, shuffle to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee, and wander back to our computers to sleepily pilfer through e-mail, search for new freelance writing jobs, or even stumble around on Twitter or Facebook until we’re awake enough to begin working?

Well, stop.

These days, most freelance writers already spend a huge chunk of their days sitting in front of their computers or laptops, and sometimes, it’s just plain impossible to work any other way. What ISN’T impossible, however, is giving yourself 15 or 20 minutes each morning somewhere AWAY from your computer. Sit on your porch and enjoy listening to nature wake up. Curl up on the couch and catch the morning news. Sit at your kitchen table with the day’s paper.

Give your mind and spirit time to wake up and welcome the day without the glare of a computer screen.

2. On that note, don’t eat your meals at your computer.

Not only for the above-mentioned reasons, but also because it’s just unhealthy. Eating at your computer desk, or even with your laptop on your lap, contributes to mindless eating, overeating, and choosing foods for their convenience factor rather than their nutritional value.

Also, no matter how clean your keyboard looks, computers can get outright nasty.

If you simply can’t avoid eating at your desk, check out WebMD’s 7 Tips for Eating While You Work; however, if you work at home, just get up and go to the kitchen, okay?

3. Exercise.

Again: We spend so much time slumped in front of our computers.

Even if you aren’t ready to commit to some regular workout routine (no judgment here, people), there are things you can do to strengthen your heart, warm up your muscles, and keep your limbs, um, limber – all of which are more beneficial than sitting on your ass all day.

Need ideas? Take a walk, stretch, or just bust out a few calisthenics* before you shower or sit down to dinner.

4. Write something unrelated to work.

This probably should’ve been Number One, bold, and in all caps.

Too often, freelance writers pour so much of their energy into their clients’ work that they have nothing left over (or they believe they have nothing left over) for their own writing. Their novels get pushed to the back burner, their short stories never get entered in contests, they’ll write that query letter tomorrow, or the next day, or really next week is a better time…

This, friends, is a sure-fire way to burn out fast.

Even if it’s just half an hour a day – even if all you’re doing is outlining your next chapter or reading and reflecting on what you wrote yesterday – spend some time with your own writing.

5. Escape.

Whether it’s reading, watching television, or settling in with a movie, give your brain a mini escape each day.

One of my favorite ways to escape during the work week is to curl up with a book or, if it’s Wednesday, turn on Modern Family and crack up for 30 minutes (yeah, I just dated this article – who really cares?). Sometimes I play music and dance (hey, there’s another idea for exercise) and other times I find some movie on Netflix I’ve been meaning to watch forever.

A friend of mine plays the guitar. Another battles it out on World of Warcraft – or whatever it is one does on World of Warcraft.

More important than the actual activity is the result of the activity, which is to let your mind engage in and enjoy something unrelated to work.

6. Talk about the weather.

It’s hard for me to type or say that sentence without singing it in manner of DMB’s “So Much To Say” (but, in my defense, I often break into some DMB song mid-conversation – out loud or in my head). Why? Because I love Dave Matthews Band. Most people who know me (and many who only slightly know me) know this about me, because I talk about it a lot, play their music a lot, head off to shows a lot…

See what I did there? I talked about something unrelated to writing and work. You, too, should make it a point to do that at least once a day. Even though you love writing, you have other interests and other things going on in your life, too – as do your family and friends – and it’s great to keep those close to the surface.

7. Cut yourself some slack.

Look, I know it’s important to send invoices, update your blog, follow up with potential clients, and – oh yeah – meet deadlines, but there will come situations when you’ll need to cut yourself some slack.

Maybe a neighbor has an emergency and needs you to babysit; perhaps your best friend calls you up for some serious advice. You’re more than happy to help out (as well you should be), but it’s important not to beat yourself up over those lost hours once the day’s finished.

So, you might need to put that blog post off until tomorrow or maybe you’ll have to finish up a project in the morning. Life goes on when you’re writing, and when you’re not. I promise.

8. Pray.

…or meditate, or reflect – whatever you do, just do it. Even if you’re not a religious or spiritual person, you don’t have to mindlessly amble through your day, unaware of your ups and downs and unwilling to pause and think about them.

Wake up each morning and consciously think about what you want to accomplish, or go to bed each night and reflect on how your day went. Focus on what you enjoyed and are thankful for and spend some time musing on what you’ll do differently next time.

9. Sleep.

Pretty self-explanatory, I think, but – sleep.

Writers are notorious for sacrificing sleep for work, and although, having been in the situation once or twice, I recognize the occasional need for late nights, I also recognize the extreme need to keep them occasional.

Otherwise, you risk producing crap, which can mean anything from having to dig around and find extra time for editing to losing a client.

How about YOU? Are these things you already make time for, or are aware of, each day? Are there things you’d add to the list, or even take away?

* I swear, I didn’t know how to spell that word until just now.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Hoppal November 3, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I think that last one is perhaps the hardest… I tend to have a “I’ll do it later” mentality when it comes to sleep – especially when I’m starting a new project. Indeed, that’s one way to guarantee I take myself out of commission for a few days once the productive-bug stops biting me.

Alicia November 4, 2011 at 11:41 am

@ Michael – HA! I used to have the same mentality. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it sometimes. It’s amazing how much you can get finished when everyone else is in bed, hmm? 🙂

Becky Tumidolsky January 27, 2014 at 3:51 pm

This is terrific advice. One thing I almost never do is write for myself. There’s a book in my head (well, outlined on paper), but between freelance work, family, networking and self-promotion, household administration, and volunteer commitments, I’m maxed out.

Alicia Sparks January 27, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I completely understand being maxed out — great way to put it. Some people would suggest getting up a little earlier or going to bed just a little later, but I’m wondering if it’s absolutely impossible to write for yourself every day, a writer could do it every other day, or even just once or twice a week. Maybe even schedule a time to go somewhere else, away from all the distractions of home (the park, coffee shop, etc.) and just write.

Thanks so much for sharing Becky. I know I share your frustrations, and I’m sure so many other freelancers do, too.

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