5 ways to deal with feelings of ‘Urgh-I-don’t-wanna’
You’ve just started a new project. The briefing session was amazing. Your client is so, so, so passionate about their work — which is really, wonderfully infectious — and they know what they want from their copy.
In fact, they’re your favourite client ever. You can’t actually remember vibing with a client like this before. Nope, nuh-uh. These folks are The One. They’re your unicorn.
You’re buzzing about starting work on this new project and delivering some shit-hot copy that blows their competitors out of the water.
The problem is, now you’ve sat down at your desk to do the thing, your excitement and confidence has dwindled.
A few days ago thousands of spiffing possibilities for tackling the project were popping randomly to mind. Witty one-liners and paragraphs that oozed emotion were running freely.
Why, oh why didn’t you write them down?
Sadly, now it’s time to get down to work, deliver the goods and get paid, your brain and attitude have other ideas.
Your motivation to work has vanished.
You’re trying to deal with ‘blurgh brain’
‘Blurgh brain’ is the state of mind that I claim on those days when I’m just not feeling it.
They’re the days when my inner toddler appears, stamps her foot and whines, “But I don’t waaaaaaaanna.”
Tough shit kid. There’s no space in my business to deal with blurgh brain. People are counting on me to do the work and make it good.
There are five ways I try and settle the toddler and motivate myself to work. It sometimes takes a couple of attempts, but usually one of these gets the ball rolling.
- Break the task up
- Set a timer
- Make a start
- Don’t linger
- Change the scenery
Here’s how each one works.
1. Break the task up
Whether it’s a big project or a single blog, breaking up the mountain in smaller mole hills makes it less intimidating. For example, if I’m working on a website project each page gets its own task card on Trello. If it’s a blog, I put a skeleton draft together with rough subheads for each section and then see each part as its own mini writing project rather than get overwhelmed by the whole document. This way I can put a small section on my to-do list and still have the satisfaction of crossing it off at the end of the day.
2. Set a timer
I’m a huge fan of the Pomodoro method and use it every day. Unfamiliar with this productivity technique? It’s where you set a timer for at least 15 minutes and you smash work out during that time, then when the time’s up you’re rewarded with a break of five or 10 minutes.
It certainly seems to work. I find 30-45 minutes is a good amount of time for me. I can stay focussed for most of that. It’s also a great way to make sure I get up from my desk because we all know that sitting for too long can kill you.
3. Make a start
Facing a blank page is both a blessing and a pain in the arse. It’s a sign of endless possibilities. You’re at the start of the journey! You could create anything.
But it’s also blank. And getting those first few sentences on the page is often the hardest part.
Last week I mentioned my friend who starts most of his copywriting projects by banging out all of the really crappy, ridiculous ideas just to get them out of his head. This clears space for him to focus. None of those first words will make the final cut, but it gets him thinking.
For me, I like starting in the middle of the copy and I’m happy to follow tangents while piecing it together. By picking a section I know I can write easily gets me motivated enough to work on the rest of the article or project.
The other technique that works for me is using templates I’ve saved of pages. This way I’m not opening up a completely blank document. There are cues to at least get me started.
4. Don’t linger
Finding that first spark of work motivation can be tough work so once you’ve made a start, keep going. Stick to your timer. Don’t agonise over every word or sentence in those very early drafts. Let all of your ideas pour out of your head and onto the page. Editing is your chance to cut out stuff that really isn’t working, but cross that bridge when you get to it.
5. Change the scenery
Looking at the same four walls and following the same process day in, day out can drain your motivation. Especially if working on a single project that’s expected to weeks. Getting out and working in a different space is a great way to reignite your motivation to work. This is a big part of the reason why (pre-COVID-19 time) I would escape to the city library once or twice a week. If you think this could do the trick for you too, here are some other ideas for where you could work.
- A co-working space — many offer free trials or hot desking options are usually very affordable
- A local café with wi-fi. Working even just a few hours here can make a difference if you can’t manage a whole day
- Your garden or balcony
- At a friend/freelance colleagues place.
Reaching project sign off is the biggest rush
In the 10 years that I’ve been a professional writer, nothing comes close to motivating me to work more than reaching the end of a project, seeing it go live and preparing for the next challenge. So while timers, mini-tasks and changes of scenery all help get me through a single project, it’s the hunger to do it all again that really charges up my motivation.