Six years ago, I started writing for a travel blog. It was fascinating for me to even start thinking that a website would be interested in my travel experience, and as we went, and the money started flowing, to see that my writing could cover all my travel expenses to go on new holidays, and then some! At my peak period, I wrote for four blogs and a magazine, producing a ton of content every month. One website required short reviews of a restaurant, a hotel or a museum, and I wrote 200 such reviews per month. I won’t tell you that it was my finest literature as a writer, but on top of that, I was writing around 50 more researched posts per month, about various travel topics, from destinations to packing to visa formalities. Over the years, I wrote around 5,000 posts about travel. And then, what had started out as a passion gig that made me want to jump around in excitement turned into a drag. I started having trouble writing my 200 mini posts, and waited until the very last day of the deadline to turn them in. Mind you, on the other side, the people hiring you feel your exhaustion too. So how do you keep things fresh as a freelance writer?
Write down ideas
When I went on trips, I would take a notepad with me and write down the name of the restaurant I had eaten out, or a few notes about something interesting that had happened during the adventure. Ideas can come at any time, when you drive to work, shop for groceries, call customer service… try to always have a note on your phone or agenda handy to write them down. And always use the same note, to find your ideas easily later on.
I have a note on my iPod and also a notepad document on my computer. When I don’t know what to write about, I go back to it for ideas.
Then I would go back home with my pad of ideas. If I would sit down right away to start writing my travel journal, things would be fresh in my mind and I would have no trouble remembering the name of the special dish I had, or the neighborhood I ate in. After a month, things were starting to get blurry. As I was traveling so much for work and usually making a long weekend out of it to explore and get content for my side gig, I often didn’t have time between trips to write it all down. So if you can’t write it all, try detailing your notes a bit more. Set up the big ideas, write down the names that will require hours of Google searches if you forget them.
Write when you feel like it
I usually set a time of day to write my travel posts, and many times, I was not motivated. So it would take hours to write something that otherwise would flow naturally in 20 minutes. So the times that I was really motivated, I put the writing first, and started typing frantically until my eyes hurt. When you have something good to write, write it. Try to make it a priority. The load of laundry can wait for writer’s block time.
Because I wrote such huge amounts of content month after month for four years, I burned out. It was to be expected. However, four years was still a long time, and what helped me last that long is the ability to take breaks away from writing. I had to turn my content in once a month. So I would sometimes spend the first two weeks of the months doing absolutely nothing, then work harder for the other half. Or build a queue of posts before taking off for a holiday. If I wrote my posts during the first week of the month and the last week of the following month, I could manage a 6 weeks break in between. That was usually more than enough to freshen up and come back rested.
If you are writing a weekly column where you talk about current events, it may be more difficult to take long breaks. But there are always a few evergreen topics you can talk about. You know your December post will be about Christmas, who cares if you wrote it in July?
At the moment, I have a few posts in queue for my blog until March, and am going to write about 80% of them, on both three sites I own, by the end of December, so I can spend Christmas away from the computer, enjoy my US trip at the end of January, and still have a few weeks worth of posts ready for when I get back home, so I can settle in no rush.
In the meanwhile, I will probably have a few more topic ideas and some fresh content for the second quarter.
I usually write my posts offline. Drafts won’t disappear when the internet malfunctions and I can take my writing with me anywhere without needing a connection. I write on Windows Live Writer which is free and pretty awesome because you can format your text, then add pictures, and upload it in one click to your blog when you get online. It also saves me from the distractions of being online, when I type offline I don’t check social media or refresh my mailbox.
Then inside WordPress, I use an editorial calendar plugin that allows me to move the posts around. It is visual and has a drag and drop system so if you drag Monday’s post to Friday, it will be rescheduled automatically.
The less time you spend around your writing, the more time you will have for your writing.
The last advice to keep your writing fresh is to read around what is being published. You may get many ideas from old and new content alike. It is a double edged sword, because sometimes you won’t feel like writing a similar post, reinventing the wheel every day is hard, and when you saw 5 posts on how to save money on groceries, you will be hesitant to throw in your own. However, there are also lots of good ideas you can get from other writers. You can counter their arguments, reply to their article, or simply make a whole new post out of a sentence that made you reflect.
How do you stay inspired with your writing?