The Pen Thinker

5 Freelance Writing Pearls From “Kung Fu Panda”

Posted in Freelanc-ink, Time Management

Panda! :)A few weeks ago I watched Kung Fu Panda on DVD with my sister. It’s animation, good to kill the boredom and apathy sick days bring along.

What I didn’t expect – even after watching it at least a dozen times – was the amount of precious advice it carried and how wonderfully it could be applied to freelance writing.

Master Shifu’s 5 Lessons

At a certain point in the movie, Master Shifu, the martial arts trainer, observes his mentees’ performance and tells them what skills they need to hone to master their Kung Fu: five skills that freelance writers need to sharpen, too.

Ferocity. Be a little aggressive when you pitch. No, I don’t mean you have to be arrogant, insistent or bossy with your clients, but you need to be clear and to the point about yourself and your value: don’t be submissive if your client insists that you work at a lower rate or asks for too many extra edits or wants more material to be covered. Fight for yourself.

Speed. The faster you type, the more work you can chime in. It’s important to develop a decent typing speed, but there are other speeds we can improve too: research time, interview time (when possible), planning time, focus time. The more efficient you get, the more money you earn, the faster you’ll scale up your earnings.

Height. Do you need to increase your rates? Perhaps you do. You can always earn more, and the best way to do this is to keep up to date with new markets (Google Alerts, Writers Markets, etc.) and to compile a list of top paying clients to pitch.

Subtlety. Be subtle. Not in the malicious sense (that’s no way professional!) or physically (that’s your personal choice), rather mentally: clean your mind from all the clutter and you’ll see your work taking on a different, brighter life. When I free my mind from thoughts and anxiety (i.e. that “I have more articles to write later. Aargh!”), each piece automatically ups in quality and time optimization.

Humility. Master Shifu tells his Panda mentee that “the mark of a true hero is humility”. Be proactive in your business, but know when to stop and listen, too. Read other writers’ work, attend webinars and conferences, engage in writers’ forums and learn something new. Also, be supportive of readers’ feedback and writers’ advice. Being humble doesn’t mean subjugating yourself to others’ will, but to take all the possible good from the feedback you receive. It will help you grow as a professional — and as a person, too.

Image by Adrien Sifre (Creative Commons)

What writing lessons did you recently learn from animation films and movies?

Share your pearls. 🙂

5 Stress-Free Ways To Continue Writing Even When You’re Sick

Posted in Freelanc-ink, Time Management

Woman sneezing influenzaTo get sick on deadline days is a nightmare for every freelance writer. It mines your ability to finish an assignment, or to work on the next one in line.

Yes, you’re sick and weak and your mind won’t focus enough to let you write a word after another.

Do you have to stop everything and just rest until you’re fully recovered?

Well— no. You need to rest and sleep and relax while you’re sick, but there are simple ways to continue writing that won’t drain that little energy from your body.

1. Take care of yourself. Sleep, rest, take medicines, breath some fresh air every morning in your sick days. Relax above all. Then, when you feel you need to do something to ease the boredom— write. Get in touch with your editor and ask for a deadline extension, write down a few ideas for your assignment as they come to your mind, type slowly or —if staring at the screen gives you nauseas and headaches— write on paper. Keep a notepad and a pen on your bedside table for when you feel the urge to scribble down ideas.

2. Write after a good nap. Your body works hard to fix things while you sleep and usually, when you wake up, you’ll feel a lot better. Get a good drink (water or tea) and write a little, until your body commands you lay down again. Write as much as your mind and body allow you to, but don’t overdo it.

3. Update your blog. Here, I’m updating this blog staying curled up in bed with influenza hitting my poor brain and tummy. I have no urgent assignments but a guest post and a sponsored review, so I can warm up and liberate my writing spirits with a new blog post that I know will help other writers in my same conditions. It makes me feel so much better!

4. Setup a recovery plan. Of course you can’t write full speed when you’re sick, but what you can do is setup a recovery plan for when sick days are over: which assignments need more research? Which need to be made top priority? Is there anything you can postpone?

5. Plan day by day. You don’t know when you’ll feel better or be fully recovered, so my advice here is to plan your writing schedule day by day: setup a number of mini-tasks according to the energies you have on a certain day, then add more as you feel better. Just don’t fill your plate while you’re sick: your top priority is healing!

How do you handle freelance writing when your sick?  Share your experiences! 🙂

Image: David Castillo Dominici /

7 Get-Out Remedies To Unending Interruptions

Posted in Freelanc-ink, Time Management

Typewriter or a deskYou could be that lucky writer who can count on quiet, uninterrupted working hours. Or you may be not. Only a few of us actually live in a stress-free environment: most writers have families, kids and spouses demanding attention, ringing phones and door bells.

If you live in a metropolitan area or nearby schools or train stations, you know pollution isn’t your only problem. However, don’t let it add more stress and headaches to your work.

When everything else has failed — begging your family to let you be on working hours, closing the windows, getting rid of distractions and house noise — you may want to opt for other solutions. Extreme, not for everyday solutions, but my experience teaches they work.

Use your local library. If you seek complete silence, libraries should be your first pick. Silence is made a rule there, guests are not allowed to cause disturbance and you can write uninterrupted hours— at least until the library closes. In addition, you can take advantage of the book and magazine sections to consult publications for your background research.

Write at the park. Obviously not crowded at all times, your town park can provide a sufficiently quiet alternative to your home office. Make sure to fully charge your laptop or netbook battery and to bring a notepad and a pen along for the emergencies. Remember to take advantage of the fresh air and treat yourself with a few minutes relax between assignments!

Rent a hotel room. This is expensive, but it can be your perfect solution when nothing else works. Spending $30 to work in peace is certainly preferable to see thousands dollars go because you couldn’t write.

Spend some time in the countryside. When you have the chance, visit your relatives in the countryside, or take a little vacation in a farm with tourist pension on budget. Sometimes getting away from metropolitan noise can be healthy, not just for your writing, but for your body and mind health too. Keep an eye out for deals and be ready to catch one.

Find a quiet cafĂ© or restaurant. Writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway used to find refuge in a cafĂ© to draft their best works. A small, not too crowded restaurant will do too. Public places can offer free ideas to pitch your prospects, so it’s a double prize (the uninterrupted hours and the ideas) for the effort of getting out.

Buy yourself a pair of DJ headphones. They should be soft and provide sufficient isolation from the environment. Make sure ear cups do fit comfortably around your ears and that the headband is not too heavy on your temples— it could cause headaches.

Write at college or university public areas. Use them. If you need a permission, ask for it. As a student writer, I can reassure you that study areas are the best place to write at: you get the silence you need, books and magazines for free consultation and experts (students or teachers) who can leave you with a helpful note or a contact. This is all blessing for a writer.

Remember to never, never surrender to your environment. Freelancers need to be fighters. Nobody will fight for your rights if you don’t, so— just do it.

Image credit: David Cooper, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service