Action Cures Fear. Do Something.

Ahhh … the writer's life!

I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I get up when I want and work when I want. Some days, I spend hours writing in my favorite café; other days, I'm on my back patio or in my office. I'm less stressed than I ever was working in the corporate world.

I spend more time with my kids and more time traveling.

I haven't had a boss for more than three years.

Actually, that is a problem.

Hold on. Not having a boss is one of the main reasons we're all pursuing the writer's life, isn't it?

It's a problem because on any given day, it's hard to know exactly what to do. And no one is going to tell you. It's all up to you.

We'll come back to this in a minute.

But first, let me recap the week.

We've been talking about challenges we face as freelancers and how to overcome them. At some point, you're going to get in a slump, whether you're brand new or a professional with 20 years of experience.

Slumps can be caused by not asking for help, hitting a roadblock and accepting defeat, getting distracted by mental junk food, losing confidence, or listening to too much advice. I offered simple solutions for each.

Today's subject is a sticky point that we usually don't talk about. Having someone stand over your shoulder telling you what to do is the antithesis of freelancing.

I'm not suggesting that you want a boss. Working without any direction or supervision, however, is a serious challenge for a lot of us.

Let me give you five tips to put you on the road to increased self-discipline and productivity:

  1. Write out your next day each night before you go to bed. I keep it simple and just use an index card. At the end of the day, I transfer any tasks that aren't crossed off to the next day's card.
  2. Overbook your day. Two schools of thought on this one. Some people like the satisfaction of crossing every item off their list every day. I prefer to have more items than time to do them. Client projects take priority, and I don't miss deadlines, but I get more done by having a big list of to-do items.
  3. Find an accountability partner just for your schedule. This doesn't have to be a fellow writer. I have a friend who is an independent financial advisor. He works alone like I do, and we check in with each other every Friday afternoon to see how the week went. We don't have a formal weekly report or anything, but just try to encourage each other to stay on task.
  4. If you can, find a reasonably priced coach. I recently hired a personal trainer even though I already pay a monthly membership fee to a gym. The return has been well worth it. A good trainer or coach will get way more out of you than you would working by yourself. There's no substitute for one-on-one professional training for your body or your business.
  5. Do something. We're often either afraid of doing something outside our comfort zone or afraid we'll fail. Some psychologists would say it's a fear of success.

Regardless of the reason, one thing I know: action cures fear. Just do something.

If you're not sure of what to do on any given day, write a blog post. Find a project on DirectResponseJobs.com that fits your skills and niche, and apply for it. Update your LinkedIn profile with a new description and keywords (I recently got a project because a client saw my revised profile, which included a new skill).

We have a little less than three months to go in the year. While it may be too late to hit your goals for 2012, it's not too late to build momentum in the last quarter to start the new year at full cruising speed.

Pick one or two things to work on from now until the end of the year. Try focusing on learning one new skill that you can implement in the new year (for example, writing landing pages) along with putting into action now one skill you already have (say, writing autoresponders).

One last thing: write out one goal that you absolutely want to hit this year, and look at it every morning and night.

Put your head down for the rest of the year on developing one skill, implementing another one, and focusing on one goal. Then look up on December 31, and see where you are.

Is there anything I didn't address this week that I can help with? Are you in a rut from something else? I'd love to help, and I'll answer every comment. Leave a note below or privately if you'd prefer confidentiality.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
Average: 5.0
Published: October 5, 2012

14 Responses to “Action Cures Fear. Do Something.”

  1. Well done, Steve. The best of the series. My compliments!

    You were right to have me stay tuned until the end of the week. It's all about just doing something. The one step forward in our business that we take today is one less step that we need to take tomorrow. It adds up quickly. It's sorta like driving past a high-rise construction site. For the longest time, all you see is "digging". But one day, the building pops up out of nowhere. So just do something. You might surprise yourself.

    RNin2013October 5, 2012 at 8:50 am

  2. Thanks for the Facebook Invitation, Steve.

    I just sent you a Friend Request from Michael Hicks a.k.a RNin2013 . Looking forward to connecting with you. Thanks again for the well wishes!!!

    RNin2013October 5, 2012 at 11:36 am

  3. I am delighted to read this article, Steve, and would like to thank you for your contribution.

    It helps to plan in advance: being proactive means you are one step ahead of the game.

    That's something I have learned from Michael Masterson, who also advocates similar habits.

    For example, I also keep a note-pad in my pocket with a pen. This simple to-do list, in written form, means I do not have to remember every single detail.

    And yet, the devil lies in the details, so you don't want to miss out on tasks that have to be done on time, every time.

    This also gives you a sense of accomplishment and enables you to stay on track and focus on what is important.

    Archan MehtaOctober 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm

  4. Hi.
    This is such a valid point.
    Life was simple when when we just had one person to answer to for each day.
    Instructions are not a bad thing.
    A daily target is not a bad thing.
    Confusion comes when trying to choose out of a million things to do.
    Thank you for making it simpler.
    And for bringing up the subject, too.

    Guest (lady sings the blues)October 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

  5. You're dead on about just doing something. Action trumps everything-even if you're new to the biz and have no clients.

    Targeted action is best, but when you're starting out JUST DO ANYTHING

    Just getting out there, being bold and having a go-getter's attitude will get the ball rolling.

    That's actually how I landed my first job!

    Great work this week Steve!

    MichaelCOctober 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm

  6. Steve, I was really impressed with your article. There are so many good ones but at times it seems a little overwhelming for me. I've been an AWAI member for several years now and I really want to live "The Writer's Life." I do plan to get a coach in the near future, however in the meantime, how do I know what I need to focus on with each lesson and what articles to save for later? Please help!

    Guest (CCT Artist42)October 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm

  7. Thanks for the article! I'm in the midst of a major slump. I need all the help I can get, especially when it comes to the fear factor.

    Guest (ps)October 8, 2012 at 10:17 am

  8. Hey Steve, great week of articles. Very insightful and good advice. Writing while being on the road and totally on my own has not been without challenges. I think you hit on most of them. It's really easy to put things off if you don't have a deadline. I use my iPhone and the reminder app for my daily to-dos. I have it remind me at certain times of the day for each task. It's an audio reminder of what I want to accomplish that day.So far it's working very well. Thanks again for your thoughts this week. Look forward to seeing you at Bootcamp ~ cb

    Chris BOctober 8, 2012 at 1:53 pm

  9. Hi Steve, Thanks for the articles your articles are always very helpful and I usually don't comment. But, your topics are usually right on and I had to write today. I am looking for a coach and I need to reach you privately.
    Thanks, Brenda

    Guest (Brenda)October 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm


Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)