Over the last few months I have been tasked with writing health and fitness articles. This is a new frontier for me. I found the work to be difficult and, at times, agonizing. (I’m not dramatic or anything.)
Last week I was at my breaking point. I wanted to throw in the towel. I thought this work is not worth my happiness. But as I was complaining to my ever-patient husband, he offered me a neat little idea. He told me to pretend I was someone else while I was writing the health articles.
And so it is my pleasure to introduce you to Daphne Dilbert, Diet Diva. Daphne is married to Darren Dilbert, Drama Director. She loves puns and alliterations. She is a total yoga-nut, and she eats her probiotics every day. Yogurt is her favorite snack. She loves reading scientific journals to learn new things about the human body.
She is really quite annoying.
But you know what else she is? A great health writer.
Channeling Daphne has renewed my excitement and energy for my writing. I actually enjoy reading the health journals and writing about HIIT workouts and the benefits of cannabis oil. I am already using my alter-ego less and less. She renewed my positive attitude.
So, if you’ve ever found yourself hating your work and still needing to pay your bills, create a new character. You can be whoever you want to be while you write about motorcycles, or cats, or nostalgic music trends.
My neighbor has a huge truck. You know the kind. One of those trucks that make you uncomfortable when you stand beside it because you are only five feet tall and the truck is at least twenty. (Oh, just me?)
This truck is loud and obnoxious, and all “look at me and how much money I spent on a truck that could have bought me a house.” This truck never surprises you when it passes you on the highway, and you notice big metal balls hanging from the back. That’s what kind of truck my neighbor has.
(in all seriousness, if you want to buy a big truck and it makes you happy, you do you.)
I wouldn’t pay as much attention to this truck if my neighbor didn’t pay as much attention to it. If all the men in the world spent as much time with their loved ones as he does with this truck, reality shows would look like episodes of Rainbow Brite and Fraggle Rock.
This guy is out there at least twice a day, every day. Rain, snow, heat, day, night, he is with this huge black monstrous truck. He is lovingly wiping away every speck of dirt while wearing gloves (is there such a thing as special car washing gloves?), waxing thumbprints from the doors, diligently checking his oil and filters and wiper fluid.
If he started making out with this truck, I would not be shocked in the least. It’s the next logical step. This guy loves his truck. Like, reeeeally loves his truck.
As I wrote my morning papers on my back deck this morning, he was out there with his green microfiber cloth, lovingly rubbing the hood and listening to AC/DC. I paused and watched him for a moment and thought about how often I see him out there taking care of that truck and I had a revelation.
If this guy can take care of his truck as well as he does, every day, why am I not taking care to write something every day?
I don’t need to write a whole book, or even one chapter every day.
I don’t need to write an entire blog post every day.
I don’t even need to write emails every day.
But I do need to write something, anything, every day.
He loves his truck and wants it to last a long time. I love my job. I love my career and my freedom. I love writing. It’s my passion. Duh, right? So why don’t I show it the level of care and respect that this truck is getting every day? It felt utterly senseless. So, I came directly into my office and thought of this blog post.
I’ve had major writing blockage for a few months now. Nothing is happening, and nothing is getting me there. Every writer feels like that at some point. I’m not going to say things like figure out what’s blocking your creativity, or try meditating and remembering all the things you love about writing.
If it were that easy, none of us would have trouble getting up in the morning and writing our hearts out.
Today, my neighbor and the love of his truck propelled me into my office to write about him. So, I challenge you to find someone who loves something as much as that guy and his truck. And when you do, tell yourself that you’re better than that shithead, and go bang out a few paragraphs. You’ll feel better before you get to 550 words. I promise!
(And if none of this is helpful, take comfort that you are not alone in your troubles.)
Constructive criticism. Developmental feedback. Progressive advice. Whatever you call it, it’s necessary and sometimes shitty. It’s also a brick-by-brick construction of your writing foundation.
I’ve read a lot of blogs on writing tips. Inevitably the article will tell me that I need to have thick skin or learn to grow some. You know what I say to that?
No. No way. Not happening. I am a hyper-sensitive, thin-skinned, impassioned writer that needs a lot of emotional soothing when feedback is less than stellar. I like who I am, and I am not going to harden myself against critics or the world.
I am thin-skinned. I don’t know how to be thick-skinned because that’s not in my nature but I do have tools that soothe my bruised ego and help me move forward without fear.
Are you thin-skinned too? I hope these tips help.
Find your cheerleader.
Make sure you have a support system. Introverts tend to have a small social circle. Ensure that you have someone that can be a sounding board for your frustrations, fears, and hurt feelings.
My husband is my biggest cheerleader. I tell him when I get feedback that hurts my feelings. He has an uncanny ability to twist the criticism into positivity.
Is your art, your work, bigger than temporary hurt feelings? It is.
Change your perspective.
I like to visualize every piece of poor feedback as a big rock. I get the criticism, I step on that rock and it elevates me. You won’t be a great writer until you’re standing on a mountain of these big rocks.
Every criticism is a stepping stone towards being a better writer. These are opportunities, not setbacks. Use feedback as your fuel to get better, do better, be better.
Let it out. Give yourself permission to sulk a little and cry it out. If you’re angry, scream and punch the couch (unless it’s a futon because that doesn’t seem safe). Allow yourself to feel whatever it is your feeling and remind yourself that the sting will pass. Poor feedback doesn’t turn you into a bad writer. It turns you into a stronger writer with more knowledge and experience than you had before.
“Ow, that hurt. That hurt a lot. But I’m still a writer.” Critics don’t even get to take that away from you.
There will always be a road to redemption for a writer because our only job is to write better.
Find better clients.
Sometimes constructive criticism is anything but helpful. Sometimes it’s just mean. If your client tells you that your stuff sucks but offers zero notes on how to make it better for them, THEY SUCK.
If that is a reoccurring issue with a client, maybe you aren’t suited to work together. There is no shame in realizing that a working relationship is no longer beneficial and then taking steps to rectify the situation. And by rectify, I mean walk away. I’d like to suggest playing Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” while you write the peace-out email.
It’s okay to be a thin-skinned writer. There are so many people out there shouting that it’s not, but it really is! Our sympathetic nature is our strength.
Thick skin is not necessary to be a writer. There are a lot of articles and blogs that perpetuate and normalize this idea that if you have thin skin, you’re not going to be as successful in your writing career. Fuuuuck that.
You can be sensitive, but you can also be brave. Being tender-hearted doesn’t mean your voice is weak.
Here are 9 tips that will encourage you to get some work done today
I am lazy, but I get paid, otherwise I never would have been able to leave my 9-5 office job. I’ll be honest, though. The first few months that I became a freelance writer, I went crazy. It was joyous.
My dogs became my co-workers. I watched The Office on repeat while I browsed Facebook and Reddit, with numerous Word documents open in the background, pretending like that somehow qualified as work. I wore pajamas five days a week. I rarely left the house even though I kept telling myself (and anyone who would listen) how much free time I was going to have to run errands and keep appointments when I started working from home.
But then Thursday would roll around and I would start freaking out because I was going to have to explain to my amazingly patient and unfailingly supportive husband that my paycheck was going to be “kind of small” this week.
And then I had to tell him that again the next week, and the next.
I kept telling myself that my happiness was worth a smaller paycheck, and making sacrifices. And it was! It still is! But eventually, my sheer laziness caught up with me. Our bills that used to be comfortably paid every month were rolling in fast and furious like a Vin Diesel franchise, and for the first time, I wasn’t sure how they were going to get paid.