Friday Speak Out!: Writing Copy vs. Writing for Yourself: How Not to Kill Your Creativity, Guest Post by Joy Paley

Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing Copy vs. Writing for Yourself: How Not to Kill Your Creativity

by Joy Paley

If you’re a naturally creative person, freelance writing might seem like a perfect job. It brings flexible hours and a varied work environment. And once you get good at it, you can earn enough to shorten your workday and fit in more time for your creative endeavors. Even writing copy is writing, right? It all flexes a similar part of your brain.

Try sitting down and working on a short story or plot outline for you nascent novel after typing up copy all day, and you might renounce everything I just said, however. Writing copy seems to put your brain into a certain mode, a mode of quickly synthesizing information and rearranging it that’s definitely different than thinking creatively.

When working creatively, you need a relaxed brain that's willing to move spontaneously in new directions when they call. Getting your brain from one mode to the other isn’t easy, but it’s possible. There are some things you can do to keep from simply wanting to turn on the TV and veg out after you’ve spent the day writing what other people want you to write.

One important tactic is to compartmentalize your creative life from your work life. If you keep them separated physically, you’ll be able to more easily separate them mentally. If you spend the day in your home office writing copy, go out when you’re ready to get going on your creative work. Find a café you like or try a cozy cubicle in your local library. You’ll get rid of those visual cues that tell your brain it’s time to switch into efficient work mode.
Another thing to try if you have the time is to do creative work in the morning before you begin your daily grind.

I’ve gotten good at writing copy and can do it if I’m tired, depressed, or whatever. When I’m working on my short stories, it’s different. I need a fresh brain that’s not still subconsciously editing that article I just finished. When my mind is relaxed and fully rested from sleep, it’s easier to slip into that creative flow that when it’s burned out from working all day.

Meditation is another great way to clear your brain and get rid of residual thoughts of work. It doesn’t have to be long, difficult, or complicated; simply sitting for five minutes, focusing on a candle flame, and breathing deeply will quiet down the clutter in your head. Multitasking, a great work skill, can be the death of creativity. After I’ve spent the day shuffling between fifteen tabs on my web browser and quickly skimming information, a short meditation can get me out of multitasking mode.

What’s the common theme of all my suggestions for staying creative when you’re also balancing a life of freelance writing? Identify when and how you are your creative best, and find ways to clear your brain and get it there. The flexibility of a freelance writing career can help accommodate your creative aspirations, if you put a little time and effort into nurturing them yourself.

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Joy Paley is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Carmen said...

You gave me some great ideas about how to separate my "making a living" tasks from my creative and novel writing. I teach college courses online and I write non-fiction which involves research. I find it very difficult to focus on my novel (which is what I want to be at the top of my list of professions, not the bottom). Procrastination on the novel takes over as creativity diminishes. At times I go to a coffee shop to novel write, but I love my home office/studio. Maybe reversing what I do would be better---go elsewhere to teach and research, leaving the comfort of my home office for novel writing. The meditation exercise is a good idea, too.
Thank you.

Lisa said...

This is helpful, thank you!

Megan said...

I work on my novel in the mornings and leave the freelance work to the afternoons when my brain isn't as sharp. Plus, it's always more enjoyable to start the day off working on something I'm passionate about.

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