Journalism Tips: You Need To Relax

Every music writer today, regardless of experience or genre preference, deals with stress on a daily basis. Whether you’re fretting over the quality of content posted, the happiness of your fellow staff, the happiness of your readers, or worried you may have simply not posted enough, there seems to always be something worth losing sleep over. At least, that is how we see things. Writers, just like site owners, have a big problem with internalizing every single thing that could possibly frustrate them and never taking the time to actually deal with any of it. We just keep going, day in and day out, with the hope that one day we will feel the increasingly heavy weights on our shoulders being lifted off. We don’t know when that will happen, and most probably couldn’t tell you a single scenario where they would actually be able to stop stressing for good, but it’s a lie that has helped countless creatives push through and it will continue to serve its purpose for the foreseeable future.

Having spent nearly a decade of my life writing, it wasn’t until I had already put five years of hard work in that I really began to notice the impact stress and its constant presence in my life took on everyday existence. My brain had rewired itself over time to revolve around the internet and what I saw as the time of day when posting ‘must’ happen. The first thing I thought about when I woke up was whether or not any headlines had broke while I was asleep, and the last thing I did before bed last night was a scroll through my RSS feed for any late breaking headlines. “If I could just be on top of the next story,” I thought. “Then I will be satisfied.”

What I eventually realized, and what I still struggle with today, is that there is no true end point for creative people. Our drive to create content the world enjoys will never be satiated with a single post, or even a single day’s worth of great content. Our pursuit is one that seeks for to create high quality work over an extended period of time, and no amount of day-to-day success is ever going to subdue that desire. The best we can do is learn to live with our drive rather than letting it rule over us, and that begins by learning to relax. I know that may sound like a foreign concept to many writers reading this now, but it’s true. If you cannot relax then you cannot create your best work, and if that happens that constant itch to create something truly great will slowly begin to eat you alive.

Before your passion gets the best of you, use the tips below to shake off the stress of creating content and find what I assume I probably some much needed rest. You deserve it.

It’s never a bad idea to have a plan. In fact, it’s a damn good idea.

I wish someone had told me when I was just starting out that life as a writer is 100x easier when you have a plan. More specifically, life is easier when you have a content calendar that outlines every major feature and piece of content you will need to create in the next several weeks, as well as the deadlines to complete each item. Doing this periodically makes it easier to plan your day-to-day work load, which in turn lowers your stress. You know what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and exactly how much time you have to get everything accomplished. For added help, I suggest making daily to-do lists as well. I use Asana to make mine, but you can use whatever works best for you.

Even if you have a plan, be careful not to take on too much at once.

When I first started making calendars and to-do lists I thought it best to try and see just how many things I could accomplish on any given day. I would make lists with twenty or thirty tasks, and anything left incomplete at the end of the day would be the first thing tackled the following morning. What I didn’t realize at the time, and what I hope to save you from now, is that leaving so many tasks unfinished made it impossible for my mind to fully shutdown at the end of the day. Whenever I wanted to get up from my desk and walk away I would see them, mocking me from the page, and I would feel as if I had somehow failed myself by leaving them incomplete. Sometimes this forced me to stay up late, cranking away on subpar content because at least it would be completed, but other times I would walk away online to find the need to do more work keeping me up at night. No one was telling me I wasn’t doing enough other than myself, but that was the only voice I needed to hear to feel inadequate.

Educate yourself

The more you know about how the independent music and digital journalism world works, the better prepared you’ll be to conquer it. This is the entire reason the Haulix blog you’re reading right now even exists: Education. Every member of our staff learned about the industry through trial and error. No one held our hand or showed us what to do. We simply woke up every morning and dedicated ourselves to improving what little skills we had and in time things slowly began to improve. Looking back now we realize that was the hard way to learn about life in music, so we created this blog to make life in music easier for future generations.

Step away from the laptop. Put down your phone. Walk outside. Breathe.

Chronic stress is the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period over which an individual perceives he or she has no control. This is a good way to explain how most writers feel in the digital age. We know we can create great content given time and space, but there is a constant demand from the world at large to produce more and more content and it’s easy to perceive that cry for posts as a call that must be answered. After all, it’s because of our readers that we creatives have a purpose in the first place.

Before you can give your readers what they need you must first care for your own well being. Planning and organizing will get you far, but in order to truly shake off the stress and worries of life in writing you need to disconnect. You need to close your laptop, put your phone in ‘airplane’ mode, step outside, and breathe. Take a walk, take a nap, catch a movie (that you don’t review), or call a friend and catch up. Find something that has nothing to do with your writing and let it be the only thing you focus on for a period of time. Your mind needs time to rest, just like your body. You can only push yourself so far before your work will begin to suffer, and if you continue to push beyond that point things will only go from bad to worse for everyone involved. Trust me – it’s okay to unplug. Just do it.

James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.