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For months I barely wrote at all. I abandoned my novels, hardly touched my articles, and severely neglected some contracted work. At first I just thought it was the weather, the recurring strep throat, or the stress of my dad's heart attack and other personal issues at home. But the holidays came and went and I wasn't feeling any better.
Three months went by and I had still created nothing. For a few days things really got bad and I even considered quitting. I had come so far into a career I thought I was truly passionate about in all aspects, but instead of feeling joyful I was feeling empty and disgusted. I had nothing left to give, what was there left to do? But even while part of me wanted to quit – was ready to quit – a tiny flame inside me refused to go out. I knew it was time for a change.
When I need a change I leave the house. Most of the time I can work quite effectively in my home office but a change of scenery always energizes my muse. In my small rural town there are only a few places to write where I won't get kicked out or strange looks. I tried the coffee shops, the park, the library, but it wasn't enough. I had to get farther
I gathered boxes and boxes of my work. Papers I had scribbled on, two-year-old files, ancient notes on napkins, abandoned projects, books on writing and editing, and half-filled journals were stuffed into my Explorer. I made reservations for a small hotel room, left instructions for the dog sitter, and drove three hours from central Wisconsin to Minneapolis to spend two days at the Mall of America.
I drove straight through a snowstorm, determined to make it to the mall and enjoy my weekend. I really couldn't afford this trip – the money needed to go elsewhere – but I knew how important it could be to my career. I spent those two days at the mall doing research at bookstores, reading through my boxes of projects, people watching, sorting out the useable from the useless, and rediscovering goals I had set for myself before I even knew I would be writing full time. Five hours into hogging three tables at the Barnes & Noble café, I had accomplished more than in the previous few months. I already felt better.
Over the next day and a half I slowly emerged from my editorial stupor. I reorganized my priorities and thought of new ideas for projects I had previously felt stuck on. Slowly, I remembered why I had decided to write in the first place. It was because of my limitless ideas and burning need to share them with the world. How had I forgotten that? Where had all those ideas gone?
I realized that part of my problem was the tunnel vision I developed over deadlines and challenging projects I had been putting off. When I started writing full-time, each project I started was one of dozens of ideas I chose from. I had big plans for each of my niche areas, and there was no end to the opportunities before me. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to get caught up in what other people wanted out of me, and neglected my own dreams and passions in the process.
In order to be a successful writer you must have passion. Getting passionate isn't often a problem. In fact, passion is what turns ordinary people into writers before they even know what has happened. Keeping the passion amidst the deadlines and rejection letters, and the occasional drivel that escapes your fingertips, is the key.
Are you feeling stuck in your writing? Does the thought of finishing a challenging project, or starting a new one for that matter, seem unbearable? Perhaps it's time for a change. Not a change of careers, mind you, but a change of heart. Take a step back. Revisit old projects and goals. Remember what you were passionate about when you first started writing. What did you love about it? What excited you? When you reconnect with those feelings you once had, your writing will take on a whole new meaning, and your opportunities will once again be limitless.
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