I learned a lot about being a writer in 2014, and over these ten days, I’m sharing some of my tips. Here is Tip #7.
Learn how to make yourself take time off.
This one, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, was the hardest for me. In a way, I think it’s the hardest for all freelancers—one of the things we may actually envy our full-time office job friends for; friends who go out to the movies in the evenings, have brunch on weekends, and take two-week vacations that are actually vacations. To put it simply, we freelance writers don’t know how to take a day off, because our job depends on finding story ideas, sources, and outlets everywhere we turn.
The fact that we can work from anywhere turns into a curse instead of a blessing. Maybe we’re in Lisbon as I was last February, looking for undiscovered hole-in-the-wall restaurants as fodder for a “Top Ten” list rather than for our own culinary enjoyment. Maybe we’re in Taiwan as I was last March, or minds racing with possible outlets that would be interested in a story about a fascinating but comparatively little-known country. Maybe we’re just at home, trolling the Internet for interesting current events stories we could write responses to. Whatever our goals, whatever our reasons, we can’t sit still, because choosing to sit still now might mean that a month from now we’ll be sitting still not by choice, but because we don’t have any work at all.
What’s more, if we want to take a planned vacation, we have to estimate when to stop pitching and when to close the office, so that the assignments stop coming in at exactly the week we want them to. The way magazine publishing works, you can easily be writing a story in January that you won’t see in print until June. In much the same way, you can easily be pitching stories this month only to have editors get back to you in two months’ time—exactly when you had hoped to take a weeklong vacation.
Around November of this year, however, just as I was flying home from a two-week vacation in New York that was hardly a vacation at all (I worked all the way through it), I realized that if I was going to maintain my sanity, I was going to have to take a break. Luckily, Germany was about to take a two-week break as well, and I noticed that most of my regular clients were winding down for the end of the year. I also realized, with some relief, that I didn’t have to send out any new pitches if I didn’t want to. That might mean I would awake on January 1 and I find I had no writing gigs ahead of me, but that would free me up to do other work: take a 30-day online course on querying like I’m doing now, rethink my website, which I plan to do in the next week, and reorganize my desktop for the new year.
I’m writing this after a two-week break during which I did almost no work at all, and by the end of it (we’re talking January 1st, exactly) I couldn’t wait to start gearing up for another year full of freelance writing surprises and accomplishments.