Still waiting for the right moment to begin your freelancing career?

By Diana Burrell.

In every story idea workshop I lead, I get at least one student who prefaces their e-mail with, “I didn’t get the work done this week because …

… my kids were sick and then my husband and I caught the bug.”

… I had to work late every night and I was exhausted by the time I got home.”

… I couldn’t get out to the library/bookstore this week — too busy!”

… it was crazy around here. Don’t worry, I’ll catch up.”

I even had one student e-mail me with at least three long paragraphs about why she didn’t do the work. It must have taken her 30 minutes to write each e-mail, a half hour she could have spent writing down ideas, fleshing out a query, or researching a topic.

I’m going to be honest here, and maybe sound a bit cold-hearted. When I see these excuses — and that’s exactly what they are, excuses — I roll my eyes. And if I were a betting woman, I’d put money down that these folks will never get their freelance writing careers off the ground. The excuses aren’t holding them back. It’s the belief behind them, which is, “I can’t do the work because the time isn’t right.”

I’m here to tell you the time will never be right or feel right to begin a writing career.

Moreover, if you manage to overcome that hurdle, you’ll find the universe won’t cooperate when you do have work, when there are sources to interview, deadlines to meet, and editors to appease. Over the last year I’ve known professional writers who’ve kept their careers humming despite cancer diagnoses and treatment, crippling financial problems, the death of a spouse or sibling, divorce, layoffs, their dog eating string and needing emergency surgery, sick kids, crazy full-time jobs, unsupportive spouses, and wedding planning — either their own or a child’s. Still, they got their articles assigned, stories written, and checks in the mail. Life happens. Of course life often knocks you off your feet and you need time to pull yourself up.

But if you find that you’re continually blaming the universe’s curveballs for why you’re not developing story ideas, writing queries, and sending your work out into the yonder, maybe it’s time to realize what you’re really doing is waiting for your life to be perfect.

Does this sound like you?

If you’re really serious about freelancing, you need to stop waiting for an immaculately organized home filled with super-immune kids and a dog that behaves around string. Every time you hear yourself making an excuse for why you can’t write a query or jot down notes about a potential story, ask yourself, “Is there something small I could do instead”” or “How can I break that task down so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming”” Taking this tack gets you thinking like a performer instead of an excuse-maker, and taking small steps in the face of resistance is way better than giving in wholly to that resistance.

Do you find yourself waiting for “the right moment” to start your career, or even a story? How do you overcome this feeling? Please add your comments below. [db]

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18 comments… add one
  • Williesha Morris

    So true! I find myself doing this with a lot of tasks. Having a good support systemis key when you are down and out and can’t motivate yourself. Great post.

    • Thanks, Williesha. A good support system definitely helps. Knowing you have friends who are all-too-eager to kick your butt is a good motivator. 🙂

  • Hi Diana:

    Fully guilty of doing this but finally, I just reached the point where I knew if I didn’t push ahead, I’d always regret it. So I took the plunge and am not regretting it in the least. Some of us just have to reach the point of no return before we jump. Others are more proactive.

    • Gwynneth, good for you! I’m guilty of it too, believe me! But what you said about being proactive is right. I’m always telling myself, “I’ll work on it when [insert mythical time in the future when my life is perfect]”. When I hear myself say that, I know I’m myself and get to work.

  • For me, the time to start my career did actually feel right, really right. But that’s only because my reality at the time was about the lowest it had ever been. I knew I had to do something different to save myself.

    But we shouldn’t have to crash and burn before we decide to make changes that will improve our life. I don’t recommend waiting to live your dreams. Tomorrow’s no guarantee.

    As someone once said, “Have the courage to live the life you imagined.”

    • Sarah, good advice and I’m glad you jumped in. 🙂 I like that saying, “Desperation rarely begets inspiration” but sometimes we get to that place where we know we have to make a change … not quite bottom, but close!

  • Alex

    This is so true and reminds me of friends who’ve put off having babies until the time is exactly right…and the years keep ticking by. The time will never be exactly right, so if you really want it, just do it!

    • Alex, too funny — that’s what Linda said re: babies when I said I wanted to write this post.

  • Hi Diana,

    Thanks for sharing such a great post. I push through the “right time” mindset by trying to take small steps. Ultimately, I end up thinking about whether or not my overall fear of succeeding is greater than my fear of NOT writing something. I love to write, plain and simple. I took a small step in my humor writing by entering a caption contest yesterday. And responded to a call for bloggers on Twitter. It’s all about the small steps. 🙂 Thanks for letting me share.


    • Heiddi, thanks for your kind words. And yay for you for taking action. You’re totally right — it’s all about the small steps. Today you’ll take a couple more small steps, and tomorrow the same thing … soon, it becomes second nature.

  • You say, “taking small steps in the face of resistance is way better than giving in wholly to that resistance.”


    The problem for those who never get around to building that business or realizing their dreams is thinking that if you can’t get it all done, perfectly, right this minute, then you might as well not even start.

    If you’re going to be a freelance writer you are going to have to face rejection and frustration. You are going to have to keep doing the things that work, discard those that don’t, and be open to new ways of doing things.

    Another problem is people think they are the only ones who are having a difficult time, and that’s why they’re not successful.

    It comes down to: do you want it bad enough? do you know in your heart of hearts that this is what you’re supposed to do?

    I believe if someone “kinda, sorta” wants to be a freelance writer, they may as well not bother. Because it’s not the sort of thing that rewards half-heartedness. But if it’s in your gut and your blood and you simply can’t NOT write, then get on with it already. Take two steps forward and one step back, if need be, but get on with it!

  • Anne, that was a beautiful comment. It’s true what you say about people thinking they’re the only ones with challenges. My grandfather used to say something like, “The only people without problems are dead and buried.”

  • Whenever I hear myself saying (several times a day) “I sure will be glad when”, it’s a call to do something about it.
    But, I also know I can’t do everything at once. That’s when I either rearrange my priorities or quit being so hard on my friend, ME.

    • Anne, I’ve been saying for the last month, “I sure will be glad WHEN THIS ELECTION IS OVER.” Does that count? 😉

      Seriously, though — it IS important to give yourself a break. But there’s giving yourself a break and giving yourself an out.

  • Fantastic. The kick in the pants everyone needs from time to time. I felt this frustration trying to run a monthly writers group. There are those who make it a priority and there are those who make excuse month after month. They might show up twice a year.

  • I’m finding that three things really work:

    1 – Breaking things down into smaller bits
    2 – Assigning one or two major tasks to focus on per day
    3 – When life throws a curve, do whatever needs to be done, or, what you can muster in that moment

    Finding a buddy to make one accountable is a good tactic too and I’m working on that.

  • Thank you Diana for truly telling it as it is with no excuses. I think the same applies in all areas of our lives not just free lance writing.

    I struggled with writing a story today and managed to work through it. Turned out it was a breakthrough for me.

    I’m taking a networking course and learning how to use storytelling to attract more interest. My assignment was to craft my story telling ‘who I am’, ‘what I do’ and ‘why I do what I’m doing’. In the past, when someone asked me those questions, I could never nail it down and give them a good answer. I feel I found the answers for myself this time.

    (If you’re interested in reading the final product, please let me know and I’ll send you the link.)

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