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The Writer’s Survival Mode

The Rich Writer: The Writer’s Survival Mode

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Writer’s Survival Mode

Kelly James-Enger has a rule for never missing a freelance writing deadline: she never, ever, ever accepts more work than she can handle.


So far, that's seldom been an issue for me. I mean, I stay plenty busy, but most of the mix consists of my own, more flexible projects—books, queries, article ideas, reading (mustn’t forget the reading pile). Not so at the moment. Right now, I'm swamped. I’ve had a steady stream of freelance work this year plus a host of unexpected family-related things, and (like a true freelancer who is dependent on work for bread), darned if I'm going to ask for anyone to cover my freelance projects unless I can't complete them.

Except that burnout ain't such a great thing, either.

I like to think of myself as having a “Survival Mode”, where I prioritize resources and tasks and shut off power to all nonessential systems like laundry and cleaning, and even, sometimes, writing, exercise, self-care, and other things important for mental and physical health. It works in the short term, but not on a long-term basis. I am very, very, very happy to report that although I’m still busy, I’m back to writing. It feels like waking up.

All this makes me wonder: what do other freelancers do when life descends and they can't meet a deadline? Even for the most-organized, it has to happen sometimes.

Has this happened to you? Do you have a “Survival Mode” for times when you feel overwhelmed? Does Survival Mode backfire if it goes on too long?

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