It’s the other side of ‘living your creative dream’

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Anything can trigger thoughts like this.

Perhaps you’ve been having an unproductive morning (or day, or several days).

Or perhaps you read a story that’s been published in a reputed journal or that’s won some major award, and you think “I wish I could write like that” or, worse, “I can write like that too. Why does he/she get published and I don’t?”

Or perhaps you’ve been reading some fabulous work of fiction and oohing and aahing over sentences that seem to have been crafted by magic, and you’re suddenly reminded of the draft you’re working on right now and how paltry it seems in comparison. …

It’s lengthy, it’s painful, and it’s immensely rewarding

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As I write this, the novel draft I began during NaNoWriMo 2018 is 90% complete. There are a few small tweaks I need to make here and there, but it’s essentially done — a full story, with a beginning and an end and a ton of twists and twaddle in between.

It’s 90% complete — as a first edit.

Most of the time between December 2018 and March 2020 been all about editing. Brutal editing. Not so much editing, in fact, as revamping. Turning my shy little first draft into something stronger, more complete, more beautiful. And it still isn’t perfect and will probably never be, but the editing process I took it through has made a world — nay, a universe — of difference. After the lockdown began I chose to shelve my novel for a while and focus on other projects. …

And no, it doesn’t involve giving your clients ‘free samples’

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The most common tip you’ll hear in the freelance writing fraternity — “guest post”.

It’s a way to get your name out there on the Internet, and it works to enhance your credibility with prospective clients you’re pitching to. Sure, it doesn’t necessarily pay you, but you’re making an investment in your future, it’s okay to write for free!

Now I agree that some amount of unpaid writing can be important to build your portfolio when you’re starting out.

What I don’t agree with is that guest posting is the only way — or even the best way — to go.

Spoiler alert: there’s way more to it than hashtags

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I firmly believe that anyone can have an attractive Instagram feed.

Yes, even if you aren’t aiming to be an ‘influencer’.

And guess what? It’s not just about having HD photos of exotic locales.

I’d written previously about how Instagram can help you be a better writer, and one of the tips I talked about was writing meaningful content for the posts you share. It’s astonishing how many people seem to ignore the potential of the Instagram caption. Yes, the picture is what initially catches the eye, but at some point your viewer will scroll down to see what’s beneath it. …

It’s definitely not as easy as “just write.”

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As an entirely self-taught writer (read: never had education, coaching, mentorship or guidance of any kind when it came to my writing), I’ve had to rely a lot on the Internet for writing advice.

Some of it is pure gold, like Stephen King’s famous “kill your darlings”. Some of it is more on the fence, like “keep publishing your work”. Sure, that works in theory, but who’s going to account for my fierce protectiveness about the darlings that made it past the killing block?

But there was one writing tip that pretty much everyone on the Internet was talking about — nay, raving about — like it’s the holy grail of writing advice. …

Never feel guilty about your ‘lack of focus’ again

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Some of us can focus on one project at a time and get things done.

Others get bored out of their minds if they have to work on the same article for more than ten minutes at a stretch.

I’m one of the latter group, and I used to think that there was something majorly wrong with me. But even though I did later learn that I have ADD, by then I’d figured out how to roll with this short attention span.

Simply work on simultaneous projects at a time.

Most advice pieces online will caution against this. They’ll talk about getting distracted, about losing out on deep focus and on never getting things done because you’re spreading yourself too thin. All of which might well be true. But here’s another truth — not all of us have mastered the art of deep focus yet. Many of us get easily bored and need something else to work on after the first fifteen minutes. And as for getting things done, I’ve learned the hard way that I’d rather work on two article drafts and finish both than stare at one article draft for two hours in between each sentence I type. …

Social media doesn’t have to be the devil it’s portrayed to be

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We like to vilify Instagram as a distraction.

“It’s an addiction.” “It makes you dumber.” “It’s not for serious artists.”

We’ve all had those days when we logged in just to like someone’s photo and then found ourselves stuck on the screen for two hours. And there’s no denying that mindless scrolling is one of the least productive things you could do with your time, whether you’re a writer or not.

But Instagram doesn’t have to be bad. In fact, it could even give you some interesting ideas for writing. There are all kinds of content creators out there, some of whom share meaningful posts that have helped me out of writing ruts more than once. …

And no, it’s not the same thing as writer’s block

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Few things are treasured as much by writers as getting into the writing groove.

That state where you are caught in the grip of an idea and are fleshing it out as fast as possible and with all the focus you can muster.

It’s like tasting a higher state of being. And sure, it doesn’t last too long, but it’s invaluable for your output while it lasts.

The number of distractions and obstacles that hinder a writer from getting into the groove are too many to mention, and the smartphone is just one of them. We as humans live amidst distractions — our attention spans are designed to be prone to distraction. Some of these are the ones everyone talks about — texts, emails, social media, family commitments, social obligations, chores and so on. Those are what can be called “external” obstacles — they’re distractions to be overcome, of course, but they originate from other aspects of our lives that we can’t entirely turn our backs on. …

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Here’s the deal — we all need to be smart about money, no matter how much we’re earning. This is especially true in the case of freelancers, whose monthly incomes aren’t fixed. Money management is a skill that we aren’t always taught in school and that we pick up, more often than not, by a process of trial and error. Every freelancer knows the sinking feeling that comes with a near-zero bank balance — luckily, with a little common sense and a little control over our spending patterns, we can make sure that that happens as infrequently as possible.

Most money-managing guides I’ve come across are all about “save, save, save”. Cutting down on expenses, finding cheaper ways to live. And that’s undoubtedly important. We should all save money, as much as possible. None of us should splurge needlessly to a point where we’re always overdrawn each month. …

With a little extra effort, you can make those writing sessions count more than ever

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Whether you’re a freelancer who works from home or an aspiring novelist scribbling out your first draft, chances are that you’ve often visited a cafe to write. It’s a welcome break from your bedroom, and there’s the prospect of sipping on fresh coffee. And even the smell of coffee, as most of us will agree, has a positive and energising effect on the mind.

It’s important to remember, though, that the few hours and the money you invest in your cafe visit should be worth it. I’ve explored tons of cafes in my city, and I’ve found that certain factors go a long way in making for a productive session. …


Deya Bhattacharya

Communications consultant, bibliophile, fashionista, coffee drinker. Check out my services here:

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