Dealing With Policy Changes

One of the more frustrating parts of writing, both online and offline, is dealing with policy changes.  These can include site changes and updates, licensing, types of articles accepted, changes in payments, and how articles are formatted.  In just the past 6 months, there have been enough policy changes to make me want to scream.  I’ve vented in forums, but of course, nothing changes.  So how should you deal?

First, really look at the changes.  Sometimes they’re not as bad as they first seem.  There have been some changes that I hated at first, but now I kind of like them.  For instance, Associated Content changed their licensing and how you submit articles.  This has made working with them easier.  Brighthub, on the other hand, made some changes on what you can submit, which has made me not even bother with them for now.

Second, watch where you vent.  Sometimes you’re comments can actually cost you.  Some writers are banned, or at the very least ignored, after they’ve made their opinions known.  Even if you’re polite about it, sometimes you get black balled because you didn’t agree with the moderators and the forum pets.  Try looking at Yahoo Groups or another forum group outside of the main writing website(s).  For instance, Demand Studios has a group at Yahoo called DSWriters where you can say anything you want about DS, good or bad, without being punished.  It’s worth it sometimes to just complain for a few minutes.  It helps me deal with the changes just knowing I’m not the only one that hates it.  You can also find ways around the changes sometimes.

Lastly, stick to your guns.  If you don’t agree with a change, write elsewhere.  I don’t like how the Brighthub system works now.  Therefore, I write elsewhere.  The new system works for others, but not me.  Maybe I will later on, but for now I have other sources of income.  Don’t compromise yourself if you don’t want to.  With recent changes at Demand Studios, I refuse to put in the extra work.  Instead, I’m going to do what I’ve been doing, but just rearrange things to fit the new format.  No reason to put in extra work for no extra pay.

The best advice I can give is to be sure you understand the changes and find a calm way to deal with them.  Yelling at the site owners will not change anything.  Even if the changes scream ignorance, the owners and developers believe they know all and refuse to budge until the changes affect them directly.  The best thing to do is let the changes backfire on the owners.  Trust me, you’ll see a new batch of updates that will magically make the bad ones disappear.  The owners save face and the writers are happy once more.

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So Much To Do…Absolutely No Time

Well, I’m back, at least briefly.  I’ve been struggling with an eye allergy off and on for about two weeks, which makes writing rather difficult.  I’ve gotten extremely behind on my paid assignments and will be putting in some long hours over the next week to catch up and hopefully get ahead once more.  It’s amazing how something so simple can cause so much trouble.

This gave me an idea for a post, however.  Never, ever procrastinate.  I was sticking to my schedule fairly well.  I’ll admit some cute little flash games keep distracting me, but oh well.  The thing was I was sticking to what I had to do on a particular day.  If I finished early, that meant free time to do whatever else I wanted.  I never thought about getting ahead in case something happened.  Instead, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to juggle deadlines that came far too quickly.  If I’d taken advantage of the extra time I had, I wouldn’t be behind much at all right now.  As it is, I’m going to be tripling the amount of writing I’d usually do per day for at least a week.

Some of the extra writing is due to being in a better position than I was a few months ago in the writing business.  I’m being allowed to write more, doing better at promotion, and basically getting into a much better flow.  I’ve learned that to stick with this better position, I need to work harder.  Finishing early simply means getting some of the next day’s work completed.  After all, extra work equals extra pay.  As you become a better writer, you’ll find you learn how to research and write faster and more efficiently.  So take advantage of the time you save to get more done.  You savings account will thank you.  And you won’t be stressing out about your writing deadlines should something unforeseen happen to take you out of commission for a few days or weeks.

Taking Care of Your Instrument

It’s all well and good that you’re churning out page after page of high quality writing. Then again, if you’ve been at it for too long, you may simply be typing gibberish. Granted, I’m sure it looks great to you at the time. However, you need to remember to take breaks when writing.

When you’re on a roll or even when you can’t quite get focused, you need to take a few minutes every few hours to clear your head and stretch your limbs.  You can grab a snack, watch a tv show, call a friend, play a game online, exercise, or whatever you need to do to get away from writing for a few minutes.  A good rule of thumb is to take at least 5 to 10 minutes for each hour.

When you write for too long at a stretch, your muscles become cramped, your writing gradually deteriorates, and you basically burn out.  By taking frequent breaks, you can keep your instrument, meaning you the writer, in shape.  As I said before, you may think doing a marathon writing spree of 10 hours will make up for slacking the day before, but what may sound great to you at hour 9, probably sounds like complete gibberish to anyone else.  Before anyone complains, I realize this works out sometimes, but NEVER EVER make this a habit.  Take breaks during the marathon and you’ll be fine.

One of the things that helps me most is exercising for about 5 minutes.  Exercising translates into basic yoga poses or dancing to my favorite song at the time.  The exercise clears my head, stretches out my muscles, and energizes me for another hour or so of writing.  Whatever you decide to do, just give your mind and body a break to keep your writing at the highest quality possible.

Forced Writing Isn’t Writing At All

I’m sure many writers have experienced the “forced write”.  Basically, it’s the point where you’re writing to topics you simply have no interest in.  You force yourself to write them simply for the pay.  Writing is supposed to be something you enjoy.  After all, pursuing a career you dislike is pointless, right? 

I know that sometimes the pay is absolutely worth forcing yourself to write, but it shouldn’t become a habit.  At least 75% of your writing should be on topics you enjoy or at least want to learn more about.  I’ve written about topics that I didn’t necessarily know anything about, but I thoroughly enjoyed the research.  However, if I have the potential to double or triple my usual earnings simply by branching out, why not? 

It’s fine to branch out and try writing on topics you’re not interested in.  Who knows, you might find a hidden interest.  Then again, you may just make a few extra bucks and hope you never hear about the topic ever again.  There are some benefits to forced writing, but sometimes the negative consequences aren’t worth it.  Check out the list of pros and cons below and see what you think. 

PROS
You may earn more.
You may find new interests, which leads to more topics.
You may get your work noticed by a wider audience.

CONS
You lose interest in writing.
The work comes off as forced.
You spend more time than usual on research and end up actually losing money.
Writing becomes just a job instead of something to be proud of.

Now if you actually have no interest in writing and are just writing to earn extra money, then forced writing is probably all you do.  For those that love to write, the last thing you want to do is lose interest.  As long as you spend most of your time doing what you enjoy, you’ll be fine.  Sometimes in order to pay the bills, you have to write about topics that let’s face it, you have to have engery drinks just to stay awake.  Just don’t make this all you do or you’ll find yourself hating the job you’ve dreamed about.

Worse Than Writer’s Block – Loss of Passion

Unless you’re a writer, you would believe that writer’s block is the absolute worst thing that can befall a writer.  Contrary to popular belief, writer’s block is nothing compared to loss of passion or what basically boils down to boredom.  People forget that the world of writing isn’t always glamorous with millions of readers, book signings, seeing your name on best seller lists, and so on.  Only a hand full of writers ever see this kind of fame; however, that doesn’t mean other writers don’t make as many contributions or make as much money.

Writers often reach a point where they lose interest in writing.  They still want to write, but they can’t force the pen to move or their fingers to type.  (I’m sure a few years from now, no one will have a clue what a pen or pencil is.)  It’s not exactly boredom, but it’s close.  Imagine sitting at a desk day after day pouring out word after word on every topic imaginable.  After a while, the words become a meaningless blur.  So what is a writer to do when they lose their passion?

I’ve had to force myself many times to write.  My work suffers for it.  The key is to find at least one topic you’re extremely interested in and write as much as possible.  This topic should require no thought or research on your part.  For me, writing about computers, programming, pets, or simply expressing my many opinions helps to erase the “boredom” and suddenly I am able to write to the most mundane of topics with renewed passion. 

Should this not work, there is one more solution.  Take a vacation.  So many writers work from home, but forget to take a break.  Other employees take vacations, why shouldn’t writers?  You are your own business, so set your own hours.  If you need a break, finish all assignments and inform clients that you will be unavailable for a set amount of time.  Whether you take a few days or a few weeks, simply get away from writing.  Take some time to explore other hobbies, or just spend time with friends and family.

Loss of passion is no reason to give up.  Follow the techniques above to renew your writing passion.  If you find yourself becoming bored, change your writing or take a break.

The Consequences of Contests

Contests can bring out a writer’s competitive nature.  Obviously, you enter a contest to win, but the fact is the odds are against you.  Still, entering writing contests, especially free ones, can be fun and help you become a better writer. 

When you win a contest, you feel great.  However, when you don’t win, your self-esteem can take a nose-dive right off the nearest cliff.  Just because you don’t win a contests, it doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer.  Winning a contest can depend on the mood of the judges that day, your peers in the writing community, the amount of time you put into the contest, how knowledgeable you are on the subject matter, and much more.  Sometimes, the stars just don’t align in your favor.  When they do, celebrate!

There are a few things you should consider before entering a contest.  Some contests are definitely not worth your time.

  • Your first contests should always be free contests.  Helium is a great place to check out free contests and to get used to competition.  Writer’s Digest is also a good starting point for contests, both free and fee.
  • If a contest requires a entrance fee, be sure you are completely comfortable with the subject matter before entering.
  • Read all terms and conditions.  You could actually loose a contest because you used one word too many or formatted incorrectly.
  • Be sure the contest is legit.  Sometimes this can be hard to determine.  If anything looks fishy, don’t enter, especially if the contest requires a lot of time and any money.  You can check online writer’s groups and ask others about their experiences with a particular site, magazine, or contest site.
  • Be mentally prepared.  If you can’t handle competition and the possibility of losing, don’t enter!

Contests require you to have a very sportsman like attitude.  If you win, great, if you don’t, oh well.  Just have fun and enjoy the experience.

Revisiting Creative Writing

To me, creative writing is pretty much everything outside of news and informative articles.  Granted, even tutorials, news stories, and other informative articles take a decent amount of creativity.  Anyone can spit out facts, but you have to add a little flair to make people want to read.

I’ve been working so much on writing articles that I’d forgotten my original writing passion began with creative writing.  Honestly, I still love fiction, poetry, and music more than what I write for money.  Recently, I claimed a C4C at Associated Content to write a Christmas poem.  I was thrilled to see 45 views within the first week of publication.  Considering I did no promotion and creative writing doesn’t exactly do well on AC, I was happy.

The words sort of flowed, kind of like they used to before all my creativity went out the window along with the stress of becoming a freelancer.  I used to write at least 50 poems and/or songs each year depending on what was going on in my life.  I’ve never been good at short stories, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing the ghost story for AC.  This year; however, I’ve only written 3 maybe 4 poems or songs.  Talk about withdrawal!

So from here on out, I’m going to set aside time to write more poems, songs, and fiction stories.  I’ve been denying myself when inspiration strikes simply because I was busy writing an article or researching a new writing opportunity.  Hopefully, this will help me start writing more blog posts as well.  I’ll post some of my favorites at AC and add the links to my posts on here.

Never ignore inspiration.  Creative writing is both fun and an excellent stress reliever.  As any freelancer can tell you, stress relief is always welcome.