Still Trying to Master the Mental Game?

When I first decided to become a freelance writer, everything got to me.

Clients who didn’t call back, negotiating fees, looming deadlines.

It all caused me more stress than I care to remember. Then I began to realize, if I’m going to make it in this world, I need to toughen up.

All the things I spent time worrying about couldn’t be controlled. I couldn’t make a client call me back, and I had the option to set deadlines for whenever I wanted.

I decided to work on my mental toughness, and things have greatly improved.

Stuff that used to upset me for days – like turning down a project because of a full schedule – gets a quick decision, and then I move on. (I’ve found it’s also a lot easier and faster to make decisions when you’re not agonizing over every possible outcome.)

Mastering the mental game as a writer is really about keeping your positive attitude and motivation even when you don’t feel like it.

It’s about ignoring the naysayers and believing that the writer’s life is possible.

My mother-in-law likes to say, “Don’t let other people rent space in your mind.” I’ve had to remind myself of that more than a few times over the past few years.

So how did I keep my motivation during the tough times (and continue to do so now)?

First, I said, “If other people can do it, so can I!” I visited the AWAI Wall of Fame often and read the success stories from other writers.

I told myself I would be on there one day, no matter what. Whenever something would happen that wasn’t in line with my plan, I would take a deep breath and go and read a success story.

Next, I started a gratitude journal. I write and review it every morning before I get out of bed. In my journal, I express how grateful and thankful I am for what I have. It seems the more I appreciate something, the better it gets.

I believe strongly that being grateful for work you have will bring you more work. In fact, within 10 days of starting my gratitude journal, I got the best client I’ve ever had! They came to me and asked for a proposal. They were in my perfect niche and they accepted my fee without hesitation – even though it was the highest I had ever asked for.

That one experience alone made me a true fan of the gratitude journal, but there have been countless more experiences like that since.

I also use a lot of techniques to avoid stress and anxiety in my freelance career.

They’re pretty simple, but done together and often, they have significant power.

Here are some things you can do today to start flexing your mental strength:

  • Smile and be positive – even when you don’t feel like it. (Try to avoid negative statements.)
  • Review your goals and think about what your life will be like when you achieve them. (Remember how I said I used to look at the AWAI Wall of Fame and told myself I would be there one day?)
  • Accept that you can’t control everything all the time. This was really hard, but accepting this made life much easier. Remember, you can only control yourself and how you react to a situation.
  • Set standards for your business and stick to them. Some examples might be: “I will not do spec work,” “I do not start a project until I get 50% paid up front,” or “I only do work that is in my niche.” This will help you avoid some of the people and situations that don’t deserve space in your head. Every time I’ve ever gone against my business standards, I’ve regretted it.
  • Don’t wait until you’re completely down and out to reach for help. If you feel yourself becoming unmotivated, reach out to someone who can cheer you up and remind you why you’re doing this. The AWAI forum is a great place for that.
  • Exercise when you need a boost of happiness. It releases powerful “happy” chemicals into your brain. I used to hate to exercise, but now, if I skip it, I can feel a negative difference in my attitude and stress level.
  • Eat healthy meals to keep your body happy. I try to avoid a lot of carbs during work because they often cause me to “crash.” Instead, I eat smaller portions more often to avoid food fatigue.

In addition to these things, remember, nothing is the end of the world. Most problems in our lives are learning opportunities. If we keep a level head and relax, we can come out better than we went in.

I’ll admit, some days it is hard to stay positive and motivated, but if you make a conscious effort every day, it will start coming to you more easily.

So how do you control your mind and stay motivated when things aren’t going according to plan? Tell us about it below.

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Published: April 24, 2012

5 Responses to “Still Trying to Master the Mental Game?”

  1. Great article Christina. You address things we all deal with, whether we like to admit it or not! :)

    As a corporate copywriter, I also deal with the added bs of having non-writers wanting to throw in their 2 cents on writing. Instead of sniping back, like I used to, I just let the quality of my writing stand on it's own. When our director reads it and crosses off the nitwits edits, I just smile and continue to finish my projects (and peak at AWAI when I get the chance during the day!) :)

    Guest (Jim Rodante)April 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm

  2. I read Psalm 46 several times running to calm my jitters!

    WorldwideresidentApril 24, 2012 at 5:39 pm

  3. I sing and/or dance. It is impossible to be mad, sad, or depressed if you are dancing and singing. If you don't feel like it, do it anyway. It works.

    Guest (Mary)April 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm

  4. It seems that the mind cannot "focus" on two subjects at the same time. Example: Start counting silently in your mind and when you get to 10 say your name out loud. You will notice that when you speak your name your counting will stop.

    To me, controlling thoughts is an academic exercise of constantly looking for the positive, what can I learn from this, how can I find the best possible solution. As I focus on answers it creates an environment where I don't dwell on the negatives.

    Guest (Shippy)April 24, 2012 at 11:26 pm

  5. Hi guys, Thank you for the great suggestions!

    Mary, I also like to sing and dance :)

    Christina GillickApril 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm


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