I’m afraid of bankruptcy.
I don’t mean the financial kind. I mean the kind where you get an exciting writing commission, and then you can’t deliver.
Creative bankruptcy happens when you have a pressing writing project — and you know you’ve got nothing.
Don’t put yourself in that position.
Here are three ways you can avoid creative bankruptcy and become a more productive professional writer.
1. Research your idols and competitors
Don’t reinvent the wheel with each new writing project. Instead, research what the writers you admire are creating content about.
BuzzSumo is a tool you can use to find that out.
Using BuzzSumo, you can find key influencers and see what type of content they created. You can also search a blog or website for popular posts by topic or author.
2. Invest in your creativity bank
Professional writers need a creativity bank for depositing ideas.
If you have one, the next time you are creatively bankrupt, you can withdraw from your savings account of ideas and keep earning for your writing.
To build your creativity bank, get into the habit of recording five or ten ideas for topics you want to write about or ideas you have for future assignments.
Don’t judge these ideas. It doesn’t matter how good they are. And you don’t need to act on them. The point is to record them.
Do this for seven days, and you’ll have 35–70 ideas. Do it for a month, and you’ll have 150–300 ideas. Plus, you’ll also have a lot of practice coming up with ideas — so you can draw on those skills when you need something new.
3. Take the pressure off
Writing is demanding — and those of us who put words on the page for money feel an extra pressure to create.
If you’re having an unproductive day (or year), reduce your expectations and lower the bar.
Focus on progressing on your current project in some small way.
If you’re having trouble finishing your article, settle for writing five headlines.
Instead of writing your next chapter, outline it.
Don’t worry about completing five interviews — just schedule them.
Lowering the bar enables you to end the day without experiencing a sense of failure. Sometimes, just turning up is a win.
Now, I’m not advocating procrastination. Instead, your goal should be to move your project along in small increments and then take a break and complete it when you’re rested.
If all else fails, ask your client for an extension — you’d be surprised how often that’s no big deal.
Your path to creative prosperity
Being a professional writer is tough. But you have tools you can use to keep yourself working, even when you don’t feel inspired.
Check what your competitors are doing. Make sure you have a bank of ideas you can reuse. And if you’re really stuck, go a little easier on yourself.
How do you avoid creative bankruptcy? Tell us in the comments below.
Bryan Collins is on a mission to teach people how to become writers and finish what they started with A Handbook for the Productive Writer.