How One Writer Pulled Out of a Depression and Kick-Started Her Earnings

Carol Tice

Freelancing with depression can be a challenge. Makealivingwriting.comBy Sarah Protzman Howlett

It’s a refrain lots of us hear on a weekly basis.

“You work from home? Gosh, that must be awesome! I wish I could do that.”

What these full-timer friends of mine didn’t know was that while my freelancer status meant breezing through errands midday, hitting the gym when it was practically empty, and freely abusing the snooze button, I was, in reality, sinking into depression.

In 2010, I quit my cozy magazine job at Condé Nast in New York City to launch a full-time freelancing career in Denver, get married to my favorite person, and soak up a fresh start in the mountains.

I was writing for big magazines, but I wasn’t proud or fulfilled. Yes, I’d gained autonomy, flexibility, and productivity—but going it alone in a new city meant I’d lost the fantastic social circle known as my coworkers.

I spent that first year sending out letters of introduction, pitching, meeting with editors, and building a website from our one-bedroom apartment—and making a healthy $20,000—but I didn’t make friends, let alone people who understand what “TK” means.

I needed a community

My mistakes were many. Chief among them? As I transitioned into the freelance life, I focused only the myriad positive changes that would occur—and failed miserably at guarding against the negatives.

I’m a pretty social and optimistic person, but staying in your pajamas til 4 p.m. was conducive to neither. In fact, as Bill Bryson says in Neither Here Nor There, some days I wished that I could just get up and walk out on myself.

As I berated myself for another unproductive day—Why am I crying for no reason? Why can’t I get motivated? Why are little things upsetting me so much?—my husband was a great comfort and friend. But he too understood that, without fellow writers to talk shop with, I would remain unhealthily isolated and frustrated. I needed coworkers.

Around the same time, I got a highly serendipitous assignment: a deep-dive feature on how to access, talk about, and understand your mental health. I couldn’t help but bite. For the story, I’d go to a psychotherapist—then write about it.

Spending just one hour with a professional helped me see that writer friendships—along with a daily dose of positive self-talk, showing, and putting on clothes—would turn it all around. I was diagnosed with a “mild to moderate depression,” and telling thousands of readers wasn’t easy, but it was an essential part of the therapy.

Needless to say, the story was a great conversation starter when I began to seek out other writers. Like I should have done from when I first arrived in my new town, I slowly built up that companionship that I hadn’t realized I’d missed.

How I found writer friends

I met two great writers from my area in New York at the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference. Others, I met through my work with Denver magazine 5280, or just by following them on Twitter or sending an email.

Now, I aim to have lunch with a writer twice a month. They’re much older than me, much younger than me, and my age. Some I mentor, some mentor me. Some have kids, some don’t. Some are divorced; some juggle boyfriends with deadlines.

To get our days off to a good (and early-ish) start, we’ll go jogging and talk about what we’re going to accomplish that day. We share links on Facebook, hook up for happy hour, share contacts and favorite blog posts, and introduce one another in an attempt grow the network.

We get each other assignments and meetings with editors we know. We bond over the abnormal professional experience all freelancers share—and we’re honest about the fact that it still does get lonely sometimes.

But we know that a text message that says, “Hey, what’s up? What are you working on?” can make my day.

These days, when people say, “You’re your own boss and make your own hours? Gosh, that must be awesome!” I say yeah, it is— thanks to the community I built in my new home.

How have you found community with other writers? Leave a comment and let us know.

Sarah Protzman Howlett is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Boulder, Colo. Her mental health story, “A Beautiful Mind,” ran in the January issue of 5280 Health. Her work frequently appears in Denver’s 5280 and its various shelter magazines.

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  1. Kara

    Wonderful essay! I live in the mountains near Aspen so it can be even more isolating, away from writers who make their careers out of freelancing (like me). Still, I find online friendships valuable for networking and commiserating. A good reminder, though, to get out and connect “IRL” with folks — not only others in the field, but my “mom friends” here. Off to make a hiking date!

    • Sarah Protzman Howlett

      Thanks for the great thoughts, Kara. Online relationships are certainly part of my arsenal as well. Nothing like a great back-and-forth during the workday with a fellow freelancer, especially ones that have experience in similar markets. Waving to you from Boulder!

  2. Damien

    Thanks for sharing, Sarah. I think it’s really important when working from home to make an extra effort to be social and recognise when we’re in a slump or an ebb in our mood and energy levels. It’s great that you recognized the problem and were able to take action for the better.

    I think exercise plays a huge part in keeping a positive and healthy frame of mind too. Just getting out for a brisk walk is a great way to improve one’s mood and also get the creative juices flowing. But yeah nothing beats some social interaction with some like-minded people!

    • Carol Tice

      I’m just coming back from my 1-hour morning walk which I’m just getting back into the groove of doing before I sit down to work, Damien — so I totally agree!

  3. Lou Wasser

    “How we need another soul to cling to.”

    — Sylvia Plath

  4. Erin

    I can totally relate. I just moved to Sweden, and in addition to the isolation that can accompany the freelance life, I am also adapting to a new culture and language. Not to mention the wonky weather! I need to create my own writer community as well, but it can take time while living overseas and navigating a new country. Thanks for writing this! 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      I’m actually a really big fan of starting a writers group if you can’t find a good one. It’s a great way to get known by a lot of writers and editors quickly. We all know that when we leave a networking event…EVERYONE goes over and thanks the host.

      • Sarah Protzman Howlett

        I started a writers’ group right after I moved from Denver to Boulder, and I was so surprised there wasn’t something already here. Everyone said they were just happy to be in real clothes and among IRL writer friends! The day after, I saw all of them following each other on Twitter and exchanging messages. It was a great feeling to not only be a part of the group, but to have facilitated.

  5. Neil


    Right on spot. I live downstream from you in Denver, and having worked 9-5 type jobs I can identify with the at home arrangement. I am trying to establish my growth in income, but realize that being social is important as well. Fortunately, I have my wife and friends that are an encouragement.

  6. Debbie Kane

    It took me at least a year to adjust to the solitude of freelancing. When I started freelancing five years ago, my kids were preteens so I was out of the “mommy bonding” stage and I had to get creative with connecting with others, particularly women. I belong to a great online writer’s group, The Freelance Writers Den, but I also belong to a “flesh & blood” writers group that I helped start two years ago (all it took was connecting with one other writer, then others started joining). This spring I decided to join a non-profit board and became a trustee of my town’s public library. And I exercise regularly, at a gym, where I can interact with others. Makes a huge difference!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Debbie — thanks for the positive Den review! And I love the mix of different networking opportunities you’ve put together.

  7. Barbara

    Hi! It’s really fantastic to read this – I haven’t experienced the depression, but I have gone through the isolation that comes with solo writing and living with those who just “don’t understand.” (I think your hubby does understand – and it’s great you have him on your side.)

    I belong to four writer’s groups. Each has a different purpose, such as getting physical movement in, motivation/encouragement, writer’s tips and keeping drama out of the work day.

    I recently met another (non-writing) freelancer and we got together for lunch the first time about a month ago. Networking is vital to us – whether it’s IRL or virtually, we need to connect to someone who understands our life and the gigs we do.

    Right now, my struggle is centered on earning enough to get through the month, increasing that and still having face-time with my boyfriend, son and family. Errr!

  8. Marisa

    Great post! I’ve definitely battled “mild to moderate” depression in my transition from full-timer to freelancer. And I didn’t have coworkers that I liked or related to at my last corporate job. Still, the isolation can be tough. For anyone else struggling, here are a couple of things that worked for me.

    1. My dog. No it’s not a person, but he offers companionship and love. And also gives me a reason to get out and take a walk most days.

    2. Coffee! I’ve actually read that two large cups per day help stave off depression. It’s not just for waking up, it’s a stimulant, mood enhancer as well. Works like a charm for me — every day.

    3. I like to be comfy, so can often be found in leggings and a T at “work.” I find just putting on a different set of clothes (doesn’t have to be an “outfit”) from what you wore to bed is major.

    4. Exercise. My goal is to do some every day.

    5. Shower. It’s easy to stay in those PJs, and then to skip a shower for a day or two. Don’t do it. Showers have the ability to make you feel refreshed and awake. I like to start out with hot water and then finish with a shot of cold to liven up my senses.

    6. Putting myself first. At first, I was so amazed anyone would hire me that I was the “Yes sir. Right away sir!” Type. Then as I got some regular clients I started to, within reason, say no, but still every day put my client-work first. I would promise that my side passion projects were for the evening. But I was often ready for a break in the evening and the projects weren’t getting worked on. Now I make sure I wake up early and spend even 20 minutes on “my” work each day before I move on to others’.

    7. Taking it one day at a time. I’m sure I’m not the only freelance writer who dreams of having her own successful blog/books, to some day be writing her own stuff almost exclusively. From building my website to fantasizing about how my dreams will take shape, can feel daunting. I take it one day at a time, prioritize and chip away at those dreams, minute-by-minute.

    Hope this post isn’t too long! I’m coming up on my first year anniversary and I wish I knew this stuff at the beginning! So hope it helps.

    • Carol Tice

      What? Your comment is certainly not too long! And thanks for adding your own practical tips for overcoming isolation.

      The reason this is a guest post is…I actually love working by myself. The whole thing where you have to stand around the water cooler talking to people about what was on Grey’s Anatomy last night when you’d rather be writing…all the while knowing these are people who will never speak to you again the day you leave this job…I just never got why that was fun.

      I like to socialize with my own friends and my own writer network.

      Best case scenario for me was when I went into Seattle 1 day a week for interviews and meetings. That gave me my shot of feeling like a grownup and talking to other professionals…and then the rest of the week I could get tons done and skip the commute.

      • Terr

        Here I was, reading the comments and feeling like a freak of nature. Then I read this:

        “The reason this is a guest post is…I actually love working by myself. The whole thing where you have to stand around the water cooler talking to people about what was on Grey’s Anatomy last night when you’d rather be writing…**all the while knowing these are people who will never speak to you again the day you leave this job…**I just never got why that was fun. ”

        Praise. The. Lord.

        Don’t get me wrong. I’m a sweet and loving person. I just don’t want to feel like I need to be friendly with people I might not like. I don’t want to feel like my job depends upon how well I fit into the group. I feel most workplace cultures are too darned “touchy-feely”. When I work, I want to do the work I’m being paid to do and I will make friends with the people I choose to be friends with. I don’t want to be bullied or ostracized because I might not fit into the workplace “family”.

        And as Carol mentions, NO, these people are ever really your friends. I hear all the time about people who leave their workplaces, confused about why nobody calls them or speaks to them anymore. I want to say, “Because they weren’t your real friends!”.

        But I digress. I would love to have a coffee date, a walking partner, or join a warm and welcoming meet up group. I actually plan on moving to a city where I know for sure I’ll find lots of freelance writers.

        This is all new ground for me. I’ve never pursued a career field that required much of me, let alone joining associations and going to networking events. It’s scary. I’m still learning how to ask the right questions and to reach out without feeling like a dork. But do I miss the workplace/watercooler thing? Not even a little bit.

        • Carol Tice

          Right on, Terr!

          I once threw a quitting party when I left a job, when I was very young…and was surprised when nobody came. I never made the mistake again of thinking work ‘friends’ were my actual friends.

          Yes, there is that coworker or two of the years that you DO end up real friends with…but they’re so few and far between.

          I love socializing…with my real friends, when I want to get together with them! But when I’m working…I’d like to WORK. Call me crazy.

    • Vinil Ramdev

      I like no 7, it’s so easy to get caught up in the future that we forget the present. Taking one day at a time can be a blissful experience.

  9. Allie

    Fantastic essay — I clipped this to my Evernote freelance business folder as a reminder and nudge when I need it. I’ve been freelancing for almost seven years now, and I’ve definitely gone through these periods. When I moved from Kansas City, where I would occasionally meet with freelancer friends, to a smaller town in Georgia where I have no freelancer friends, I went into a major slump. Finding some new organizing tools to help me feel less overwhelmed, and getting a writing goal buddy I can talk to via email and Skype, have helped a ton. My income took off almost immediately after I did this, and is now higher than it’s ever been, by a lot. (Oh, the showering and getting dressed before you start work thing is huge, as is exercise too.) I still feel the need for some face-to-face writer (or at least self-employed) friends, so I’m thinking about how to make this happen. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Carol Tice

      Good for you finding a writing buddy, Allie — we have a forum for pairing up in the Den and it’s been a great feature that’s helping loads of writers create some accountability and support for getting their writing and marketing goals met.

    • Sarah Protzman Howlett

      Allie—Yes! Showering! This is about the most underrated thing in a freelancer’s life. Amazing how my depression correlated with being in pajama pants at 3 p.m. Hope you can hook up with some IRL writer buddies soon! Media receptions are a good way to suss out writers who in your area.

      • Carol Tice

        I have never been able to work in pajamas. I just don’t feel ready to do anything. When I first started freelancing I bought several coordinated casual outfits with matching pants and tops I could throw on and feel dressed, but were very comfy. I’d shower (yes!) and put one on and then I’d feel ready to work.

  10. Karin

    I swear, this is serendipitous for me. I was just having a depression crisis earlier this week, when a rejection on a small project threw me into a complete tailspin. I’ve been freelancing for only 3 months, ad I do love it, but with my depression, I definitely have days when I want to “walk away from myself.” You all gave me a great idea though, I am going to my library today to see if I can set up a monthly (maybe bi-weekly) writers group meeting. Thanks so much!!!!!

  11. Aurora

    Thank you so much for this post! Actually I’m staying in the same situation with another difficult step to do: I’m an italian blogger, an editor in chief for an italian web site, but I’m writing in english and it’s no easy for me to share stuff , ideas, or other things with other blogger.
    First of all because they write and speak only in italian languages and they don’t have any interest to share ideas with me in english. Actually they think I’m a little bit crazy they usually told me ” Aurora are you crazy???why you write an english blog if you are italian, living in Italy?”.
    Secondly my english it’s no very good and english people sometimes have hard time to share and understand me… But this post givie me hope, to don’t give up and try try try…
    Thank you thank you thank you Sarah.

  12. Thomas

    I became an Independent Writer for the isolation. Truth be told, I got sick of co-workers and their drama, so I was more than happy to relocate from MN to FL and embark on this noble, albeit lonely prefession.

    I understand there are social butterflies out there [my wife is one], but I actually enjoy only minimally interacting with other people.

    I talk to them when I’m out and about, but I certainly don’t seek out friendships. They would distract me from my goals, and in this economic climate, I need clients more than I need friends.

    I’m going to a Writer’s Conference this month here in FL-not to make friends, but merely to see if there are some more nuggets of learning I can aquire.

    We get a box lunch, too. I haven’t eaten many boxes lately, but my guess is the ones at this event won’t disappoint.

    Great post-hope it helped those who needed it.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Thomas —

      I hear ya. I used to have this one coworker who would always come by and want to chitchat RIGHT when I needed to file on a really tight deadline, and he was this kindly soul who you couldn’t really say no to…but all the time my brain would be screaming as I watched my deadline tick nearer.

      I think for those of us who are natural self-starters and internally motivated, the isolation of freelancing from home works great. But I know many others really need to replace that workplace social network with a new network of their own making when they start their own freelance business.

    • Sarah Protzman Howlett

      Thomas, what you said is so interesting. I often wonder how many other freelancers consider themselves “loners”—I certainly see myself that way in many respects. I love to be by myself, though I learned (the hard way) that I still need to get out and have coffee with people. I think as I’ve gotten older (I’m 30 now), I’ve learned to not only relish quiet time but also to recognize loneliness before it sets in too deeply.

      • Thomas

        I saw this quote on FB, and it really hit home to remind me that some of the writing greats, were loners too.

        “I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it.” – J.D. Salinger

        What may seem as the ‘down side’ to our craft, could very well be an asset, yeah?


    • Lisa Gilbert

      I am also a loner. Probably too much so. The thought of having to do Secret Santa is enough to motivate me to make freelancing pay. I see enough people every day at the gym.

      I need to work harder making connections with other writers. I do need the accountability they provide. I’ll put that on my To Do List.

      • Carol Tice

        Just totally cracking up remembering Secret Santas! The newsweekly where I worked actually had a ton of those sort of mixers and parties we HAD to come to — how is it a party if I HAVE to come?

  13. Steve

    Hi, Sarah.

    This post was certainly timely. When it arrived in my inbox, I just had to read.
    I’m a freelancer in Arkansas and there doesn’t seem to be many of us here, at least not copywriters.

    It wasn’t until I started hanging around with other writers in The Freelance Writers Den and in The Writers Huddle that things began to gel for me. I’ve learned and put into practice some ideas that I never would have thought of myself. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

    Thanks again for sharing your experience with us. It was much appreciated here in Fayetteville.

    Steve Maurer
    Maurer Copywriting

  14. Vivi

    Such an inspirational story! Thanks for sharing your experiences, I bet it could help a lot of bloggers feeling in stuck nowadays…

  15. Katherine Swarts

    The pit of mild-to-moderate depression is a familiar place to me too; so is the experience of aloneness hurting more as you get older. (I’m 43 in absolute years–and, on bad days, about 15 emotionally and 82 energetically.) It’s fairly well known that there’s a higher-than-average rate of extroversion AND depression among writers; the tendency seems to find an easy time hitching a ride on the creativity gene. Unfortunately, the near-universal human tendency to disregard high-risk factors and even prescriptions because “I feel fine NOW” is also there. Ideally, everyone should know his or her personal weak spots and take a “daily dose of prevention” against them.

    To Marisa’s prescription above, I’d add:
    1. Prayer, meditation, quiet music, inspirational reading, or whatever best feeds your spirit directly.
    2. Chocolate. Seriously. Less caffeine and more mood-boosting components than coffee, and in small dark doses, even medically acknowledged to be good for your health.
    3. Careful scheduling, including down time. One common bugaboo of working anywhere besides in an office under supervision is that the To-Do list, with only the person most directly affected to evaluate its feasibility, tends to regularly come up either dangerously short or dangerously long. This in itself is good reason to find a community you can check your own perceptions against–even to hire a business coach. I know one writer who spends more on a coach per week than I make in full per month, and she says it was the best investment she ever made.

    • Sarah Protzman Howlett

      Katherine, thanks for your comment! About aloneness hurting more as you get older, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve made the mistake of thinking certain relationships (like marriage) can take up a bunch of the place you once made in your life for friendships of any stripe. Dead wrong—no matter how good your marriage is (and mine is really great).

  16. Katherine Swarts

    (This one is just because I don’t know how else to get on the “Follow-up Comments” list I forgot to check the first time.)

  17. J. Delancy

    You are not crazy because you are a writer, you are a writer because you are crazy (I mean all of us in this profession). There is a scientifically proven correlation between mental illness and creativity. Despite the fact that I spend most of my time alone, I’ve come to realize the value of “Meatspace” (a new word I just learned from Sonia Simone) better known as normal human interactions that occur offline.

    Bravo Sara on facing and overcoming your challenges.

  18. Leslie

    This post really hits home with me. I’m in my third year as a freelancer. I have also suffered with the loneliness and depression factor, along with the lack of discipline and just the whole learning curve of having my own business. My writer friends are invaluable to me.

    I’m learning not to take work that makes my heart sink. It sucks out my energy for moving in the direction I want to go, adds to the stress and the money is just not worth it.

    I no longer work in my pajamas, or leave my shower till “whenever…”

    By the way Sarah, I’m in Denver… if you’re ever down here in “the big city” and want to catch a cup of joe, please let me know.

  19. Jamie

    Insightful post – thanks for sharing!

    It’s true that we so often hear all the good things about being independent, self employed and a freelancer while the isolation is often overlooked.

    The challenge is that you are responsible for your own motivation. I think a healthy routine is a good way of going about this.

    1. Get up early and shower – greet the day refreshingly
    2. Have breakfast and do an exercise you enjoy! – Enjoyment is key here!
    3. Read an uplifting, interesting blog or book to get you in the mood before you start work.
    4. Make time for family and friends.
    5. – You have already covered – get back into the writing community on a regular basis
    6. Do the things you dreamed of doing before you became full time freelance

    Hope this helps anyone who’s down in the dumps.

    I believe in rising early. When I think back to my days as a lazy student I shudder at the time that was wasted (comfortably sleeping):)

  20. Heather

    What a great post! I struggled with depression before I started freelancing. I don’t need a ton of human interaction, but this year I realized that I definitely need to connect with more people. My dog is wonderful, but she doesn’t understand publishing! This is the kick in the butt I need to start my own writing group or at least look for a writing buddy. Thanks so much.

  21. Vinil Ramdev

    one of the things about freelancing is that people (your family and friends) just don’t understand what you do. Everybody has advice for you. Positive advice and criticism is welcome, but criticism by people just because they want to feel important is just not cool.

    Yes, freelancing can get so lonely and a positive community of writers and freelancers can definitely help. Especially, a team of experts who can critique your writing and also be a strong support system.

  22. Jeff Goins

    Loved this story. Can totally relate to the work-at-home blues.

  23. Courtney

    can’t tell you the impact this had on me. it is all to similar to my life at the moment. It was fate that I found it. Thank you for writing this.

    • Sarah Protzman Howlett

      That’s terrific, Courtney, and very kind of you. It has been great for me to periodically reflect on what I went through to keep me appreciative of how much better things have gotten.

  24. Julie Sheridan

    Great article, Sarah. So much of it sounds familiar. I’ve long harboured dreams of working for myself from home, but the reality, especially if you’re a sensitive soul (and let’s face it, most writers are) throws up pitfalls to my mental health all the time. The fact that I’m doing it in a foreign city (Barcelona) where I don’t yet have an established network of friends, and living alone, doesn’t help either. I think there’s a lot to be said for routine and discipline – grunging around in my pyjamas all day and never putting on lipstick leaves me all the more vulnerable to depressive thoughts and habits.

  25. Josh Monen


    Thanks for sharing this! As a fellow freelancer who was once diagnosed as suffering from “severe clinical depression” I appreciate your transparency. And I have to agree with all the comments about the importance of connecting with people in real life. When I launched my freelance writing business in May 2011 I never would’ve thought working alone would be something I’d struggle with. I’m an introvert so it surprised me when I started craving to be around people.

    Anyway, here are 6 things that have helped me fight depression:

    1. Pay attention to my thoughts: I’ve learned to discipline my mind and be intentional about what I dwell on. I do my best to avoid thinking negative thoughts.

    2. Eating healthy and exercising: I like long walks in the morning or at the end of the day. And we bought a good blender so I can make green smoothies. I tell my wife they make me super smart when I drink them and she laughs. 🙂 I also found a workout I like called CrossFit.

    3. Vitamins and supplements: In a study of over 22,000 people, scientists found that a spoonful of cod liver oil could reduce depression by as much as 30%. And a 2008 study published in the Cochrane Systematic Review, found St. John’s Wort is at least as effective as standard antidepressant drugs at treating mild to moderate depressive disorders, but with few potentially harmful side effects. With that in mind I like to keep up on my vitamins, herbs and supplements.

    4. Doing things I enjoy: I like to climb mountains, hike, play ice hockey and snowboard. But since we have a baby girl I don’t do these things as much but the thing I enjoy the most now is holding my baby girl!

    5. Getting out of the house: the town I live in has a population of 1,566. And the nearest city 20 minutes away has about 18,000 people. So I drive to the city called Battle Ground a couple times a week for groups. I joined Toastmasters and Rotary ast year. We also go in for church on Sundays.

    6. Spiritual life: I’m a devoted Christian and my relationship with God has helped me more than all these things combined. And I’ve found meditating on scripture helps me have a more sound and positive mind.

    • Carol Tice

      Great tips, Josh. I think if snuggling a baby doesn’t cheer you up, you’re in real trouble!

  26. James

    Wonderful to hear how you pulled yourself out of the doldrums and leveraged your writing career to new heights. Conspicuously missing from the article, though, is after having revamped your mental health, how much money do you clear annually? It all comes down to happiness of course — contentment, job satisfaction — we writers are strange ducks, motivated by artistic fulfillment more than we are by the standard measures of success. But, still, the money?

  27. Steph Auteri

    Love this post, Sarah! As an introvert, the ability to work from home is — for me — a godsend. Still, being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m also an antisocial misanthrope, and I do need to interact with others on a fairly regular basis so that I don’t sink into my own, dark mood swings.

    When I first started freelancing full-time, I became a bit of a recluse. I relied upon my husband for all of my social interaction, and that was unfair to him. It put a strain on our relationship.

    About a year ago, I joined my local yoga studio, and I now go almost every day. Not only does it get the blood flowing (so necessary when you’re sitting at a desk for so much of the day), but — as time went on — I found myself slowly becoming part of a community. I feel a lot of gratitude for that now.

    Back in April, I also joined my local Toastmasters Club, in order to work on my (lack of) public speaking skills. Most of the other people in my club don’t work in creative industries, but it’s nice to meet new people. We meet three times a month.

    I also go to my local coffee shop a couple times a month and co-work with an old friend of mine. We write vastly different types of content, but that’s a good thing. It can be inspiring to be around others who are doing something different from what you’re doing.

    Finally, I have a Skype date with my writing partner (she’s based in IA while I’m in NJ) every other week. We’re both so darn starved for shop talk that we often end up chatting for two or three hours!

    I live not far outside of NYC, but I hate commuting in (even though I sometimes go in for industry events). It’s nice to have those alternative communities in place.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Steph – sorry, we just found this stuck in the spam!

      I just got done coworking for 2 months at an office space in my little town and loved that change of pace and social interaction there. After 6 years in my home office it was a terrific change.

  28. Pam

    I really identified with much of Sarah’s testimony. Writing from my home-based studio for the past 11 years sometimes is quite trying — especially during the lulls in this economy. I, too, started power walking to boost my spirits and physical health. Consequently, my weight is down 30 pounds and my social media presence is up. I’m also beginning to re-connect more regularly with like-minded colleagues. No man — or woman — is an island. Thanks for the insightful piece — and nudge!

    • Carol Tice

      I’m impressed with what a theme exercise is in these comments. I try to squeeze some in any time I can get even 10 or 15 minutes to get outside. It is amazing what a mood-lifter that can be!

      • Pam

        Yep, for me, 45 minutes to an hour of power walking/moderate jogging outside gives me a sense of accomplishment — one that doesn’t require a signed contract or review committee’s sign-off 😉

  29. Katie

    Great article, Sarah! I really needed to read it right now. Any advice on how to find fellow writers in your community and how to form a writer’s group? I’m up in Fort Collins, CO.

  30. Kate

    I just quit my job to focus on writing. At first I thought it was okay — after all, it was my dream right? Then after many days holed up in my room, I begin to seriously get depressed and I wondered why? After all, I was doing what I enjoyed right? This article has helped me a lot in sorting out the problem – that we writers need a community too.

    It was especially hard for me to adjust as I used to teach English in a university in China on a daily basis and often had interactions with my students and co-workers all throughout the week. So going from a highly extroverted job to struggling to start a very introverted one was hard. Like Erin, It doesn’t help that I’m starting it in Chile where I don’t understand the language at all and it’s hard to find a writer’s group here. There are definitely drawbacks international writers face. At least Skype helps a lot but it’d be nice to go jogging with that person too 🙂

  31. Kim

    Although this thread is quite old by now, I just wanted to say thanks. I’ve recently left a “grand” career in academic research to pursue writing on a freelance and full-time basis. This has so far been a greater change and challenge than I could have imagined. Even though the isolation of not having a “out-there-job” and living in a new place where I know no one has caused me to spiral into depression, I don’t regret my choice. Your website really is a light in the darkness sometimes.

    • Carol Tice

      So glad to hear, Kim. Thanks for making my day. 😉

      Have you considered a co-working spot to get you out of the house? I use that in the summer when kids are home, and I find it a terrific jolt to my productivity, and positive to interact with other solopreneurs, too. Others meetup and write in coffeeshops for free, too. See who you could connect with locally who might have an at-home business and network. You don’t have to do this alone.

      There’s also online support — I know many of my Freelance Writers Den members remark on how excited they are to connect with other freelance writers who know what they’re going through. It just feels less isolated and lonely.


  1. Yael's Variety Hour: Lots of Media Posts (Plus: Fighting, Steroids, & More) - Yael Writes - [...] How One Writer Pulled Out of Depression and Grew an Income. Nice post by Sarah Protzman Howlett. [...]
  2. TSP004: Emotional Well-Being for Freelancers and Solopreneurs with Sarah Protzman Howlett - […] when I read a blog post she wrote for the Make a Living Writing website. The post was entitled,…
  3. TSP004: Emotional Well-Being for Freelancers and Solopreneurs with Sarah Protzman Howlett - Yoneco Evans - […] when I read a blog post she wrote for the Make a Living Writing website. The post was entitled,…
  4. TSP004: Emotional Well-Being for Freelancers and Solopreneurs with Sarah Protzman Howlett - […] when I read a blog post she wrote for the Make a Living Writing website. The post was entitled,…

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