25 Little Words That Can Ignite Your Writing Career

Carol Tice

Blue sparkler ignitesSometimes, it only takes one simple thought to change your whole approach to freelance writing.

Recently, I’ve been going to support-group meetings as I deal with some personal life issues.

At those meetings, they say a short, simple, well-known, non-denominational prayer. It’s by Reinhold Niebuhr.

It’s a prayer I certainly have known for a long time. I probably first encountered it in my late teens.

But I never thought of applying it to my life as a freelance writer.

Which is too bad, because it contains a powerful message for anyone who is struggling to build the freelance career they want.

Here it is:

The Serenity Prayer

“God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change

courage to change the things I can

and wisdom to know the difference.”

Usually, I think people apply this thought to difficult people in their lives. The prayer helps us learn to let go of attempts to control other people’s behavior — attempts that are utterly fruitless.

Because we can only control one thing in this world, and that is our own minds.

Saying the Serenity Prayer recently, it struck me that there are so many ways freelance writers can get off-track thinking and worrying about things they can’t control.

Things like:

  • The global economic downturn
  • The economic slump in your town
  • The stiff competition
  • Your age (“too young” or “too old”)
  • A lack of impressive writing samples

I wish I had a dime for every writer who’s told me they can’t possibly earn a good living as a freelancer because of one of those stumbling blocks above, so I could retire now.

I hear this chatter day in and out:

“You know, I just can’t charge professional rates. The economy in my small town is still really slow.”

“I can’t see the point of trying to be a healthcare copywriter when there are already so many! My local healthcare writers’ association has 800 members alone.”

Obsessing on circumstances we can’t do anything about takes the focus off what we can do to move forward.

Instead of thinking “limited pie and not enough slices to go around,” change your mindset to envision an ever-expanding marketplace where writers can tap into pent-up market demand for writing services.

No matter your age or career point, somewhere in the market there is a client who would love to have your help.

But to make it happen, you have to put your focus where it’s productive. You have to gather every drop of your energy and use it all to take the steps that are within your power.

What’s happening doesn’t matter

For one more insight into how the Serenity Prayer could transform your freelance career, let me share a recent event in my life:

I took my daughter to the drop-off for a three-day outdoor education trip. More than 100 fourth graders were gathering in the gym with their sleeping bags and duffels, getting ready for this highly anticipated event, which parents fundraise for all year.

Most of the kids looked happy and excited, as you’d expect. They were meeting their counselors, putting on their cabin’s bandannas, and chattering with friends.

But not everyone was a happy camper.

Some kids were in tears, trailing parents who had clearly dragged their student there under protest. Others looked angry, worried, or overwhelmed.

And yet, they were all going on the same journey. Their world was exactly the same, but inside some heads, negative thoughts formed which caused some children to miss the chance to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

How to get what you want no matter what

As my mom has said to me a million times, it’s not about what happens to you in your life. It’s about what you decide to do about it.

If the economy is tough, you can market harder.

You can volunteer and get more and better sample clips.

You can turn your age to your advantage by connecting with clients who sell to customers like you.

You can send more query letters or letters of introduction, grow your network, ask more people to refer you.

Also, you can take care of yourself. You can eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.

Then, you can write more, and better.

Let go of the things that aren’t within your sphere of influence. Stop worrying about them.

Just do what you can to grow your writing career. I promise you’ll be amazed at what happens.

What are you focusing on? Share how you’re striving for serenity in the comments.

39 Comments

  1. Roberto

    Very encouraging. I think it was used by Vonnegut in his “Slaughterhouse-Five” novel too. He is one of my favourite writers. Recommended.

  2. Clara Mae Watrous

    Very encouraging, Carol. Sometimes life gets in the way of doing what we would like to do, but to keep on keeping on is the way to go. Worry never gets us anywhere.

    Clara Mae

  3. Jeremy Wiebe

    Thanks for this, Carol. I got another lecture from family just last night on how I should give up my writing career. Reading this was helpful.

  4. Carol Tice

    I was aware that is not the entire poem…but those are the lines I wanted to focus on.

  5. Joseph Rathjen

    I find that maintaining a high level of spiritual conditioning works best for me, and in many aspects of life – not just writing. Your current state of spiritual progress (which is living a decent life and helping others) is tantamount for a life of joy and success.

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