How do you write so many pieces every week?
I’m writing this on a plane. LAX to SEA.
And while I hope we’re friendly enough for you to be interested in my travel plans, I bring it up for an important reason.
When I wrote about how I got my ideas a few weeks ago, I mentioned I usually complete between 20 and 30 pieces every week. Some of you emailed me to ask how I get so much done, week in and week out, so after thinking about the topic for a bit, I broke down my answer into three reasons.
The first reason I get so much done is I treat freelance writing like a full-time job. There’s this myth about freelancing—the idea that once you’re free to manage your own schedule, you can spend days doing whatever you want. Go to the movies in the middle of the afternoon, head off to the beach, sleep in every morning. I set an alarm. More importantly, I block out at least eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, strictly for work.
I’m writing this column from a plane on Monday morning because I spent the weekend visiting friends in Los Angeles. Yes, because I am a freelancer I have the luxury of booking a flight home on a Monday. But I also put in an hour of work last night before bed, did an hour of work before I got to the airport, and have two hours of work on this plane. When I get back to my apartment in Seattle, I’ll have at least another four hours of solid work before I consider the day done.
The second reason I have such a high output is because I have a lot of practice. As with most jobs, the more experience you have, the faster you are able to get your work done. You begin to learn what clients and publications want, which saves you time during the drafting and revision processes.
Practice will also help you to quickly adjust your mindset from copywriting to first-person blog posts to reported magazines articles. You’ll learn how to wear many different writerly hats during the same day, which means you can apply for more gigs and get more work done.
Practice, in my case, also helps me avoid writer’s block. I’ve stared at a blinking cursor so many times that I don’t need to worry about not being able to come up with the next sentence. Sometimes, if I get a little stuck, I outline or mindmap where I want the piece to go—and then I let my experience carry me there.
The third reason I am consistently able to complete so much work every week is because I am willing to let each piece go. This is crucial: I want pieces to be done. I don’t need to spend a lot of time wondering if I chose the perfect words. My job is to get good writing to an editor and then work through the revision process to get the piece ready for publication. When I spend too much time worrying about drafts, I complete less work and earn less money.
If you want to increase the number of pieces you complete in a week, try letting your drafts go as soon as you think they’re done. Turn them in to editors right away, before you have the chance to second-guess yourself. This approach isn’t for everyone—many writers like to let pieces sit for a few days and revise them with fresh eyes—but it is one way to increase your productivity. If this gameplan doesn’t work for you, that’s perfectly fine.
Keep in mind that my methods aren’t prescriptive. People get into writing for different reasons, and no one way of “doing writing” is better than another. You could sleep in every morning, for example, and complete just as much work as I do later in the day. (After all, each writer has an optimum sleep schedule.) Or you could decide to focus on one genre and not worry about trying to wear multiple hats.
However, the combination of blocking off time for work, becoming a faster writer through practice, and submitting drafts without agonizing over them will help you finish more work every week—which is a good way to help you get more work done in a shorter amount of time.
Nicole Dieker still has an hour of her plane ride left to go. Why not email her with another Ask a Freelancer question? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.