You want to be a better writer. But you wake up every day feeling tired, barely even human, until you swig some morning brew.
And even then, that pick-me-up is only temporary.
Sometimes the hustle to be a better writer can feel like an uphill battle against the Dark Lords of freelancing:
- Brain Drain
- And evil incarnate…Writer’s Block
If you’ve ever spent an entire day rolling around on the floor in a fog, seemingly out of ideas, you’re not alone.
Or maybe you’ve only had enough energy to pull an Oscar Wilde, calling it a day after editing the crap out of a single comma.
That ever happen?
If you’re struggling to be a better writer, you might be quick to criticize your level of talent, experience, education, skills, or creativity.
But that may not be what’s holding you back.
How are you sleeping?
It’s easy to think skimping on sleep to get more work done is how you get ahead.
But if you’re a sleep-deprived writer, the Dark Lords of freelancing will infiltrate your mind, drain your life force, and try to keep you from moving up and earning more.
Tired of running ragged? Here are five dreamy ways to improve sleep and be a better writer.
Get your Zzzs to be a better writer
If you want to be a better writer, working a ton of hours and skimping on sleep isn’t a good plan.
Why? Poor sleep leaves you feeling tired and fatigued the next day.
But it also takes a toll on your health, happiness, and creativity…something we need a lot of to crank out LOIs, send queries, and deliver great work for our clients.
For most adults, 7 to 9 hours of sleep is ideal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- How many hours a night do you typically sleep?
Full confession…I’ve pulled plenty of all-nighters or skated by on four hours of sleep a night from time to time to meet a deadline.
But aiming for 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, or fitting in a nap to make up the difference will make you a better writer.
So how do you make it easier to drift off to dreamland?
1. Create a bedtime routine
It sounds crazy if you’re used to wrapping up a day of freelance work with whatever.
You know…binge watch shows, hang out with friends, organize your sock drawer, when you should be sleeping.
But if you want to be a better writer, you should already be familiar with the routine of things like pitching editors, sending out LOIs, submitting invoices, and staying in touch with clients and prospects.
The same principle can help you create a bedtime routine. Harvard University sleep researchers recommend you:
- Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends.
- Wake up at the same time every morning.
- Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet
- Start winding down your day about an hour before bedtime by doing something to relax like taking a hot bath or reading. But not screen time (more on that in just a minute).
- What’s your bedtime routine look like?
2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed
Some writers swear by a glass of wine to cap off the day. And some freelancers hit the coffee pot for a refill from dawn til dusk.
Drinking coffee, energy drinks, and soda with caffeine might give you a boost of energy. But drink them too late in the day, and you’ll have trouble falling asleep later.
Alcohol might help you fall asleep, but people who do often wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.
- How much alcohol and caffeine do you drink?
3. Turn off electronics 1 to 2 hours before bed
Wait, what? No movies, shows, or social-media fix before bed? If you’re the always-on kind of freelancer, you’re gonna have to set some limits for yourself.
Why? In a Columbia University study, researchers confirmed that staring into a screen keeps your brain active when you’re trying to go to sleep.
They found that blue light from electronics like a smartphone, tablet, computer or other device disrupts sleep, even if you turn them off at bedtime.
- Is your phone the first thing you see in the morning, and the last thing you see at night?
4. Sit less, move more during the day
If you work from home, you don’t have far to walk to get to work.
And since COVID-19 restrictions began last year, an estimated 42 percent of adults are working remotely, according to a Stanford University survey.
But if you want to get a good night’s sleep and be a better writer, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
In a study at Northwestern University, researchers found that daily exercise helped people sleep better at night, and be more alert.
- What are you doing to be active at least 30 minutes a day?
5. Manage stress in healthy ways
Ever tried to go to sleep, only to find yourself staring at the ceiling thinking about a freelance project, your marketing efforts, or putting out a fire for a client?
Stress from work, family matters, money, or one of those traumatic life experiences that changes everything can keep you awake at night.
Learning to manage stress in healthy ways can help you be a better writer. Try:
- Deep breathing
- Meditation or mindfulness exercises
- Relaxation techniques
- Exercise (see above)
- Humor (funny books or shows, can also help you land comedy writing jobs!)
- How do you manage stress, relax, and keep your creative spark?
Sleep well to give your freelance brain a boost
So what happens when you invest in getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night?
Do it consistently, and the benefits are pretty dreamy if you’re a freelancer, such as:
- Improve decision making. Sleep gives your brain a break from making thousands of decisions every day. From what to eat or what to wear, down to the word choice for a blog post or rate to quote a new client. Wake up well-rested, and your brain will be better equipped to make decisions to help you be a better writer.
- Automagically organize information. While you’re sleeping, your brain organizes all the information you’ve been feeding it during the day.
- Spend a day on research and interviews for an assignment.
- Think about how you’ll write the headline, lede, and body.
- Then sleep on it.
- You may be surprised what’s on your mind when you wake up.
- Boost creative thinking. When you’re feeling the pressure of the Dark Lords of freelancing (Fatigue, Exhaustion, Brain Drain, and Writer’s Block), it’s hard to be creative. It’s like you’re always in a funk. Sleep helps push these jokers into the background, and opens your mind to new ideas, connections, and creativity.
- Increase energy. It’s tough to chase freelance work, market your business, stay on top of deadlines, and feel happy if you’re tired all the time. Consistently skimping on sleep drains your batteries. And if you don’t recharge, you’re gonna crash. But if you make 7 to 9 hours of sleep a priority, you’ll wake up with more energy and feel better about chasing your freelance goals.
Want to be a better writer? Get your Zzzs, and build a dreamy freelance career.
Are you a sleep-deprived freelancer? Let’s discuss in the comments.
Evan Jensen is a freelance copywriter for health and fitness businesses. He’s also the blog editor for Make a Living Writing.