Many of us have been through this at one time or another. Tired and worn down from writing the same boring content and making it interesting day in and day out, we suddenly find that we have to drag ourselves to the computer and force ourselves to go through the motions wondering what we should be doing with our lives instead.
Then it hits us. We realize we’ve lost the passion and terror engulfs us. The first time it happens is like waking up from a dream of falling off a building – only to realize that you’re not dreaming. You experience a few seconds of abstract terror followed by a deep sense of sudden loss.
I once read about a writer who lost limbs in a war compare it to what it feels like the first few years after that loss: “I would wake up, ready to take on the day only to see the wheelchair and remember that I have no legs. Losing my passion for writing is a lot like that.” Once you realize you are without it, you cannot help but feel a sense of longing.
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Personally, it felt a little bit like when I lost my father at 11 years old. Not the pain of a lost loved one. Just the pain of losing something so familiar, something I was so used to having. It felt like a hole in the middle of my chest that couldn’t be filled. I swore that once I got it back, I would never lose it again. Now, when I get so weary that I want to stop, I do.
See The Signs
The one redeeming feature about losing the writer’s passion is that you can see it coming a mile away if you know what to look for. Here’s how to recognize these signs.
1. When Research Becomes a Chore
Research for the true writer is more interesting than it is work. We develop a process where we can enjoy the journey from point A to point J. Each step is familiar, painless and gets us closer to our objective – writing. Every step of the research usually holds some benefit for us.
One example is my research computer, which is not the computer that I write with. It has a comic page that I must go through to get to my search engine. On this page is a weather app, a dictionary Word of the Day, and a new Calvin and Hobbes Comic daily strip
When I get to the point that I skip the comics or just bypass my entire process altogether, I check myself as it’s a sure sign that I’m no longer enjoying that process‘ÃÂ¦ or what I do.
2. Snapping at your Editors (Never a good idea)
I’m one of those lucky writers that have an editor as a partner in our freelance writing company. This means that everything I write through our company is edited by one of the best. I also have an editor in one of my ‘outside of the company’ jobs. She is also among the best in her profession.
The moment one of them asks me what is wrong with my attitude or takes offense at something I’ve said, I know that I’m in trouble. I love to be edited because it makes me look good. When I start taking offense at their help, it means I don’t want to put in the work. It means I’m no longer having any fun.
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3. What Happened to your Deadline Demon?
A friend of mine, who was once a client, paid me the very high compliment of calling me the Deadline Demon. I never ever miss a deadline. I’m almost always way ahead of schedule. I make sure that if something was to happen and I could not write for up to a week, I could still come in under deadline.
When I suddenly have to write all night long and just barely make my deadlines, I am in trouble of losing my passion and I check myself at that moment. If I forget a deadline and barely make it, I recognize that for what it is: a huge sign that I’m tired and I’m in danger of starting down that road again.
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4. Getting Easily Distracted
When I start catching myself spending more time in my email, Skype chat, or surfing the World Wide Web for no reason other than to avoid work, I know I’m in trouble. It’s a quiet process that sneaks up on you. One day, you are fine and productive, two days later, you find yourself two days behind schedule and filling out a form for a foolish website application you don’t want just because you’re bored.
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When boredom sets in, how far are you from the point of no return? The writing passion is what keeps us writing. The ability to take a boring subject and turn it into something that people want to read is supposed to be fun. When it stops being fun, it’s time to recharge your batteries.
How to Turn This Around
At some point, you have to recognize the signs of writer’s fatigue and make a change. When you have worked for so many days in a row that you cannot remember the last time you had any time to devote to your family, friends, or other interests, it may be time to recharge
Writer’s fatigue is the first step to losing the ability to enjoy a passion that you were born with. Here are a few things you can do to get turn things around.
1. Step Away
Take a day off whether you can afford it or not. Most of the time, with bills mounting or deadlines looming, you cannot take a day off at that moment, but you can schedule a day off in the near future and then do everything you have to do to make it happen.
When that day comes, do not shirk it off and work. Force yourself to spend the day away from work and (this is important) with the people that make you happy.
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2. Revisit Your Creative Side
Write for yourself. If you like creative writing, do that. If you enjoy poetry, create a new form. Enter a contest and write up your submission. Even if you don’t win, the fun is in the creation.
There are numerous website writing groups that you can join that have contests. There are also writing groups that love to read new fiction or collaborate on projects. The point is to write something for yourself that changes your perspective and is not work-related.
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3. Retrace the Steps that Led you to Freelancing
Take stock of your decision to become a freelance writer. From experience, I can tell you that our reasons for doing what we do are very compelling. In my case, it was this or work for a living and I would rather do this. Remember all the reasons you do what you do. Write and you will find that motivating force that drove you here in the first place.
Once you remember why you love your job so much, it’s easier to keep your passion, even under the worst of client projects. When I see my stepson dragging his tired ass home from his roofing job, I count my blessings and get back to work.