There is a misconception of freedom when it comes to freelance writing. People from outside of the business typically think that people inside the business can work whenever they want to. This is true to a certain extent, because I probably have a fair bit more in terms of flexibility compared to folks with conventional 9-to-5 kind of jobs. There are daily duties that have to be done, like my blog posts at BlueFur, but other projects aren’t quite as time-sensitive.

What this means is that it is perfectly possible to have a very strange working schedule. I’m not much of a morning person myself, so my working day doesn’t typically start until later in the morning, usually around 10 or 11 (if not later). This sounds like a luxury to people who have to endure the morning gridiron, people who have to participate in a daily commute to the office.

At the same time, if you have a 9-to-5 job, you’re off-duty at 5pm and you can go home and relax for the rest of the day. When you work from home, it’s harder to find a healthy life-work balance, because you’re never really away from the office. As a result, a sizable portion of my work is done after dinner and it’s not uncommon for me to work on projects past midnight. I hear that Nate Whitehill does some of his best work in the wee hours of the pre-morning.

In order to stay alert, many of us rely on caffeine of some sort and many of us consume several cups of coffee (or Coke) over the course of the day. As I said, I’m not a morning person, so a jolt of caffeine almost becomes necessary to jump-start the writing engine. Early in the morning (or late at night), it can be challenging to focus on a single task for extended periods of time. When you’re staring at the same monitor and typing on the same keyboard for hours on end, you start yearning for a well-deserved break, rather than focusing your energies on the task at hand. Caffeine sounds like a viable solution, but let me tell you, relying on caffeine is probably one of the worst things you can do.

And I speak from personal experience.

Drinking coffee or pop seems completely counter-intuitive and self-destructive to me, yet I continue to do it for no particularly good reason. There are many factors that come into play, but three of the most influential factors that I’ve experienced are:

  1. Lack of Stability – Caffeine is meant to give you a jolt of energy and you’ll find that when you ingest too much, your hands will become unstable and you’ll feel “jittery” overall. This is completely counter-productive. While it’s not good to be totally lethargic, you need to focus on mental energies for freelance writing rather than physical energies. Shaky hands and an unnerving urge to twitch can’t possibly be good. Just look at Tweek Tweak.
  2. Loss of Focus – You may find yourself on the cusp of falling asleep in the middle of the day, just out of pure exhaustion. I’ve been there. Drinking a cup of coffee sounds like it’ll help you become more alert and more productive, but that is not what I inevitably experience. The elevated awareness translates into getting distracted easily and having a hard time keeping my mind on track. A loss of focus is, naturally, counter-productive.
  3. Reduced Recall Ability – This is related to the second point, but I also find that when I’m hopped up on caffeine, it seems more challenging to recall even the simplest of things. Memory plays a big role in freelance writing, because there is usually a key word or key phrase that I want to use in a given piece of text. Not being able to remember a word or piece of information can heavily delay the completion of a writing project.

The long and the short of it? Don’t even think about finding clarity with caffeine, because you just won’t find it. All you’ll find is a complete lack of focus, a nervous twitch, and a difficult time falling asleep at the end of the day. I’ve been told that drinking lots of water is better, so I’ll try to give that a whirl in 2008.