Well, this has been an eventful few months.
I’ve taken a step back from this blog and from writing fiction, because life, as usual, has gotten in the way.
Over the past few months:
- The good – I’ve acquired an excitable puppy – which has really affected my concentration and work output
- The bad – My partner lost his job due to ill health
- The also bad – I lost my job/main client (in the same week)
Out of nowhere, we were stuck with minimal income to take care of 3 pets, rent and a car loan. Scary stuff really. While we’re still not out of the woods yet, things are looking better than they did a month ago.
As you can imagine, it’s meant my work, my writing and my mental health took a nosedive. In times like this, whatever pays the bills becomes the number one priority for obvious reasons. Yet again any hopes of writing out a chapter or two have completely vanished.
What have I been doing – besides wallowing in self-pity?
I’ve been working hard on building my freelance writing business. This is something I should’ve been doing anyway, but because my full-time job was so demanding and time-consuming, I had no time or energy left for anything else. In fact, it was making me ill if I’m being honest.
Things are starting to pick up and I’m actually getting clients approaching me rather than the other way round (this manages to shock me every time).
One thing that’s been really helpful is that my partner decided to go into the same business as me. We’re working together and on separate projects, editing each other’s work and helping each other out with pitches and so on. We’ve got some work coming through, but not enough to stop me worrying just yet. Thankfully, I’ve got some emergency savings because I always assume the worst will happen and sometimes I’m right. We’re doing okay, but things could be better, not going to lie.
How to stay productive when shit hits the fan
So, why the sob story? Before anyone says they’ve had it worse, I know. It’s not the worst situation you’ll ever hear about but I can’t speak for anyone else.
However, with all that has been going on, my writing and my overall health have naturally slipped a bit. I’ve picked up some of my usual unhealthy habits such as drinking and eating too much because of the “just fuck it” mentality that stress often leaves me with. The vague “I should write today” thought would get pushed to the back of my mind way too easily.
It’s sad that when stress hits and we’ve got 101 things to do, the stuff we enjoy automatically gets pushed aside. Things that make us happy are no longer a priority. All that matters is where the rent money is coming from.
So, in the hope that this might help someone else in a shitty position, here are some tips that have helped keep me sane and moderately productive.
Stop working on the sofa
My productivity really took a nosedive when I started working on the sofa. This works for some people, but not for me. Because we got a puppy, I’ve had to watch him constantly which meant I had to stay away from my office and work downstairs.
Now he’s a little older, crate trained more or less and I’ve got my partner at home, I can work in my office again.
Something about having your own productive space and actually sitting upright gives me a big boost so I try to get at least most of my work done in there.
Maybe you don’t have an office of your own, but sitting in a proper chair in a place that is different from the one you binge Netflix in will definitely help.
Cling onto your routine
If you’ve ever lost a job, you’ll know how easy it is to start waking up at noon, and go to sleep at 3am because what’s the point in getting up early when you’ve got nowhere to be?
Yeah, stop that right now. While I’ve not been that bad, I’ve definitely let my routine slip a bit and I’m only really now getting it back.
I find calendar blocking helps, which is obsessively planning your routine hour by hour on something like Google calendar. That might not work for everyone and it’s still a struggle to stick to, but it gives me a vague sense of purpose.
Get stuff done – work ain’t over
Even when I lost a major client, that didn’t mean I had all the free time in the world. I still have plenty of stuff to do. Blogging, social media, promotional stuff, cold emailing, talking to LinkedIn connections, applying to jobs and doing business admin stuff.
All of these things should really replace your full-time job for the time being. It’s common advice that you should treat job hunting as a job in itself – get up at a regular time and work until the end of the day of perfecting your applications and researching new opportunities.
Take some time to learn something new
If you’re in a similar position to me and have some “spare” time you’ve suddenly found yourself with, you might want to fill that time with new learning.
This means addressing some gaps in your experience and knowledge. Try to make this if not a daily habit, but a weekly one at least. Read books on your industry, watch Youtube tutorials, do an online course and so on. If you can, set yourself a little syllabus, with goals at the end of each month.
As writers, a lot of us totally get the power of journaling to get your thoughts down on paper. But I’ve been through periods of my life where I’ve simply forgotten to do it. Every time I get back to it, I feel a bit better. I’ve been quite good at remembering to write in a journal this year since I set my office up and started working from home.
It’s a great way to work through your own problems because it forces you to communicate and explain the situation to a neutral third-party. Maybe a therapist is better, but if you can only afford some paper, then it’s a handy alternative for now.
If you can afford a therapist, then this is great. Having someone neutral to share all your problems can be highly beneficial.
Write as soon as you get up
I’m a fairly earlier riser. My partner thinks I’m insane when I occasionally get up at 5 am or 6 am. I love this part of the day though, it’s free of distractions and responsibilities. This is an absolutely perfect time to get some creative writing done or blogging, or whatever you prioritise.
When writing is the last thing on your mind, you can very easily keep putting it all off. When you do it first thing in the morning, you’re too sleepy to talk yourself out of it, so it’s the perfect time.
There are too many adult things to do in the day, so get the fun part done first.
Finally, I’ve started to get back on track with my fiction writing and the only reason I’ve got any of it done is because I’ve been doing it first thing in the morning.
You may love the gradual wake up and start to the day, but I promise you, you will feel so much more accomplished if you’ve done something before most people wake up. There’s a reason the top entrepreneurs in the world wake up at silly-o-clock.
Hope this helps
So, there you have my little tips for getting your writing done when all hell breaks loose in your life. It’s not easy, and I’m aware I’m in a better position than a lot of people but I hope this can help someone else in a small way.
I’d love to hear from someone else who managed to keep writing during stressful parts of their life. I’ve never been very good at it, and would like to get into better habits now so please pop your own tips or insight into the comments below!